COVID-19 puts Charlottetown's Jack Frost festival on Ice

COVID-19 means that the annual Jack Frost winter festival in Charlottetown can't go ahead like in previous years, but organizers have something different in mind.

Organizers are offering a full month of festivities starting Feb. 12

In previous years, Jack Frost Winterfest has attracted about 15,000 people to Charlottetown. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Normally at this point in the winter, organizers of the Jack Frost winter festival would be hard at work preparing sites and hoping for good weather.

The annual weekend-long festival attracts thousands of people, coming from all over P.E.I. and the Maritimes. 

But the festival won't be proceeding this year as it has in past years. COVID-19 has created too much uncertainty.

Instead, the organizers are running a month-long event called Jack Frost Presents: Ice City. 

"We thought it was important to keep the brand alive without the full exposure and the risk of previous years," said John Cudmore, chair of Capital City Events, the organizers of the festival. 

Starting Feb. 12, Charlottetown will be decked out in full winter-festival theme.

Each weekend, Islanders can expect signature events like a comedy weekend, music weekend and an outdoor market.

Tubing at the Jack Frost Winterfest at the Charlottetown Event Grounds was a big attraction in past years. (Jack Frost Winterfest/Facebook)

Cudmore said ice sculptures and other familiar touches from the Jack Frost festival will also be placed around the city.

"We're actually doing something a little different with a vendor setup in the Queen Parkade," he said. "We're calling it Queen Street Market.

"And we're hoping with the kind of indoor-outdoor activity around the area … we can set vendors up there practising social distancing and selling their wares and make it a little bit of fun."

For Cudmore, it was important to run some sort of an event to help businesses in the downtown area. 

"It's key that we keep Islanders out and around. There's a pent-up demand, we feel, for activities for young people and for adults alike."

When the Atlantic bubble was open, there was tourism coming from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Cudmore said he hopes the bubble will reopen to attract more people to this year's festival. 

"But we're prepared either way," he said.

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