Winnipeg Folk Festival, Super-Spike, Filipino street party cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Winnipeg Folk Festival organizers announced the summer celebration at Birds Hill Provincial Park is cancelled.

Organizers call off large gatherings for June and July months in advance

Thousands of folkies fill blankets, tarps and folding chairs in front of the main stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which was planned to run July 9 to 12, 2020. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Major public gatherings underway for this summer — including Winnipeg Folk Festival, Super-Spike and the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival — are now cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winnipeg Folk Festival organizers announced in a news release Tuesday afternoon that they are "absolutely heartbroken" to cancel the 47th annual summer celebration.

"This has been one of the worst days of my life," executive director Lynne Skromeda told host Ismaila Alfa in an interview on CBC's Up To Speed shortly after Tuesday's announcement.

"I have to say it's been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, even though I know it's the right thing to do and the responsible thing to do," she said.

To limit the COVID-19 caseload, Manitoba introduced new provincial public health orders on March 30 that allow no more than 10 people to gather and require physical distancing by staying at least two meters apart from other people.

On Monday, provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin extended the orders until April 28.

Mounting coronavirus concerns have hit the arts community hard, as it has already wiped out most upcoming art, music and cultural festivals in the province.

Skromeda said the "difficult decision" was made nearly three months before the time of year when tens of thousands of attendees would normally be flocking to the four-day festival filled with music, art and camping just outside of Winnipeg.

Canadian Juno award-winning duo Tegan and Sara were supposed to be among the stars headlining the event.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter John Prine, who was also set to perform, died at age 73 due to COVID-19 complications, his family announced last week.

Organizers of the non-profit festival say they cannot plan and deliver the environment festival goers "expect" while ensuring their safety.

'People are really sad'

"People are devastated," Skromeda said, "because people build their holidays around it, they see people they don't get to see any other time of year, and you know it's one of the big kick offs of to summer where people get to spend time outside doing the things they love with the people they love, so people are really sad."

The festival was planned for July 9 to 12 at Birds Hill Provincial Park.

Blue skies shifted to dark grey as storm clouds rolled in last summer over the Big Rock Tavern at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Full refunds will be made available to those who have already purchased tickets, according to the release.

Ticket holders can expect to receive an email on how to obtain refunds or donate the money to future festival initiatives, Skromeda said.

Organizers are hoping they can follow through with plans to bring the festival back in July 2021.

"I have a really good feeling that we will be able to make it through, but you know we need our community to put on this festival and we need our community now," Skromedia said, adding that their smaller concert series in the fall — if restrictions are loosened — on top of government support will allow them to hold the festival in "full force" next year.

"Please hold on to your cherished memories of past Folk Fests and know you will create new ones when we're able to do it safely — singing along to our favourite tunes with friends and family, dancing under the warm sun and seeing a crowd of smiling faces."

The festival's full statement about this decision can be read online.


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The Manitoba Filipino Street Festival also made the announcement Tuesday to cancel its Winnipeg event.

"Today, with a heavy heart, we have to make this decision," festival chair Ley Navarro wrote in a statement.

"It will be a big disappointment to all associations and groups planning and preparing parade floats, costumes and dances for this year's cultural festivity" as well as the Filipino food vendors, Navarro said.

The street festival was scheduled for June 13 and 14 in the city's Maples area.

The Manitoba Filipino Street Festival parade has been full of colourful cultural costumes and music in previous years, such as this photo from festivities in June 2018. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)

For the first time in 19 years, Winnipeg's Super-Spike is cancelled. That decision was also made Tuesday due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers said.

"With the outlook and effects of COVID-19 being unpredictable this summer, and the safety of our attendees and participants top of mind, it is with heavy hearts that we have decided to cancel this summer's Super-Spike," reads an online statement.

The outdoor volleyball tournament, combined with a party and concerts, at Maple Grove Rugby Park was set for July 17 and 18.

It is still planning to go ahead in the summer of 2021.


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Last Thursday Dauphin's Countryfest announced it was postponing its massive country music festival, located outside of Dauphin, about 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. The event has been moved from July to June 24-27 of next year.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is one of the last major events that still appears to be going ahead this summer.​​​​​

According to its website, organizers are continuing to monitor the local pandemic situation and its impact.

"At this time, we're planning to hold the festival as scheduled but we're adapting as needed. We're taking this time to carefully consider all our options to best support our artists, volunteers, patrons and staff," reads an online statement.

Two weeks of theatre shows and street performances are set to run at various locations in the city from July 15 to July 26.

With files from Leif Larsen and Ismaila Alfa