Paddlers celebrate Rivers Day in a shallow Nechako River in Vanderhoof on Sept. 22, 2019. The event this year has been canceled due to increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the local health area. (Aman Parhar photo)

Paddlers celebrate Rivers Day in a shallow Nechako River in Vanderhoof on Sept. 22, 2019. The event this year has been canceled due to increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the local health area. (Aman Parhar photo)

River Days celebration cancelled in Vanderhoof as COVID-19 infection rates increase

Festival was planned to take place in Riverside Park on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26

A two-day event in Vanderhoof celebrating world rivers will not be going ahead this month due to increasing COVID-19 infection rates in the local health area.

District of Vanderhoof mayor and council agreed to cancel the planned 2021 River Days event in Riverside Park at a special council meeting on Monday, Sept. 13.

“As outlined in the report we have one of the highest daily case rates throughout the entire province and while it’s feasible to hold the event within the context of a COVID-19 safety plan in an outdoor avenue where social distancing could be possible, trying to keep some form of crowd control to prevent large groups of people from gathering in close proximity is something that’s going to be a challenge for the event organizer,” said chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.

From Sept. 7 to Sept. 13, the BC Centre for Disease Control listed an average daily case rate of 71 new cases per 100,000 people in the Nechako local health area, including Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, and Vanderhoof.

Read More: B.C. COVID-19 infections stay high, 661 new cases Wednesday

Northern Health estimated just 55 per cent of Vanderhoof’s eligible population had received their second dose against COVID-19 as of Sept. 14. The number of those fully vaccinated in Vanderhoof rural was even fewer at 51 per cent.

The River Days event would have been held Sept. 25 and Sept. 26, and was anticipated to proceed with a budget of $18,000 sourced from the special events budget.

Mayor and council agreed that the budget for the event is set aside for future events within the 2021/2022 fiscal year subject to increased local vaccination rates and reduced COVID-19 infection rates.

Coun. Kevin Moutray said it gives them flexibility with what they can do in the future.

“People are starting to do some sort of fun event or events,” he said. “So I think it’s great if that means we do a whole bunch of events next year if that’s the way it turns out we do it next year.”

River Days was last celebrated at Riverside Park in 2019 with a river paddle organized by the New Caledonia Paddlers and free barbeque alongside kids games and a rescue demonstration.

Read More: Nechako River Basin study gets funding


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