The year 2020 continues as a succession of cancellations and postponements of many community events on the Sunshine Coast. The latest scratch from the calendar is Sechelt’s 33rd annual Hackett Park Arts & Crafts Fair, which was scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 15 and 16.
The primary consideration for the Sunshine Coast Arts Council (SCAC), which runs the fair, was the risk of spreading COVID-19 if the popular arts, food and music event were to go ahead, according to curator/director Sadira Rodrigues.
“Absolutely, the health and safety of everyone involved, the audience, the staff, our large volunteer force, the vendors” are what motivated the “very difficult decision to cancel,” Rodrigues told Coast Reporter.
“We see about 6,000 to 10,000 people at the gate over the weekend,” said Rodrigues. “Was there a way to lessen the number of vendors [at any one time] for social distancing?” After weeks of discussion among staff and SCAC board members with Vancouver Coastal Health and the District of Sechelt about ways of salvaging the fair this year, they could not find a solution that was both financially practical and physically safe, she said. “We were trying to innovate, but there were just huge challenges.”
More than 75 artisan/vendors set up display and sales areas at the 2019 fair, and 50 had already signed up this year and paid fees, which start at $200 (and all of which have been refunded).
The vendors were notified in the week before the June 2 public announcement, Rodrigues said, adding that no one has disputed the decision. “There’s a deep amount of sadness, and there’s a fear on some parts. If [cancellation] does happen again next year, how many of them, from small business perspective, will be able to survive the loss of not just Hackett Park, but other events that they rely on in the summer to generate revenue?”
As the course of the pandemic is unpredictable, which is to say things could as easily go well as not, Rodrigues remained upbeat in the SCAC news release about the cancellation. “We are looking to the future and hope to be able to invite our community back to the 2021 edition,” she wrote. “In the meantime, we hope our community remains safe and healthy and connected during these challenging times.”