COVID-19 cancels some summer events as N.S. prepares to reopen from lockdown

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The Riverfront Jubilee music festival in New Glasgow, N.S., will not be going ahead as planned in 2021. The last festival was held in 2019, with Canadian band Trooper headlining one of the concerts. (Rob Rodgers Photography - image credit)
The Riverfront Jubilee music festival in New Glasgow, N.S., will not be going ahead as planned in 2021. The last festival was held in 2019, with Canadian band Trooper headlining one of the concerts. (Rob Rodgers Photography - image credit)

For the second summer in a row, some major events in Nova Scotia are being cancelled or postponed due to uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Riverfront Jubilee music festival in New Glasgow, N.S., and the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, N.S., announced on Monday they would be putting the brakes on their 2021 plans.

The three-day Riverfront Jubilee festival is always held over the August long weekend, bringing up to 7,000 people — both patrons and performers — from all over Nova Scotia and Canada to Pictou County.

After cancelling what would have been the 25th annual Riverfront Jubilee in 2020, the board planned to go ahead with the festival in 2021.

They put together a health and safety plan based on public health recommendations at the time, which included allowing 10-person bubbles at outdoor gatherings, with a limit of 500 people.

But that was before Nova Scotia was hit by a third, variant-fuelled wave.

"We're a bunch of Nova Scotians trying to make the best of a bad situation," said Jill George, the festival's marketing director.

"It's really sad, but we're gonna figure it out and come back as good as ever next year when things are a little bit better."

The 2019 volunteer board of directors for the Riverfront Jubilee: Jeremy Sutherland, Michael Stewart, Ryan Liel, Jay MacLeod, Jill George, Janine Linthorne, Emmy Tremblay, Emma Curley, Aleisha MacLeod-Smith, Megan Hartling and Aaron Pellerine.
The 2019 volunteer board of directors for the Riverfront Jubilee: Jeremy Sutherland, Michael Stewart, Ryan Liel, Jay MacLeod, Jill George, Janine Linthorne, Emmy Tremblay, Emma Curley, Aleisha MacLeod-Smith, Megan Hartling and Aaron Pellerine.(Submitted by Jill George)

George said people remain nervous and cautious about COVID-19.

"Even with vaccines, not everyone is ready to get back out there in bigger crowds," she said.

The festival also relies heavily on local sponsorship. George said all of the volunteers on the board are involved in local businesses in one way or another, so they know first-hand how challenging the last two years have been for business owners.

"We felt like we couldn't ask them, when they're already hurting, to support something. Even though it's a wonderful thing for the community, we wanted them to take care of themselves," George said.

Riverfront Jubilee will be back to "rock the river" in the summer of 2022, when it will hopefully be able to hold its 25th festival. Tickets bought and won over the last year will continue to be honoured.

Wharf Rat Rally

On the province's South Shore, the Wharf Rat Rally will be hosting a series of virtual events in lieu of an in-person gathering, including an online photo contest and geocaching maps.

While the phased reopening plans announced on May 28 "bode well" for the province, organizers say it doesn't give them enough time to launch a "full-scale motorcycle rally."

"The rally is renowned as a friendly event with thousands of people mingling around and it's almost impossible to work within the current restrictions. So we feel this year we need to put it off," said the board's vice-chair, Peter James.

For the second year in a row, the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, N.S., is cancelled due to COVID-19. Organizers are planning some virtual events instead.
For the second year in a row, the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, N.S., is cancelled due to COVID-19. Organizers are planning some virtual events instead.(Brett Ruskin/CBC)

For 15 years, the event has brought motorcyclists to Digby in early September. It's become one of the largest motorcycle rallies in Canada.

The decision to cancel the annual event — for the second year in a row — will be a large blow to the local economy.

James said it's frustrating to have put so much time and energy into an event that's "very good and positive" for the community only to have to cancel it again, but the team is already looking forward to bringing the rally back in 2022.

"All we can do right now is look for the positives," he said.

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