Festival d'été de Québec latest to cancel summer event

Organizers of Quebec City's largest music festival are cancelling the 2020 edition, as the government predicts several more months of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers of Quebec City's music festival say it would be 'impossible' to respect COVID-19 restrictions

Tens of thousands of concert-goers cram onto the Plains of Abraham for the summer festival each year. (Bruno Giguère/Radio-Canada)

For the first time in more than 50 years, there will be no summer music festival in Quebec City.

The Festival d'été de Québec (FEQ) announced Thursday it will not be holding its 2020 edition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, organizers said it would be "neither prudent nor realistic for the organization to continue its efforts" to organize this year's festival, which was set to take place from July 9 to 19.

This year's headliners included Rage Against the Machine, Jack Johnson, Rod Stewart and Imagine Dragons.

On Wednesday, Premier François Legault hammered the last nail in the coffin for most of Quebec's large summer gatherings, predicting that the two-metre physical-distancing rule would likely be required for "several months."

"The two-metre rule will be extended over a longer period, so it's unlikely we'll be able to have any kind of festival this summer," Legault said.

The FEQ's general manager Anne Hudon said organizers made the decision "with a heavy heart."

"We kept our hopes up for a long time," said Hudon.

"But it was becoming too difficult, and we made this decision for the safety of our festival-goers and for public health."

People who have already purchased a festival pass will get a full refund.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Tuesday that all festivals, sporting events and public gatherings are cancelled until July 2.

'Disaster' for tourism industry

More than 80,000 tourists visit the Quebec City region to attend the festival, bringing $30 million in economic spin-offs to the region, according to the city's tourism board, l'Office du tourisme de Québec.

Director Benoît Pigeon said the cancellation is "a disaster for Quebec City."

"But these are extraordinary circumstances, and there isn't much we can do," said Pigeon.

He is also concerned cancelling this summer's edition could have a domino effect on future events.

The tourism board is able to help finance organizations like the FEQ, Pigeon said, thanks to the three-per-cent accommodation tax hotels charge tourists.

With fewer visitors to Quebec City, the board will have less income to help those large events financially.

"It's going to be difficult," Pigeon said. "So we hope there will be programs available to allow us to continue keeping those organizations alive."

On Thursday, Legault said Culture Minister Nathalie Roy and Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx were already looking at ways to support those industries, once the crisis has passed.

The 11-day festival brings more than $30 million in economic spin-offs to the Quebec City region. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

"It will be tough" for those industries to rebound, Legault acknowledged, promising that when "the right time comes" and people are allowed to gather in large groups, the government will be there for them.

"Culture — having fun together — it's important for our society," said Legault. "So when the time comes, we'll help them financially."

With files from Cathy Senay and Radio-Canada

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