This upcoming B.C.-Day weekend should have been the 63rd annual Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, but — COVID-19.
So for the first time in its extensive history, there will be no chair carving, bed races, no parade, no axe throwing, birling, butcher block chop, and no Rotary Club of Squamish beef barbecue.
Of all the events this pandemic has taken from us, this one likely hurts many in Squamish most, because, as festival president Jacqulin McNicol told The Chief on Monday, the weekend fest is like a reunion, as much as it is an homage to Squamish’s forest industry.
“Unfortunate doesn’t cover it. It has been hard,” she said, audibly emotional.
“Our event is like a reunion for people. You have something that has been going on for 63 years, you see your friends — for volunteers, you spend a whole year together, summer together, preparing. When you can’t do that, it is like not getting to see your family and it is extremely heartbreaking.”
Festival board members work throughout the year, along with up to 300 volunteers to pull it all together for the first weekend in August.
The festival draws dozens of athletes and thousands of spectators from all corners of the globe each year.
“We’ve had to cancel because we don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way,” said McNicol who has also been a fierce loggers sports competitor since she began in 2003.
The festival is about gathering so not being able to have more than 50 people come together made it impossible to run this year, she added.
“First and foremost is people’s health and safety.”
Generations of families and service groups have made this event a huge part of their lives and identity. For them, it is likely hard to imagine how this upcoming weekend can unfold without it.
While the festival grounds won’t welcome visitors or athletes this weekend, festival volunteers, as is their way, have been meeting in small numbers to spruce up the property for future events.
McNicol said that board members are hopeful the festival can run bigger and better than ever July 29 to Aug. 2, 2021, but if that is still not possible due to the pandemic, they are working on a thorough Plan B that would allow it to run in some form.
McNicol told The Chief she wants to thank the community for getting behind the festival and supporting it as volunteers, sponsors, athletes and participants.
But a thank you is also due to the organizers of this festival, like her, for bringing it to us and bringing us together under the sun (and sometimes rain and wildfire smoke) for more than six decades.
As soon as it is possible — fingers crossed for next year — this community will be there again for you, as you have always been for us. Follow the festival at www.squamishdays.ca.