Guelph’s Hillside Festival cancels in-person events for second year in a row, other festivals undecided

Like many annual events, the in-person activities of Guelph’s popular Hillside Festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID-19.

The three-day festival was set to take place in late July at Guelph Lake Island, but will instead be pushed back once again to next summer.

In a statement, festival organizers say that, due to the current stay-at-home order, they anticipate some form of restrictions to public gatherings for the rest of the summer.

Tickets already purchased will be valid for next year or can be returned for a refund.

"Ticket sales subsidize absolutely everything, said Marie Zimmerman, Hillside Festival executive director. "You have these massive holes in your budget and you want to do this, but you don't know how."

Organizers add that they are going virtual and staying "homeside" once again.

"Now that we're moving into our second one, it's tinged with a little more sadness," said Zimmerman. "We have to plan something virtual mainly, but we're really interested to see what will happen on whether or not we can do anything in person."

She adds that government grants will be crucial when going virtual once again, and while she wants to include live streamed concerns and workshops, this depends on public health measures and finances.

FESTIVALS LEFT IN LIMBO

"Summer time and festival season is when they make their money to run their programs all year," said Dave MacNeil, Festivals and Events Ontario CEO. "Without that, they're really starting to hurt."

MacNeil adds that there are more than 2,500 festivals across the province and more than half have been cancelled.

"This whole virtual thing, there's a fatigue," he said. "It's hard to ask again to do that."

Some music festivals like the Kitchener Blues Fest and Ever After Festival are still undecided on what they'll be doing this summer.

"We are assessing all possible options," a social media post from Ever After reads in part. "The climate in Ontario has been very volatile with lockdowns, the last thing we want to do is come to a decision that has to be changed shortly after."

Explore Waterloo Region CEO Minto Schneider says these events are vital to the community.

"It's not just tourism, it's getting people out and feeling comfortable going to restaurants and to shop at stores," she said. "The summer festivals will hopefully go ahead, we're keeping our fingers crossed."