Regional outbreaks spark early cancellation for 70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale

·3 min read
Organizers with the 70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale say it's better to cancel the event sooner than later as variant strains of COVID-19 take hold across the region. (70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale - image credit)
Organizers with the 70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale say it's better to cancel the event sooner than later as variant strains of COVID-19 take hold across the region. (70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale - image credit)

Organizers with the 70 Mile Coastal Yard Sale say they are cancelling the 2021 event for the second in a year row.

The popular community event is held on the third weekend of September and draws crowds from across the province and the region. Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation board chair John Rousseau says some sites have 600 to 1,000 people there at a time.

"It's good to make the decision early because there's a tremendous amount of work to organize it. We have a very small volunteer base and we do it as a community service. We like to see people out in the country making money and we make a little bit of money, too," he said.

"There's an awful lot of money that changes hands and it's just great for everybody. And this is what's disappointing about the fact that we have to cancel."

The event should have taken place the weekend of Sept. 18, but Rousseau said with so many vendors, it would be challenging to enforce distancing rules.

"On a lonely country road, someone at the end of their lane selling something, it's not an issue, but there are a lot of multiple-vendor sites where people are congregating and it just would be impossible to toe the line of the proximity rules," he said, even though the event would be in four months.

"We have all the information we need with the variants ... just too much to risk."

While vaccinations have inspired some hope of returning to a more normal summer and tourism season on P.E.I., Rousseau said outbreaks across the region and the ongoing suspension of the Atlantic bubble make things complicated.

"Given the seriousness of the current situation right now, [cancelling] wasn't very challenging at all because I've seen the crowds, how thick they are, and there's just no way we could possibly manage," he said.

"We can't get halfway through the work and then cancel it."

This little virus has caught us by the short hairs here. — John Rousseau, Wood Islands Development Corporation

Rousseau said the event has become an entrenched cultural tradition since it started over 20 years ago, and that it will be missed by vendors and shoppers alike.

"It's one of those things where it's larger than all the parts, everybody does what they do, but it adds up to just this general area of excitement," he said.

"One year I had to travel to Charlottetown on a Saturday morning and the Trans-Canada Highway traffic was slowed to a crawl in many places. It's just people are everywhere."

He said the board hopes to resume the event next year.

"We look forward to having it next year, and we said this last year.... We thought it would be over by now," he said.

"This little virus has caught us by the short hairs here."

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