The Griz is watching. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Griz Days goes (mostly) virtual

The pandemic has changed a lot about the popular winter festival in Fernie

Griz Days 2021 is coming, pandemic or not – but it will be very different to Griz Days gone by.

Many of the most beloved events won’t be making an appearance, and the rest will be either virtual or pre-recorded.

“The community’s health and safety have always been the priority this year as we adapt certain elements of the festival to meet the current B.C. Public Health Office orders and guidelines,” said Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event each year.

“It is important for community spirit, local tradition, and people’s mental health that we mark our uniquely-Fernie winter event this year in some way.

“But it is vital that the community and visitors understand that the format will be entirely different in 2021,” he said.

For one, marketing will be only targeted at locals, instead of seeking to draw visitors from near and far.

“We are obviously not going to be staging events like the parade down main street, the live music, lumberjack displays and so forth. But we can still enjoy an impressive line-up of virtual content and other safe activities this Griz Days. And most importantly, we can still raise funds for local charities and celebrate our community while being apart.”

Parsell said that the chamber had been tinkering with how Griz Days 2021 – the 44th iteration of the popular festival – would play out since last year. Around about the time Griz Days 2020 drew to a close, COVID-19 arrived in Canada in earnest.

Many plans have been scuttled along the way – most recently an idea to live-stream a Ghostriders game during the weekend. The idea was canned after the KIJHL announced it was cancelling its entire season as a result of indefinitely extended provincial health orders discouraging travel and banning all gatherings.

Even so, Parsell said the challenges of 2021 offered new opportunities too.

“For the first time ever, our Griz fans outside of Fernie – around the country and around the world – can enjoy some of this year’s entertainment without physically being here due to the specially-created virtual content being streamed on our platforms.”

Some planned virtual events include pre-recorded Extreme Griz content, a short documentary about the history of Griz Days and a virtual Francofest concert.

The community can also enjoy self-guided activities around town like a drive-thru Griz Days float display, a high-altitude fireworks display and physically distances sightings of the Griz himself at Fernie Alpine Resort – to name a few.

The official Griz Days program will be distributed in coming weeks, while the line-up of virtual content planned between Mar. 5 and Mar. 7 is available at ferniegrizdays.com.

READ MORE: Learning to tackle COVID: Fernie Strong website launched



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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