Even though Joe Savoie made the difficult decision to cancel that 33rd annual Turner's Christmas at the Coliseum craft show Thursday evening, it still took him a while to finally hit 'send' announcing it to vendors and shoppers.
"I had it written and ready to post and I must have went 10 or 15 minutes before I could actually hit the button and let it go," he said.
The craft show, held in Moncton, features rows and rows of colourful holiday displays. Close to 300 exhibitors sell arts, crafts, antiques and gourmet foods. Savoie said up to 20,000 shoppers would normally attend over the three days the show is held.
This year's event was scheduled for Nov. 27, 28 and 29 at the Coliseum Agrena.
Savoie said he waited as long as he could before cancelling, but given the growing number of COVID-19 cases elsewhere, he didn't want to take a chance.
"Seeing what's happening in Central Canada at the moment, you have to at least agree that there is a distinct possibility that some of that will make its way down here," he said.
Exhibitors face huge loss
Most of the vendors from outside the Atlantic bubble had already cancelled because of the required 14-day quarantine, but exhibitors from within the region planned to attend.
"If something were to happen a week before, two days before, during — we've seen that, last March, that events that were already going on were cancelled the day of or even the day after," Savoie said. "So it's very risky. There's a lot of expense."
He said the show is a huge loss to the exhibitors, many of whom count on the sales to get them through the rest of the year.
"It was very, very difficult to take something away from so many people," he said.
Doreen Whidden, who is one of the "Fudge Ladies," said her family business has been selling fudge and more recently beef jerky at the show for years.
When she heard the news, her "heart broke" for those who depend on the show for their livelihood. Even though her goods are still available to order, she'll miss the experience.
"It means everything," she said. "We get together. We have a family bake of 13 of us together in our kitchen, our certified kitchen.
"We go to Turner's and we donate for needy families. We help support other things from the funds that we make. It's a family thing, a family get together and we reach out to help others — very sad."
The show's cancellation was also sad news for Olin Penna, the owner and head batch maker at Luther Lather Shaving Creamery in Charlottetown.
"For small business and makers just regionally here, Turner's is a massive show and it's devastating just from a revenue perspective," Penna said.
"But there's six or seven other shows in our circuit that are all cancelled as well, and when you don't have sales at all and you're totally relying on these shows to generate some income — it's pretty frustrating, but it's also sad."
And while Penna's products can be purchased online, he said nothing matches the face-to-face experience you get at a show.
Being the one person that says yes or no to taking the risk for that many people, you just can't. - Joe Savoie
"Your brand is everything, and without a voice or a face to sometimes connect your business with the actual maker, it's hard to get that feeling or loyalty."
This would have been Joe Savoie's sixth year running the Christmas craft show.
He said as much as he wanted to move forward with the event, in the end he just couldn't take a chance.
"Being the one person that says yes or no to taking the risk for that many people, you just can't." he said.