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.

 Moranz was really looking forward to this year’s line up and noted they hope to feature the same performers next year. In the meantime, throughout the coming year, check out the South Country Fair website http://southcountryfair.com for a peek at some of the acts.

“I was so incredibly proud of our line up this year. It has been completely confirmed for several months and we were just gearing up to start sneak peeks when the conversation of postponing took precedence. After the decision to postpone was made, we notified the artists and gave them all the option to carry their booking over to 2021,” she wrote, adding they have received  positive response from the performers.


Aerial acrobats at the South Country Fair last year. Photo by Richard Amery “We have received an incredibly positive response from this and will likely be able to present the majority of our line up next year. Even though we cannot move forward with the festival this year we still want to support the artists as much as possible. We will be featuring an artist/week from the 2020 roster on our social media avenues, encouraging followers to stream their music, purchase online merch, attend any live streams they may be hosting, etc. Some of these artists are already confirmed to appear at SCF 2021. We will release the full 2021 line up next spring but, in the meantime, keep an eye on our social media for the weekly featured artist to get a taste of what we had in store for you at SCF 2020,” she noted.


She didn’t know the impact of the South Country Fair cancellation on their annual songwriting competition.


Moranz and the organizers are understandable disappointed about having to cancel the fair, but noted Fair patrons understand the decision.

“The public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive since we made the announcement on April 6. Many folks have expressed sadness but also respect for our decision and gratitude for our dedication to the health of our community members. It has been incredibly affirming hearing the supportive responses from our artists, attendees and volunteers alike. There is a general sense of relief that the decision has been made and nobody will have to grapple with whether or not to go as the summer draws closer,” she wrote.


“Of course, it is incredibly disappointing to cancel. This will be the first year in my entire life that SCF will not be at the centre of my family's summer. It is a strange kind of loneliness that none of us really know what to do with yet. Mom and dad have been doing this for 34 years, so there are obviously a lot of emotions to process, especially in relation to the bigger picture of what is happening globally right now.

But, there is a sense of ease knowing that the decision to postpone was the right thing to do. As always, I was so excited to fill my bucket with community, love, music, art and inspiration at the Fair this year. That's the magic cocktail that keeps us going. I was also really excited about some of the artists we were going to present, but the incredible SCF family are always my number one. It is a beautiful feeling knowing that the festival will there when this storm passes and the dust settles. It will be an amazing reunion when we can all safely gather again. That's what we're all holding onto through these difficult times,” she noted, adding they are always working  on improvements to the fair,” she observed.


“We're always making small changes to improve our system, little by little. As of late, our incredible Site Beautification crew are constantly scheming innovative new projects and installations to engage and astound fair-goers. Last year we made some changes to how the artist services are organized, and this year we were going to implement an On Deck Artist Green Room at the South Stage.  Little things that make a big difference. Every year we identify something we can nuance better for the next year, which is something that has kept us going for over three decades. SCF is a living organism, constantly adapting to its surroundings. It has survived floods, droughts, wind storms, torrential rain, scorching heat, and everything in between. This year will be a quiet one, but we can assure you that when all of the dust settles SCF will be there,” she concluded.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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