COVID-19 has put a cramp on concert plans for months but organizers of an annual Vancouver Island music festival think they may be able to swing a few shows this summer.
The 39 Days of July festival, held in Duncan B.C., celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The event, which is held primarily in the city's Charles Hoey Memorial Park, usually features live music performances every day from noon to night with admission by donation.
In 2020, the pandemic forced all the shows online and performances were streamed virtually from the Duncan Showroom. Now, organizer "Longevity" John Falkner, from the Duncan-Cowichan Festival Society, is optimistic 2021 could be a comeback year while still following COVID-19 protocols.
"There's a lot of great island musicians I discovered last year that really need a chance to get out and play and show the world what they do," said Falkner.
The society is hoping to set up stages once again in the park and if need be, move the evening performances into the showroom to prevent crowds, or limit capacity in the park.
WATCH | Festival performances streamed live from the Duncan Showroom in 2020:
Falkner said while the festival can draw up to 1,000 people a day, rarely are they all in the park at the same time and during the day he said most people set their blankets apart from each other or stop for a few minutes before passing through.
He said the events also offer a chance for people in the area to see a concert that otherwise would be unable to.
"Those who are impoverished had an opportunity to see music for free," said Falkner, adding the events also draw many elders and members of the community with special needs.
Doug Manuel, a senior scientist with the Ottawa Hospital, said as the vaccine rollout picks up, public health officials have to weigh two things when it comes to big events: the risk of transmission versus how much the community values the event.
Manuel said large gatherings indoors are still "fairly risky," but outdoor gatherings and concerts could potentially reopen later in the summer.
On May 3, Duncan city council approved, in principle, the 39 Days of July festival subject to COVID-19 protocols.
For now, Falkner is preparing for best and worst case scenarios including a full slate of live shows, a partial slate or an entirely virtual event. Either way, he says, the shows will go on.