Saskatoon festival organizers assessing summer plans, 'need flexibility' in age of COVID-19

Organizers are wrestling with whether Saskatoon's festival season will go ahead this summer, as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Nutrien Children's Festival pushing its dates back to September; jazz fest's July 3 start uncertain

People practise yoga in the park in the park in this 2015 photo. Yoga in the park is a popular feature of the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, which is scheduled to begin on July 3. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Festival season is just around the corner in Saskatoon and event organizers are scrambling to decide whether COVID-19 will force cancellations.

The Nutrien Children's Festival of Saskatchewan is traditionally the festival that kicks off the summer season. Organizers have already announced, though, that it's being pushed back to the fall.

"With only two months until the festival gates open, and based on the suggestions by the federal and provincial governments concerning COVID-19, we have decided that it is in the best interest of every person attending and working at the Festival that we postpone it until September," organizers said in an update on the children's festival's website.

It's now set to start on Sept. 12.

The SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, meanwhile, is set to begin July 3, but "we need flexibility," said artistic director Kevin Tobin.

He says organizers are assessing the situation for the festival, which he points out does not operate in a vacuum. It stays in close contact with other music festivals and touring musicians.

"There are a lot of moving parts as artists tour," Tobin said.

The festival usually releases its list of artists in mid-March but has delayed revealing the program.

Tobin says the festival board has a regularly scheduled meeting next week. The fate of this year's festival is on the agenda, but he says it's unlikely that a final decision will be made at the meeting.

There is no hard date right now by which a decision must be made, he said.

The City of Saskatoon says it's up to individual festival boards and organizers to make the call.

However, a provincial public health order currently in effect bans gatherings of over 10 people. That order remains in effect until the province's chief public health officer determines there is no longer a public health threat.


Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.