File Photo

Sylvan Lake’s Yuletide Festival cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

A number of concerns stemming from COVID-19 sparked the decision to cancel the holiday festival

The Spirit of Sylvan Yuletide Festival has been cancelled, four months before the holiday festival was set to kickoff the festive season.

The festival committee made the decision last week, citing donations and health restrictions as the deciding factors.

Graham Parsons, chairperson for the festival, said there were too many unknowns moving forward.

“We are optimistic that things will be back to normal by Christmas, but we just don’t know we will be,” Parsons said in a phone interview.

“We don’t want to do anything half way.”

A main consideration in cancelling this year’s event was the need for sponsorships and donations.

Parsons explained with the economy the way it is the committee felt uncomfortable asking for donations.

He continued saying the uncertainty around social gatherings was another reason the cancel the festival for this year.

“There are so many unknowns right now that it just felt right to cancel now, that way we can still plan other smaller ways to celebrate,” Parsons said.

The uncertainty around the hockey season was another factor that played into the committee’s decision.

There has been no announcement around the hockey season as of yet, but many hockey players are hoping to have a shortened season beginning in November.

“If they start up in November it would be too much to take the ice out for four days and disrupt their already short season,” said Parsons.

While the festival as we have come to know it won’t happen in 2020, Parsons and the committee are looking for ways to be part of the community during the holiday season.

One idea is to collaborate more closely with Light Up the Lake, which runs in conjunctions with the Yuletide Festival.

However, smaller events and outdoor activities will all depend on social distancing restrictions.

“We are looking at maybe having something in the [Santa Claus] parade, or outdoor entertainment,” Parsons said, adding entertainment is a large part of the festival with local performers and groups participating.

“We still want to make a presence in the community.”

The cancellation of the festival will have an effect on local charities as well. Every year the Yuletide Festival makes a donation to local charities, including the Food Bank, the Christmas Bureau, AACS and Community Partners.

The committee is looking at way they can still help the local charities, in a smaller capacity.

“In a time like this it is the charities that really suffer. But, that money has to come from somewhere and when somewhere doesn’t have money to give, the charities will suffer.”

Parsons says the Yuletide Festival Committee is looking into options for the holiday season, adding further announcements will be made in the near future.

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