After two years of cancelled events and scaled-down plans, organizers of some P.E.I. festivals are planning for a return to normal this summer.
Officials with Old Home Week in Charlottetown say they're hopeful the event in mid-August will look just as it did before the pandemic: a full exhibition, midway and harness racing.
"We're forging ahead and are planning as normal," said Sandra Hodder Acorn, the event's manager.
"With the reducing of restrictions, and everything being back to full capacity, and the mask mandate going to 'highly recommended', it looks like we've got a good handle on Omicron and COVID on P.E.I.. I think we're safe. So we're just going to go ahead and start planning."
Organizers of the Summerside Lobster Carnival are taking a similar approach.
After hosting a virtual event in 2020, and just a couple of activities last summer, the plan is to return to a normal five-day carnival, with sit-down lobster suppers, a midway, entertainment tent and more.
"I would say we're more confident because of what we see happening throughout the province, and the fact they're talking about [P.E.I.] having 1.2 million visitors," said Marlene Campbell, programming co-ordinator with Culture Summerside, which organizes the carnival.
"The word out there is to prepare to open up and move ahead. So that's kind of the premise we're going on — that we plan everything until, God forbid, we should be told to do otherwise."
Hodder Acorn expects planning a major festival will have its added challenges this year.
For one, she says many festivals and exhibitions across the country are trying to squeeze a lot in to make up for lost time.
"So that may make it challenging getting judges and stuff like that booked, because they may be booked for multiple events now," she said.
The pandemic has also helped fuel a major labour shortage on P.E.I. and across Canada.
"That's a challenge for all small- and medium-sized businesses right now in P.E.I., and I'm sure we'll have our challenges as well," said Hodder Acorn. "I'll be reaching out to the [gate and security workers] we had two years ago to see where they're at, and I guess we'll have to go from there."
There are also no guarantees festivals like Old Home Week and the Summerside Lobster Carnival will be able to carry on as planned.
Organizers of both events say they will have contingency plans in place in case public health restrictions return.
"I do think about that quite a bit. But I try to hold onto the faith that ... by the tourist season, we should see a real improvement and a great summer," said Campbell.
"So I have my fingers crossed that everything is going to go in the right direction."
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