The sap may be flowing, but the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (EMSF) has come to a stop, cancelled for the first time since its launch 56 years ago.
Meeting Wednesday night, the festival committee made the decision to cancel the event, scheduled for April 4, due to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Earlier that day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. A number of cancellation announcements followed, prompting the EMSF committee to do the same.
Committee chair Doug McLean said the decision was not made lightly. Following the WHO announcement and going through an crowd-assessment protocol provided by the federal government, the group concluded that cancellation was the best solution to ensure the safety of volunteers, vendors and the community.
“By the time we went through that protocol it became clear that with the amount of people that were coming to the event from outside the region … that we could not continue with the festival this year if we wanted to keep everything protected and safe,” said McLean.
The committee is now looking into the cost of cancelling the festival.
Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz says she is disappointed with the outcome but understands the concerns that led to the decision.
“Upwards of 60,000 people in a tight proximity, there’s lots of food and crafts and lots of handling of things, so in the abundance of caution I understand their concerns,” said Shantz.
Despite only 59 cases of COVID-19 reported in the province – and three in the Waterloo Region – Shantz says it’s up to individual organizations to decide whether to go ahead with events, as regional Public Health and Emergency Services has not yet banned the gathering of large groups.
Despite cancelling the festival, the committee still plans on finding ways to raise the money that normally would have been raised for various charities, McLean added. Last year, for instance, the event provided $65,000 for 30 charitable and non-profit organizations.
McLean said he wanted the community to know that, one way or another, they will find a way to support local groups this year, and all organizations that would normally receive funds should submit an application for assistance.
The next Elmira Maple Syrup Festival will be held Mar. 27, 2021.