COVID-19: Saskatchewan entertainment venues playing waiting game

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Saskatchewan entertainment venues playing waiting game
WATCH: Saskatchewan is getting closer to having entertainers rolling through local venues again – Feb 18, 2022

Despite COVID-19 mandates dropping across Saskatchewan this month, residents won’t get to see their favourite entertainers rolling through local venues anytime soon.

“I think it all comes down to size and scope. And who is the promoter and who is the event organizer and where they are coming from,” said Mosaic Place General Manager Ryan MacIvor.

Artists have the green light to start filling Saskatchewan’s biggest venues again, but different COVID-19 mandates across Canada are still creating hurdles for larger touring acts.

“Each province needs to be fully open and have no restrictions in terms of capacities, etc., for that artist and the promoter ensuring that the business sense and metrics all align,” said MacIvor.

Read more: Regina Symphony Orchestra postpones performances due to COVID-19

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Certain entertainers may even have their own restrictions that they contractually require for a performance, according to MacIvor.

“Some artists or event organizers still may look to have some sort of restrictions or a mask mandate over and above whatever the provincial health orders may or not may be.”

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Those in the entertainment industry say that unfortunately the financial logistics don’t add up for many of those larger touring acts to visit Saskatchewan until they can also hit larger Canadian cities along the way.

“Our Blue Rodeo show was supposed to be Feb. 24th. It’s now in November. Even though we could do it, because they couldn’t fulfill their obligations right across the country they chose just to move it to the fall, so that’s just the reality of what we’re facing right now,” said Conexus Arts Centre CEO, Neil Donnelly.

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It’s a harsh reality for people craving live entertainment, even in Saskatchewan’s biggest cities.

“They would do Montreal, Toronto, maybe Winnipeg, then Calgary and Vancouver. We benefit from that because we are a pit stop between Winnipeg and Calgary whether we like it or not,” said Jeffery Straker, a musician from Punnichy, Sask., who has lots of touring experience himself.

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While the entertainment industry in cities like Regina and Moose Jaw needs mandates to change nationwide, they also simply need to restore consumer confidence to boost ticket sales.

“For the last two years we’ve been telling people it’s not safe to be in big crowds and it’s not safe to gather, so I don’t think you can just flick a switch and people all of a sudden feel that it’s going to be safe again. So it will take some time,” said Donnelly.

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However, there are still plenty of local Canadian artists, who don’t require the large travelling contingent, already performing at local venues.

“Look at the entertainment calendars of local venues because you might be surprised at how many people are planning to come and they would love your support,” said Straker.

Read more: COVID-19: Future of live shows in Saskatchewan in limbo after Dierks Bentley concert cancelled

Entertainment venues remain confident they are right on the verge of their return to normal.

“It’s exciting news to know that the mandates are changing and lifting and providing an opportunity to generate more economic benefit to the communities that host and the event facilities and event producers,” said MacIvor.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of activity out there over the next year, but I think it’s going to be a bit of a grind to get there until we get there,” said Donnelly.

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