South Country Fair cancelled due to Covid for second year in a row


Though Covid 19 vaccines are beginning to roll out and there is a little optimism in the air, South Country Fair has decided to err on the side of caution and cancelled the popular Summer festival in Fort Macleod for the second year in a row.
Organizer Gillian Moranz is understandably frustrated about making the tough decision, but emphasized the safety of Fair fans and performers is paramount.Peter and the Wolves performing at South Country Fair 2019. Photo  by Richard Amery
 She answered several questions by e-mail.

“It is incredibly frustrating trying to navigate these times as an arts and culture presenter, specifically because we have had so little support and guidance from AHS through all the different phases of this pandemic. Shopping malls and so many non-essential sectors remain open with so much guidance, but large and small performance venues alike are closing at mass all across the country. We are risking losing over 60 per cent of our music infrastructure in Canada, and a great deal of these closures are taking place because arts and culture are not a priority in the same way that other industries are,” she wrote, emphasizing South Country Fair will endure.

“South Country Fair will survive this storm, but only because we have built the foundation we have, slowly and strategically over the last 35 years. The reality that vaccines are rolling out does not change the fact that mounting these big events will take a great amount of care and consideration to ensure we move forward safely and with integrity once vaccination is wide-spread. This is something blatantly not recognized by AHS. There will be structural changes to our festivals to meet post-Covid protocols (protocols which have yet to be defined) and so many 'big-picture' questions that need to be answered before we can move forward. Not to mention, these events are planned a year in advance. With the provincial support we have (or have not) received it is unrealistic to expect events like ours to be thrown together in a few months, especially as there are so still many unknowns (the potential of artist travel, as just one example). Our bottom line through all of this has been the health and safety of our community and the artists we bring to perform. If we cannot guarantee the event can be executed as safely as possible with little-to-no potential of Covid-19 transmission we will not risk the safety of our community. But, with things as they are now we are feeling more confident that 2022 will realistically bring a new but familiar South Country Fair, still present and as strong as ever,” she wrote.

She noted after postponing the fair last year, they were prepared to postpone it again.
“We certainly did not want to make unfounded predictions but we were prepared to postpone again as time went by.  We had held off on things like launching ticket sales for this reason, and any conversations about moving forward were very much with the caveat of possibility. A lot of what we have been planning is in a holding pattern, so lots of the work we have done will be salvaged and carried over to next year,” she said, adding most of the artists and acts who were scheduled for last year and cancelled, agreed to hold over their booking again.  

“Yes, most of our artists/groups have carried their booking over again. A few are unable to commit so far out in their booking schedule but the majority of the line up will be presented at SCF as soon as we can do so safely,” she wrote.
After postponing last year, The South Country Fair prepared The Dog Star Sessions, a series of online events featuring some of the artist scheduled to perform at the festival Dog Star sessions will continued beginning in April.

“Absolutely. The fact that we cannot mount a festival as usual again has made it even more important that we support the greater arts economy and keep our regional arts economy running as strong as possible. We will be releasing the lineup for a spring edition of The Dog Star Sessions early April, and have tentative plans to offer some online programming in the summer as well, although we are still in the process of working out exactly what this programming will look like,” she wrote, noting it is important to keep the spirit of the Fair alive despite not being able to meet in person.

“It is important to the SCF coordinators that the fair continues to be a part of people's lives even though we are not able to convene in person right now. The thing that is so amazing about the Fair is the strength of our community, and we are hoping that the online content we are able to offer will hold everyone over until we can safely gather in person,” she wrote, noting their audience has been supportive of the decision.

 South Country Fair fans in 2019. Photo by Richard Amery

“Our audience has been extremely supportive in light of having to make such difficult decisions two years in a row and we are so grateful for the strength and supportive nature of our greater SCF community.”
She emphasized The South Country Fair isn’t going anywhere so organizers are looking forward to next year.

“Art is something we turn to when we experience the ebbs and flows of the human experience. When you invest in a community like SCF you are making a long-term investment. My words for consolation are that we are not going anywhere, and we continue to provide the artistically and culturally rooted experience we always have for many years to come. That is my guarantee,” she emphasized.

Moranz, who is also a musician, noted Covid has given artists, venues and events organizers the opportunity to re-evaluate and improve the music business as it stands.

“This has been a really hard time for all of us, but I think musicians and artists are in a special place to cope with these times because our outlets and our ways of coming to understand hardship manifests through our work and our art. I have found myself in a more creative space than ever without having to constantly navigate the difficult terrain of surviving as an artist in the industry as we once knew it. The music industry was crumbling long before Covid hit, and now we have the opportunity to weigh in on how this broken system is rebuilt. Many artists, venues, and festivals will cease to be because of this, but like rejuvenation after a wildfire, there will be so much potential for regrowth once the flames have subsided. My advice for artists, venues, festivals, promoters, and industry professionals in general is to not be complacent with what you think this new era of the music industry should look like.  It doesn't always feel this way, but the power of art solely lies with the artist. You can have every element of a performance lined up in spades, but if the artist is not there you truly have nothing but some hollow infrastructure. Many of us had forgotten this, but we have the opportunity to embody this power in the new era, and to ensure arts and culture truly thrives as culture, not industry.  To quote Corinne Masiero: "No culture, no future."  The unwavering investments we make now will undeniably influence and shape the next era of music, art, and culture. It's as simple as that.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Saturday, 20 March 2021 09:03 )