The organizers of the annual 39 days of July in Duncan hope to return to hosting at least some live musical events in Charles Hoey Park this year, but a lot depends on what the social-distancing health protocols will be by the time the festival begins on June 25.
Speaking to Duncan council on May 3, “Longevity” John Falkner and Rick Martinson, from the Duncan-Cowichan Festival Society, said there is currently still a lot of uncertainty about hosting large events with big crowds.
But he said, if possible, the society is hoping to set up a stage in Charles Hoey Park as in the past, fence in the area, and limit the number of people allowed to attend a show to 50.
“We don’t usually get large numbers in the day time during the festival, and we’ll have volunteers on hand to ensure that safety protocols are being observed,” Falkner said.
“In the evenings, the number of people can reach up to 200 in the park, so we would take the performances back to the Duncan Showroom. We’ll only do what the health authorities will allow. We’ll also live-stream the performances at the park and at the Showroom.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the society had to cancel all the outdoor musical events that were planned primarily for venues in Charles Hoey Park and City Square in Duncan last year, and live-stream the entire 39 days of performances from the Duncan Showroom, which Falkner operates.
The city has granted $10,000 towards the festival this year, and Falkner said the funding will be allocated to stage performances and promotion.
He said the annual Grande Parade that is usually held during the 39 Days of July will be cancelled for the second year due to the pandemic, but the society is planning on a virtual parade that is already garnering interest.
Coun. Garry Bruce congratulated Falkner and Martinson for their tenacity for holding the music festival last year, despite the complications brought on by the pandemic.
“You did a great job and did not lose focus,” he said.
“I’m in full support of the festival this year, as long as it’s done in recognition of the health protocols.”
Coun. Tom Duncan said he has been in support of the 39 Days of July since its inception 10 years ago, but he feels a lot of uncertainty about it this year on behalf of the city.
“We have to make sure there are no financial implications for us as we go through the next few months,” he said.
“I hope the festival is in a position to proceed, but I feel uneasy about it.”
Martinson said there are a number of grants that the society is still in the process of applying for, and reminded council that the society ended the festival in the black last year, largely because of grants.
“We also expect to get about $10,000 from the [festival] program, and we made almost $30,000 two years ago through passing the hat at the performances,” he said.
“Of course there will be smaller crowds this year, but those contributions are still important. The costs this year are down as well, partly cause there will be no parade so we won’t have the flagging and insurance costs. It cost us $125,000 to host the 39 Days of July two years ago and we’re budgeting $95,000 this year. We’ve been through the numbers and we believe it doable.”
Council voted to support, in principle, the society’s plans for the festival so far.