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Many reasons contribute to South Country Fair Covid 19 cancellation

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South Country Fair has survived floods, floods, droughts, wind storms, torrential rain, scorching heat and everything in between according to organizer Gillian Moranz, but it couldn’t survive Covid 19 this year. But have no fear, the fair will be back next year.

Moranz answered several questions by e-mail.Jack Garton playing South Country Fair last year. Photo by Richard Amery

She noted though July seems far away, there were many good reasons to cancel the fair this year.
“It is true that the festival is not until July, but on the scale of a global pandemic like this, a few short months is very little time. Our decision to postpone SCF #34 was not an easy one by any means. It was very difficult for our coordinators to digest the reality of not moving forward with something that is so important to us all,” she wrote.
“There are so many Fair kids who have never known a summer without SCF. We have countless volunteers and attendees that have been coming for 30 plus years. So many dedicate so much to what we create together, year after year. Needless to say, we did not take this decision lightly. But, at the end of the day, it came to down the health and safety of our community,” she continued.

Organizers considered several important points before deciding to cancel the fair this year.
 “We have been notified that, although it has not been mandated provincially yet, it is highly unlikely that the number of individuals able to convene will increase higher than 250 by the summer. This is not yet mandated federally or provincially, but after conversations with our municipal government we did not feel confident planning a gathering of that size and proportion in our small town as early as July. At the moment Albertans cannot convene in groups larger than 15 and the prospects of all restrictions being lifted by July 16 are slim to none.
    • We are responsible to ensure the health and safety of our communities. As this situation escalates globally we cannot in good faith assume that there will not be a risk of infection this summer, even if it the danger becomes less than it is currently. We are talking about the health of our artists, our attendees, our volunteers, our coordinators, our families and Fort Macleod residents. We take this responsibility very seriously, and although it is difficult to comprehend, we could not move forward in good faith knowing that we could potentially be putting our communities at risk.

    • The fact that we run a camping festival is not insignificant. Our sanitation is outstanding on a normal year, but with risk of COVID-19 we have to accept the fact that we have no running water or protocol in place for these types of sanitation requirements. We did not feel we had the ability to meet the current sanitation protocol that would garner our communities completely safe while onsite.

    • Even simple things like how we feed our performers and coordinators became extremely problematic. As a small festival we do not have the capacity to make major changes to the way we operate in such a short span of time.
     • Our concern was also part and parcel with our ability to sell tickets. Would people still come out in strong numbers? The economy is tanking and so many people are out of work right now. When the restrictions are lifted, will folks put their heads down and work for the summer rather than taking holidays in hope of recouping lost income? And what about the fear factor? There will likely be some crowd PTSD that will take some time to get past, especially with the older demographics in our communities (and rightly so). We were justly concerned that these factors would directly impact our ability to draw enough people to not risk running a deficit. Sustainability is always a crucial conversation, even 34 years later. And, if people did buy tickets in larger numbers we circle back to the concerns listed above. No matter how you look at it, we are in a cycle of scary scenarios.

    • We have received several accounts of Canadian musicians who have been infected with COVID-19 after returning home from tour (before all the cancellations began), making us wonder how realistic is was to ask Canadian artists to travel to us, or if they would even want to as the situation progresses. 
At the end of the day, we made the decision earlier than many expected, but the reality is, this situation is not going to go away quickly. Treatment and vaccines will not be fast tracked as early as the summer because that is not how the medical industry works, and the potential risks to our communities are not worth business as usual. At least, that is SCF's sentiment. ”

She noted everybody who has already purchased seasons passes for the festival have already been contacted with their options.
“Yes, we have given our advanced ticket buyers the option to either request a full refund, carry their ticket over to 2021, or donate their ticket cost to the SCF Association. All the ticket purchasers have been contacted and given instructions on how to proceed. They can communicate their preferred option by responding to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,” she advised.


New West Theatre cautiously optimistic their next season will go on

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Kathy Zaborsky was part of New West's production of Dear Johnny Deere. Photo by Richard AmeryNew West Theatre, like everybody else, is on hiatus until  the Covid 19 panic passes. However they  are ready to go as soon as people are able to support live entertainment in the communities.
“ We‘re reasonably optimistic though we are on edge,” observed New West Theatre Artistic Director Kelly Reay.

 “ But we had to cancel the last few shows of Dear Johnny Deere. We’re reasonably optimistic life will return to normal by a reasonable time,” he continued.


Rotary Dragon Boat Festival cancellation disappointing

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The 19th anniversary ATB Rotary Dragon Boat has been the latest Covid- 19 casualty. However festival chair Dan Westhora hopes the work the four local rotaryThe Chevelles were among the local acts scheduled to play the 2020 ATB Rotary Dragon Boat Festival. Photo by Richard Amery clubs and numerous volunteers have already  put into the event, originally scheduled for June 26-28, will lead to a bigger and better 20th Anniversary festival next year.

“We’ve been following Corvid 19 news since January and set a do or die date by mid April. We wanted to postpone the cancellation as long as possible,” Westhora  said, adding a number of reasons played into the decision to cancel this year’s event. The festival draws 1,500 athletes and, depending on the weather, between 15-20,000 people visiting over the weekend to see the races,  listen to a lot of live music and enjoy food trucks and vendors.

“A lot of money comes to the city because of the festival. But we’d rather everybody walk away happy and healthy after the festival,” he continued, adding part of the reason they cancelled is because the deadline for vendors to submit their deposits is also in April.

 Another reason is several teams travel the summer dragon boat circuit, some communities having cancelled their races already.
“Last year we had 68 teams and 40 of them travel. Some do the entire circuit, others only go to a few of them. We were talking to Edmonton and they’re likely to cancel their festival,” he said.

They were expecting 17 food vendors and an additional 13 or 14 selling merch. The deadline to  get involved with the festival was mid April.

 Westhora, who is also a member of the Mosaic Rotary Club, noted the cancellation also affects local rotary clubs.
“The festival raises a lot of money for the clubs, though that isn’t why we do it,” he said adding local service clubs including Rotary, but also other clubs including Kinsmen and Lions, clubs are thinking out of the box and thinking of new ways to work in the community.


Theatre Outré broadcasting new season of Gommorah online

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Theatre Outré is experimenting with technology to get their work out to the world.Theatre Outre Artistic Director Jay Whitehead. Photo by Richard Amery
“ Last week we did our drunk  improv show live online (on March 21) on the Theatre Outré Facebook page, but now we don’t even feel comfortable doing that,” said Theatre Outré artistic director Jay Whitehead.

This weekend, Saturday, March 28 they are embracing technology again for the first episode of their new improvised sop opera Gommorah inspired by reality television shows like Big Brother through the Zoom app, which will,once again, be broadcasted on their Facebook page.

“We’ll be self isolating and playing a variety of crazy characters from our own laptops, computers and even phones,” Whitehead continued, agreeing it is a good fit, considering Big Brother uses a lot of cameras on the just the individual characters.

“ We’re experimenting, We’ll see of it works. I’ve been getting familiar with Zoom because I’ve been using it for teleconferencing at work. We have to experiment to do what we love to do,” he said.
 He said they will keep the show to 45 minutes.
“There is a lot going on on social media competing for people’s attention,” he continued.


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