A major airshow in northern B.C. has been called off for the second year in a row due to COVID-19, despite the provincial plan to allow organized large gatherings this summer.
The Vanderhoof International Airshow — which had been scheduled for Aug. 14 — will be postponed until next year, according to the organizer. The event was also cancelled last summer, due to the pandemic.
The B.C. government has said fairs and festivals can operate starting July 1 at the earliest, as long as pandemic protocols are being followed and more than 70 per cent of adult residents in the province have had their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
But Paul Collard, the secretary of the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society, says his organization cannot afford to cancel an expensive event — costing around $250,000 — if the province decides to change its restart plan.
“We have to be absolutely certain that we can put this thing on, and with the public health orders in effect and proposed for that period of time [August], that degree of certainty is not there,” he said Monday to Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC’s Daybreak North.
“With the amount of time, effort [and] money that go into an air show, we’ve got to have more certainty than that,” he continued. “It’ll just take one of these new variants to come in the next month or so, and we’ll be back another month or two.”
Established in the late 1970s, the airshow used to be held every August in Vanderhoof, about 100 kilometres west of Prince George, attracting some 20,000 visitors annually. It became a biennial event in 2018 because the organizer thought it would be more manageable.
Earlier this year, the society decided to reduce this year’s air show to just one day and make it a drive-in event, with hopes these changes would make it all possible.
But Collard says the event still had to be cancelled because sponsors and volunteers have been reluctant to participate amid the pandemic.
Collard says if the event had gone ahead, planes and performers from the Canadian Armed Forces and other Canadian provinces — as well as Washington and Oregon states — would have gathered in the small community.
He says he’s confident that the air show will be back in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society plans to hold an airport open house event Sept. 11 as a compromise.
“People can come and see what the businesses are doing at the airport. They will open their doors and show what aircraft maintenance is all about,” Collard said.
“Maybe the [Vanderhoof] flying club will put on some demonstrations, so we’re not completely dead in the water this year.”