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Despite pandemic, Vernon Winter Carnival forging ahead with online, drive-thru events

Click to play video: 'Vernon Winter Carnival adapted amid pandemic' Vernon Winter Carnival adapted amid pandemic
The Vernon Winter Carnival has been circled in red in many people's social calendars for more than 60 years. This year's event will be no exception. The celebration of the community has been adapted in many ways to get the stamp of approval from Interior Health. – Jan 17, 2021

It’s a North Okanagan tradition that draws people from all over: the Vernon Winter Carnival.

And in one month’s time, the annual event will be back – albeit heavily modified because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Billing itself as western Canada’s largest winter festival, the carnival will run Feb. 5-14, with tickets going on sale this Monday, Jan. 11.

Read more: Coronavirus: 3 care-home deaths, 81 more cases announced for Interior Health region

On its Facebook page, the Vernon Winter Carnival Society said all events will be held under COVID-19 protocols and orders from B.C.’s provincial health officer.

It added some events may be added or cancelled due to those orders.

“Our motto for the year is ‘Plan to Change,’” said society executive director Vicki Proulx, adding a set list of events with COVID safety plans has been submitted to Interior Health.

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Currently, the list includes many events over the 10 days. However, the carnival also starts on Feb. 5, which is when the current extension of B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions end.

“If restrictions are lifted on the 5th, we will definitely add in what we can. But pretty much the schedule is set right now.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. public health restrictions extended for another month as case curve trends upwards' B.C. public health restrictions extended for another month as case curve trends upwards
B.C. public health restrictions extended for another month as case curve trends upwards – Jan 7, 2021

One popular item that won’t run this year is the festival-starting hot-air balloon fiesta. Proulx said travel restrictions made it impossible for owners of hot-air balloons to visit Vernon.

Still, Proulx noted there will be many virtual and drive-thru events that the public can participate in – “things that you can do from your own home or with your own family.”

The carnival comes at a time when B.C. residents are being asked to stay home. That it could be a positive mental spark isn’t lost on Proulx.

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Click to play video: 'Vernon Winter Carnival window contest brightens up downtown shops' Vernon Winter Carnival window contest brightens up downtown shops
Vernon Winter Carnival window contest brightens up downtown shops – Feb 1, 2018

“Vernon Winter Carnival was started in 1961 and our mandate then was to foster community spirit,” said Proulx. “And that’s still our mandate now.

“This kind of year is exactly why this festival was created – to bring the community together and give people something to look forward to.

“Even though we can’t physically be together this year, (the carnival) is something that Vernonites hold near and dear to their hearts.”

Proulx also hopes “that maybe neighbours from Kelowna or Revelstoke, the Shuswap, or maybe have never heard of the Winter Carnival before, will get involved this year, maybe through a virtual event.”

To visit the Vernon Winter Carnival website, click here.

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