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Kempenfest cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns

'It’s tough. We’re turning 50 this year, so it’s hard with it being a big anniversary year,' says general manager

Kempenfest has officially been cancelled for 2020, according to the popular event’s general manager.

Louise Jackson, general manager of Kempenfest, told BarrieToday the decision was a tough one as the committee was hoping for good news.

"We expected to possibly have to cancel, but we just wanted to make sure there was no way to do it before we made the announcement," said Jackson. "I also wanted to make sure we had an alternative way to celebrate before making it official, and we have things in place to make sure we can still have a bit if fun."

Jackson admits to feeling sad for "the many service groups that rely on the event to raise money for their charities," but also said there will be announcements soon on other ways Kempenfest organizers will provide safe fun in what would have been half a century for the event.

“It’s tough. We’re turning 50 this year, so it’s hard with it being a big anniversary year,” said Jackson. “It’s very scary to see whether we can be sustainable going forward.”

Jackson estimates Kempenfest has an $11.5 million economic impact on Barrie. About 350 vendors participate annually in the August event, and it brings approximately 200,000 people to town over the four days it typically runs.

“That includes all the arts and crafts vendors who make money. It’s scary because all these people use it to pay their bills all year,” she said.

City of Barrie officials put out a release at the end of April outlining their decision to stop issuing city event permits until at least June 30.

“At this time, no decision has been made for events beyond June 30. All cancellations/closures will be regularly reviewed by the city’s emergency control group and could be extended based on the most current advice of public health,” said Steve Lee Young, manager of recreation with the City of Barrie.

While Young says the city doesn’t provide funding for events that aren’t city-run, they do provide other support.

“We do provide staffing support for some community events, and that will not change if events are allowed to happen this summer,” he said.

According to the province, Celebrate Ontario funding grants – which typically are announced in May and have supported local events such as Barrie’s Troubadour Festival and Talk is Free Theatre productions – will still be flowing despite cancellations.

“In addition to funding events for 2020, we are also honouring commitments from Celebrate Ontario 2019 for events cancelled in March,” said Leighanne Neilson, spokesperson for the ministry of heritage, sport, tourism and culture. “These investments will help to maintain the capacity of the festivals and events sector so that Ontario is well-positioned to welcome back visitors once it is safe to do so.”

— With files from Shawn Gibson

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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