The 2020 Bala Cranberry Festival has been cancelled as a result of concerns for the health and safety of attendees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers of the festival made the decision jointly with its board of directors over the Aug. 1 holiday weekend, with a “sad and heavy heart,” according to a statement issued by festival chair Jordan Mulligan.
Reopening guidelines designated by the provincial government guided the decision, Mulligan said.
“As time went on, it became obvious that the festival did not meet the criteria for events allowed in Stage 3, where event attendee sizes have been put in place to ensure public safety,” Mulligan said.
The financial impact of cancelling the festival is significant, Mulligan pointed out, affecting local businesses, restaurants and suppliers as well as the more than 150 vendors who participate each year.
Each year, the Bala Cranberry Festival, “gives back close to $40,000 to 25-plus local community groups,” Mulligan added.
The annual festival takes place the weekend following Thanksgiving and was slated for Oct. 18-20.
In 2019, the 35th year of the festival, 16,000 people attended over the course of three days and nearly $44,000 was raised for the community and five youth scholarships.
“While the festival may be cancelled in 2020, Bala is a resilient little town, the festival is a resilient little (big) festival, and when public health agencies deem it safe to do so, we will be back,” said Mulligan.
On the festival's Facebook page, the sentiment was one of disappointment, but understanding. Organizers also said there are plans for an online store in the works.
"We look forward to 2021 with all efforts put toward making 2021 a showcase year," said Mulligan.
Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com