Events across Saskatchewan are being cancelled and postponed due to the surge of cases of the Omicron variant.
Large gatherings are not restricted in Saskatchewan as they are in other provinces, so the decisions are up to organizers.
The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra has cancelled it's Disney's Frozen in Concert show, scheduled for Jan. 29. Refunds will be issued to all ticket holders.
Nutrien Wonderhub, the children's museum in Saskatoon, has closed due to a staffing shortage.
The Saskatoon Library had hoped to have extended hours in the new year, but that plan is scrapped.
This year's Luther Invitational Tournament (LIT), the long-running annual basketball tournament that was slated to begin the first week of February at Luther College in Regina, is now cancelled due to COVID-19.
On Wednesday, organizers of the Bedford Road Invitational Tournament in Saskatoon announced a similar cancellation of their event due to COVID-19.
On Thursday, Huskie Athletics announced the cancellation of the Jan.14 and 15 Sanderson Classic indoor track and field event, hosted by the University of Saskatchewan.
Winter Games cancelled
The Saskatchewan Winter Games set to take place this February in Regina was cancelled late Friday afternoon. The event was to host about 1,500 young athletes competing in a multitude of sports.
Valerie Sluth, chair of the organizing committee, says the cancellation was based on the advice from medical advisers concerned about the unpredictability of the Omicron variant.
"We met with our host organizing committee and I can tell you there were some tears in the room," Sluth said. "And those tears were not because of the individuals who were involved. It was because of the impact that this has on the athletes who ultimately won't be able to participate in this event."
"The Saskatchewan Games is a pivotal event for early career athletes," Sluth said. "It sets the stage for them to participate in games in the future. And so we all cared about providing that opportunity for these young athletes, and we're saddened today."
Sluth says with continued support from the volunteer and business community the games might take place next February.
The upcoming Winterruption festivals across Western Canada — including in Regina, Saskatoon and Swift Current — are being postponed until at least March.
"We were starting to investigate what to do with Omicron. And then as soon as public health restrictions came down in our neighbouring prairie provinces, it became clear that those Winterruption festivals in Edmonton, Winnipeg, etc., were not going to be able to go ahead as planned," said Amber Goodwyn, artistic director at the Regina Folk Festival, which puts on Winterruption in the Queen City.
Goodwyn said that the festivals were not going to be able to sell enough tickets.
"When we bring artists out to the Prairies, especially in the middle of winter, it needs to make financial sense for them as well. They need a tour. They can't just fly in for a one-off show in Regina. They need it to go through the Prairie provinces."
Goodwyn said this is one of the reasons why Winterruption festivals were created in the first place.
The Saskatchewan Festival of Words, based out of Moose Jaw, is a four-day summer literary festival that also puts on events throughout the year. It has postponed its Jan.15 and 22 special concerts at the Mae Wilson Theatre due to Omicron.
"We noticed with the quick rise of Omicron that tickets started not selling right around the beginning of January, and we just felt that people are not comfortable attending shows right now because of the rise in cases," said Amanda Farnel, operations co-ordinator for the festival.
"We can't guarantee the safety of our crowds in the theater as much as we would like to say that we can. And so we just felt it best for everyone."
Farnel said the artists Dayna Manning and Clerel also didn't feel comfortable traveling to Moose Jaw for the concerts with so many Omicron cases across the country.
Farnel said cancelling and postponing events has become extremely tiresome, disappointing and hard on people in the arts, who put a lot of work into planning.
"Something that we've been talking about a lot recently is decision fatigue. Where you're making essentially what feels like life or death decisions daily almost, in regards to the safety of people. And that makes it really difficult," Farnel said.
"I think people don't realize the amount of work that goes into planning events, moving events around and having to be flexible all of the time. There's a lot of moving parts and and a lot of things that have to be co-ordinated to get everything together and to have to do that multiple times for one show ... this is very difficult and very exhausting."
Saskatchewan is the only province in the country without gathering limits during this fifth wave of the pandemic. Both Farnel and Goodwyn said guidance from the province can be very helpful in times like these.
"I always think that strong leadership and proactive approaches to problems is a good idea. What happens when temporary restrictions are not put in place is that it off-loads the problem to other organizations and businesses and event planners who will do it in all different kinds of ways, not standardized," said Goodwyn.