By PJ Ferguson
The annual Whitehall Canal Festival has been canceled this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, confirmed new organizer Barbara Spoor.
Spoor also heads the budding Sasquatch Calling Festival, which under her organization saw a record turnout in 2019.
Brought on to help “reimagine” the Canal Festival to boost attendance and to help raise funds for the fireworks display, Spoor and the festival’s committee decided on scrapping the event for this year as the pandemic made planning nearly impossible.
“I’m really sad the Canal Fest had to cancel, it’s the one thing for so many families. It’s a tradition,” said Spoor, who said she hopes to be on board to plan for next year’s event.
The Canal Fest was set to see an overhaul, with hopes to increase the number and variety of vendors and expand the entertainment to “cater to all age groups.”
“We were going to bring it back to its roots,” said Spoor.
With the recent announcement that entertainment events are in phase four of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for reopening the state, it was unlikely the festival could occur on legal grounds.
As the pandemic has forced the postponement of large gatherings such as Americade, Spoor is worried about being able to hold the Sasquatch Calling Fest which occurs on the last Saturday in September.
“As of now it’s still going to happen,” Spoor said, “We are waiting for guidance from our local officials on what changes need to be made and we’ll have to see if we can accommodate for those changes.”
Unlike the Canal Festival, the Sasquatch Fest brings in many out-of-staters to celebrate the mythical creature, with the event building a cult following in the region.
“What kind of risk does it bring to our village?” wondered Spoor, regarding bringing a mass group of people to Whitehall in a time where social distancing is encouraged.
Despite the challenges the event faces, Spoor has locked down many vendors for the festival, and before COVID-19, was beginning to seek sponsorships but acknowledges that “now is not the time to ask people for money.”
As the date draws closer, a decision on the fate of this year’s festival will be determined.
“I don’t want to give up hope,” said Spoor.