The Quesnel Billy Barker Days Society (QBBDS) is making some changes to its annual festival, which is scheduled for July 16-19, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

COVID-19: Quesnel’s Billy Barker Days Festival will happen but may be delayed and look different

‘It will be something different than it has been in other years,’ say organizers

The Quesnel Billy Barker Days Society (QBBDS) is making some changes to its annual festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement from QBBDS president Janice McLean on the organization’s Facebook page states that no decision has been made yet as to what events the festival will include and whether or not the dates may have to change. The four-day festival is currently scheduled for July 16-19.

“As far as the Billy Barker Days Festival, there is only one thing for certain — it will be something different than it has been in other years,” she writes. “It is too early for us to decide exactly what will be happening for the festival. The dates may have to change; the events may have to change. We may have to drop specific events, but we may be able to add something different to fill in the gaps.”

In an interview with the Observer, McLean explained that the safety of the community is the No. 1 concern of the festival organizers and that they won’t make any decisions about when the festival will take place or what kind of events will be a part of it until large social gatherings have been deemed safe for the public.

“First and foremost is the safety of everybody,” said McLean. “We can’t do any group activities until we get the all clear on that, so at this point, we want to stay totally fluid in that if everything clears up and we can do something in July, we will do something in July. It might be August or September or October or whenever we can do something, and then at that time, we will have to see what we can do.”

The annual four-day festival typically features live entertainment, as well as a parade, midway rides, stock car racing and many more activities.

The annual Quesnel Rodeo, which is scheduled in conjunction with Billy Barker Days, has be cancelled due to safety concerns around COVID-19.

McLean is determined not to give up on putting on the festival in 2020 and to ensure that the important community event goes on when it is safe to do so.

“It’s the gold miners’ spirit — you don’t give up,” she said. “If Billy Barker would have quit before that last shovel he took, he never would have hit gold. I also think it’s really important for the community to have something to do, to get out and celebrate. Especially this year, it’s going to be a really tough year for everyone, and we want to do that for families and individuals.”

According to the statement, the QBBDS has opted not to add to the economic pressures put on local businesses by asking for financial support, therefore limiting the type and scale of events put on during the festival.

“Our primary funding source has always been our very generous business community in Quesnel,” the society states. “As you know, they are already taking a huge hit because of the imposed restrictions. We have chosen not to add to that by asking for financial support at this time. That decision will impact what we can offer in the way of events.”

While the organization acknowledges that this year’s festival may look and feel different to those of years past, it believes it can still provide plenty of family-friendly fun for the community.

“We believe the festival provides a lot of family activities and fun that may be even more crucial this year than in others,” according to the statement. “Because of that, we feel it is important to stay open to the idea of continuing with the festival in whatever form we can.”

READ MORE: WATCH: Highlights from Billy Barker Days in Quesnel

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