Commentary – What will we do in 2022?

Richard Froese

Well, it’s on to a new year!
What will we be able to do in 2022? That’s the big question everyone wants to know as the COVID-19 pandemic enters the third calendar year.
We have been held hostage by COVID restrictions since March 2020 and everyone wants to have more freedom and get on with the way of life as we knew it before the pandemic.
Health experts say that COVID is here to stay. Now it’s just a matter of everyone doing their part to be responsible to ensure they protect themselves and others around them from COVID.
A major part of life that has been lost and missed is community events. They build community spirit that everyone wants and needs.
Two special major events are scheduled for local Peace region communities in 2022. Peace River and surrounding communities are planning to host the Alberta 55-Plus Summer Games from June 16-19, postponed from 2021. Organizers predicted 900 competitors for the Games before the pandemic.
High Prairie is preparing to host the Canadian Horseshoe Championships in the summer of 2022, postponed from 2020 as the pandemic was heating up. When the event was planned for 2020, organizers expected 200-300 competitors.
For both events, the biggest hurdle will be COVID and restrictions when they begin. Nobody knows for sure at the current time what those hurdles may be.
With the uncertainty of COVID and more unwanted variants predicted, how can organizers be confident to plan months away when the risks and restrictions rise could hit a boiling point just days before the events that have to be cancelled or postponed again?
How can competitors get excited and confirm travel plans when they don’t know if the event will go ahead?
Organizers of other popular Peace region events are optimistic their event will be back in 2022 after being cancelled or downscaled in 2021 and 2020.
The 39th annual Carnaval de St-Isidore is scheduled for Feb. 18-20, as promoted on the event’s website. It’s on the Family Day weekend.
While the full-scale event was cancelled last year, organizers held a snow-sculpting competition.
Plans are underway to host the 60th annual High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo that was cancelled in 2021 and 2020.
The biggest challenge organizers now face is funding and sponsorship to hold major events. The pandemic has been a big blow to the economy for many businesses who recorded reduced revenue.
Municipalities have also been prime sponsors of major community events. Councils are tightening their belts to keep taxes and costs under control.
Provincial and federal funding and grants to municipalities for capital projects are also diminishing. Local councils will have to dig into their budgets and reserves to pay for those projects.
With so many people and businesses suffering, it will likely be a tough sell to squeeze money out for sponsorships to stage some events.
Meeting the needs of those suffering in a variety of ways with COVID is the priority as the fifth wave rolls along.
Many businesses and municipalities may even question a request for funding when COVID restrictions and waves are unpredictable.
Yes, it’s good to see event organizers optimistic that everything will be OK for their big rodeo, fair or festival in 2022.
With COVID, nobody can predict the future one month or one year from now.
Have a healthy New Year and stay safe!

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