Port Colborne’s 42nd annual Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival cancelled due to COVID-19

City of Port Colborne press release – At their meeting on Monday, Apr. 27/2020, based on the recommendation of the Canal Days Advisory Committee, City Council members made the difficult decision to cancel the 42nd annual Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival, scheduled for July 31 – Aug. 3, 2020.

The decision is a result of the public health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was a difficult decision to make and an even harder announcement to share as we are all disappointed, but it is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Bill Steele. “As a community celebration, the cancellation of our annual signature event was made with our community’s and the public’s health and safety front of mind. Following the guidelines set out by governing bodies about mass gatherings, Council felt strongly that the 2020 Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival could not proceed this year. It is important that we do our part to help contain the spread of COVID-19, and safeguard the health and safety of our community, volunteers, artists, festival partners, visitors and staff.”

The 2020 iteration of the festival would have marked the 42nd annual for the City’s signature event, and the City is thankful for the community’s long-standing support for the event.

From residents who have opened the doors to their community to thousands of visitors; to sponsors, many of whom are Port Colborne businesses; to the committed volunteer base, returning and new vendors; vessels like the Empire Sandy; media partners; and contract services from entertainment, to waste/recycling, portable washrooms; and more – all are integral to the success of the event.

Sanctioned events have also contributed to the festival’s success, including the Canal Days Car Show, Kite Festival, Craft Show, Lighthouse Tours, and of course, where Canal Days began in 1979, and where Port Colborne’s marine history is celebrated and preserved, the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum.

“Canal Days at the museum and throughout the city has always been a time for the community to come together, and in one respect, this year will be no different as we work together to keep each other safe,” said Stephanie Powell Baswick, museum curator/director. “The Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum’s board of management and staff are committed to the preservation of Port Colborne’s marine heritage and will navigate confidently through these uncharted waters.”

The Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival also has a significant economic impact on the community, with more than 300,000 attendees each year, and many local businesses taking part, including restaurants, bars, and retailers, throughout the city.

To support the city’s local businesses and aid in simulating economic recovery, City staff and the Canal Days Advisory Committee will focus efforts on preparing to host smaller-scale community-oriented events in the fall of 2020, once the public health crisis stabilized, as well as begin planning for the 2021 festival.

“We felt this was the best way to proceed during an unprecedented time,” said Scott Luey, chief administrative officer. “We are very disappointed, but we know it’s the right decision, for both the City’s day-to-day operations and our community, based on the information we have today. When it’s appropriate, we will once again gather together to celebrate.”

City staff, members of Council, and the Canal Days Advisory Committee look forward to PORTicipating with festival attendees July 30 – Aug. 2, 2021, for a Canal Days everyone knows and loves.

 

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