Uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause the cancellation of community events in Airdrie, with Boo at the Creek the latest to announce it won’t take place in 2020.
Paige Cairns, organizer of the family-friendly Halloween celebration, said the “really hard decision” to cancel the annual event was made in early August.
“When we looked at the directives that are still in place through Alberta Health Services (AHS) around large gatherings, we didn’t find any feasible way that we could ensure we were following all the safety protocols and guidelines that have been set out and really ensure the event was going off in a way that was adhering to all those and ensuring everyone’s safety,” she said.
Last year’s Boo at the Creek drew approximately 2,000 attendees, Cairns said, adding that it’s difficult to get a definitive count as Nose Creek Regional Park – the site of the event each year – has several points of entry. In the case of a similar attendance this year, enforcing distancing guidelines would have been a challenge.
“Last year we had lineups of 20 to 30 kids for each activity,” she said. “If we were trying to ensure [two] metres in between each kid for lineups, it’s not feasible.”
Cairns said a frequent challenge of Boo at the Creek is finding enough volunteers to man the various stations at the event. With increased health and safety protocols, the number of volunteers needed this year would possibly have been triple that of previous years, she estimated.
Boo at the Creek also relies on community support, Cairns added, and this year, many businesses are not in a position to sponsor the event.
“Looking at all those factors, we just felt like we couldn’t come up with a way we could deliver the event that adhered to those protocols and ensured safety,” she said.
Typically, planning for the event begins in August. With uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Cairns said the organizing committee wanted to make a decision about the future of the event early, as planning it is a significant time commitment. By deciding to cancel when they did, she said they luckily did not have to scrap a bunch of planning that had already occurred.
Still, cancelling was a disappointment, she added.
Boo at the Creek was created in 2015 as a safe, daytime Halloween event for families. In the first year, Cairns said around 500 people attended the event. In the ensuing years, the event grew in popularity, attracting thousands of people. The event usually features a number of games and activities for children and candy is handed out at each station.
Cairns said the event was always envisioned as a way to provide families with a free, fun outing regardless of their financial situation.
“Knowing, financially, how many families are struggling right now, it definitely hits deep to know that we’re not able to provide that event and reach those kids that maybe miss out on other activities throughout the year because families can’t afford it,” she said.
Cairns also lamented the fact that cancelling Boo at the Creek means donations won’t be collected for the Airdrie Food Bank (AFB). Last year, Cairns said, the event raised slightly less than $5,000 in cash and food items.
“I know right now there are more families than ever that need to access that support,” she said, adding she hopes anyone who would have attended Boo at the Creek will still donate to AFB if they’re able to.
Based on the reaction on social media, the community is also disappointed the event won’t go forward, Cairns said, but many aren’t surprised. Organizers are now setting their sights on 2021, and plan to bring Boo at the Creek back next fall.
“We are more determined and motivated than ever to make sure this event goes off next year and gets bigger and better than years past,” she said.