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Kempenfest kiboshed for the second year in a row

Although province hopes to have Ontarians vaccinated by mid-June, 'there are a large number of people who don’t feel they’ll be ready for large crowds by the time Kempenfest comes around,' says chairman

Kempenfest, which was to celebrate 50 years in 2020, will have to wait until 2022 for the big party as the event was cancelled again this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The decision, which was made at a recent board meeting, was disappointing to event chairman Todd Tuckey, who told BarrieToday he had high hopes for this summer's edition.

“I really hoped and believed we’d be getting the event to the folks who not only love it, but after the last year, need it,” he said Thursday.

The decision to cancel was made despite the provincial government saying it plans on getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of anyone who wants one by June 20.

“I think that's great and I hope that happens, but we can’t rely on that as we would have had to have planning and preparations done by then,” Tuckey said. “We’ve also been hearing from people that while many can’t wait to get life moving again, there are a large number of people who don’t feel they’ll be ready for large crowds by the time Kempenfest comes around.

"And honestly, we totally understand that," he added. 

Kempenfest, which is one of the highlights of Barrie's summer events calendar, was scheduled to take place this year from July 30 to Aug. 2 along the stretch of the city's lakeshore from Centennial Beach to the Southshore Centre. 

Tuckey estimates Kempenfest has a $12-million economic impact on Barrie's economy. Approximately 350 vendors participate in the annual event, which typically brings approximately 200,000 people to town over the four days.

But while he knows the tourism industry and small businesses will take a hit due to the festival's absence for another year, Tuckey says he feels for the charities that benefit from Kempenfest.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that Kempenfest is owned and run by many charities. Those charities  who, by the way, have been hit hard since the pandemic began  benefit greatly from Kempenfest,” Tuckey said. “In many cases, it's the biggest fundraiser of the year for some organizations.“

Last year’s event, which was also cancelled due to pandemic-related concerns, went online as Kempenfest launching a new website showcasing local musicians, vendors, partners and more through their social-media channels.

The provincial budget, which was announced Wednesday, also includes help for Ontario’s tourism industry.

Tuckey said he hopes Kempenfest will qualify for help in some way.

“We are looking through the budget, but more importantly, we’re currently filling out some paperwork for some government grants made public last week,” he said. “We’re not 100 per cent sure, but we feel we may qualify for something, which would help.”

Although Tuckey admitted he and everyone involved are dejected at having to postpone the event’s 50th anniversary again, the chairman was confident about the possibility of a big party next year.

“Yes, no question. I truly and strongly believe we’ll be out of this before the event’s dates next year and it's going to be a good time,” Tuckey said. “We’re almost there and we can’t wait to get back to the festival that we have all loved so much.”

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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