The oldest festival in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will have to be celebrated online this year.
Country Fest, which has been celebrated since 1901, was stopped in its tracks by COVID-19.
There will be no cheering at the pig races, exhilarating fairground rides, cotton candy tastings, or taking in of the popular home arts features.
General manager for the festival, Lorraine Bates, said she was hoping there would be some way to keep the show going but in the end it did not seem possible.
“It would have been a nightmare and you’d end up with people getting angry and I just didn’t want that.
“I wanted them to remember what the fair was and not the diluted version.”
Since they had the use of the stage and federal grant money to put on a stage show, Bates said she decided that was the best way to keep the spirit of the fair alive, while taking care of an industry that has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Entertainers are starving,” Bates said. “People aren’t booking festivals, or even bands in bars.”
She pointed out the musical guests were over-the-moon once they discovered they would get to practice their craft again.
“We’re paying everybody,” Bates insisted. “But some of them said they’d be willing to play for nothing just to be able to get back up on stage and do what they do.”
The show will take place over two days from July 25-26, and be broadcast from the stage at the Albion fairgrounds.
Anyone interested in streaming the concert, which will feature music from all over the world, can find details on the Country Fest website.
In between performances there will be 15 minute breaks while the acts get off stage and the area is sanitized. Bates said she thought the interludes would be a great time to recognize the parts of the fair which will not get the time to shine this year.
“We reached out to all the 4-H kids that would have attended and asked them to send pics of them with their animals which they are unable to show this year,” Bates said.
These will be shown in a presentation with other pics from past years of the fair.
Additionally, Bates said it was important to the organizers to show some thanks to the front-line workers, so they have arranged for police, fire, and hospital representatives to have their say too.
Though this year’s festivities will be quite different from past Country Fest celebrations, Bates noted they are remaining optimistic about future fests.
“We are excited to be able to connect with our past visitors knowing that this isn’t forever, it’s just for now.”