Griz Days will go forward without some key events according to the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. (Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press)

Griz Days to go ahead in 2021, will ‘look different’: Chamber

The festival is a huge draw for tourism to Fernie and the Elk Valley

Fernie’s immensely popular Griz Days winter festival will have a very different look for its 44th iteration in 2021.

“There will be a Griz Days 2021, and it’s going to look different – there’s no doubt about it”, said Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce in an interview with The Free Press.

Parsell says that the chamber – which takes point on coordinating and organizing Griz Days – was planning events as if all the public health restrictions and limits of today would still in place come March.

Limits such as crowd sizes, social distancing and required sanitizing of high-touch surfaces mean many events such as the parade are already out.

Even so, Parsell said the chamber was “very confident there’s elements of the festival that can still proceed.”

Those events would be the fireworks – which Parsell said would likely be a bigger event than previous years, the Extreme Griz competition which would be distanced and live-streamed, virtual concerts, home decorating contests, appearances by Griz, a scavenger hunt, Griz Pin sales and a handful of other events.

The big draw however – the closure of downtown areas for the Saturday festival, parade, live music, beer garden and food trucks would be difficult or impossible to stage according to Parsell.

“All of that’s obviously not going to be able to happen unless something dramatic changes … the last thing (the chamber) wants to do is put our community at risk.”

The event will be going ahead in one way or another, said Parsell. “Griz Days is not going to take a year off or be cancelled under my watch.”

The chamber is yet to secure funding for the event from the City of Fernie, which is normally the largest single contributor to the annual event, which can cost around $50,000 to organize and make happen. The majority of costs are carried by corporate sponsorships however.

Parsell said that it was up to the chamber to put together detailed plans on what the event would look like, and what sort of contributions from the city and local businesses would be needed to make it happen.

The chamber will be taking its proposed plans to the city in September or October, after the city asked for more information on the makeup of the event before it voted on whether to make a contribution.

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