The rides are running and delighted screams can be heard from the iconic fairgrounds that host Playland in East Vancouver.
The popular amusement park reopened to guests amid strict COVID-19 safety protocols on Friday.
The muted restart comes more than a month after the attraction’s usual spring opening was postponed on April 27, at the peak of the pandemic’s third wave in B.C.
“It feels like a bit of a beacon of hope for a good summer, even though there’s some crowds out and a little bit of rain, it’s not going to dampen our spirits,” Pacific National Exhibition president and CEO Shelly Frost told Global News on Friday.
“There is a ton of laughs and music and smiles on people’s faces, and it is a good day.”
The park is operating with significantly reduced capacity, physical distancing, increased cleaning procedures and mandatory masks in most areas.
Attendees need to buy a ticket and book a time slot in advance.
The park is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of June, and is currently only open to residents of the Lower Mainland.
Both Playland and the PNE are facing major economic challenges amid the pandemic, and fair officials, the union representing workers and Vancouver’s mayor have repeatedly called for more pandemic support from senior levels of government.
The PNE has applied for $1 million in support through B.C.’s anchor attraction grant program, but operators say that will fall far short of the $8 million deficit it’s facing.
“There are still financial challenges, there’s no doubt about it. And although we are thrilled to have the park open, our capacities are low. It’s not going to solve the financial challenges,” Frost said.
The amusement park is hoping to expand dates as summer progresses, with plans to run a scaled-down Pacific National Exhibition, should the province’s pandemic situation continue to improve in August.