No fireworks, no Pride parade: Large summer events off the table in B.C.

When the fireworks were cancelled last summer, organizers could never have imagined that the COVID-19 pandemic would torpedo the 2021 event as well.

As B.C. weathers a brutal third wave of the pandemic, officials are saying that large summer events are off the table.

“We were obviously keeping our options open, but the reality is with the ongoing health situation, it’s just not feasible. We can’t socially distance half a million people,” said Honda Celebration of Light executive producer Paul Runnals.

The multi-night fireworks show has been cancelled a second time, along with the annual Pride parade and Pride festival at Sunset Beach.

“What our staff has been working on is a hybrid of virtual events and some small 50 person or less, seated, spaced out, distanced pride lounges and a mini festival,” said Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnot.

And those may be able to proceed as planned.

“I can see many situations where we could have smaller, distanced outdoor events this summer, with perhaps hundreds of people,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

But that doesn’t bode well for large events like the PNE fair.

“What we are trying to do now is model different ramp ups and different numbers for an in-person event. And we are very, very hopeful we are able to do an in person fair in some capacity,” said PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance.

But at her Monday press conference, Dr. Henry said “I can say there is not likely to be big events of any sort, even outdoors, through this summer and into the fall and winter of next year.”

The PNE had planned on making a decision within the next month on whether its late summer fair would proceed.

“Those tough decisions need to be made as quickly and definitely as possible, without giving up hope too early, but not going too long because every dollar must be protected, every dollar must try to keep the organization afloat,” said Ballance.

If summertime events can only welcome a few hundred people, it’s unlikely the PNE can proceed.

“At some point it is not financially viable,” said Ballance.