Cherry Fest crushed by COVID-19

2013 Cherryfest in Blenheim. (Photo by Trevor Thompson)

One of Chatham-Kent’s most cherished summertime events is cancelled due to the unpredictability of how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last.

Organizer JP Huggins said the Blenheim BIA made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel Blenheim Cherry Fest and Sidewalk Days.

Huggins said even if measures currently in place are lifted by mid-July — which is when the event is usually held — he imagines there will still be some wariness from residents about going out to large community events. However, a large deciding factor from an organizing perspective has to do with securing amenities ahead of time for the event.

“Once we had all of the midway rides, and tents and everything put in place… it would be a big thing to cancel [the event] last minute,” said Huggins. “Realistically, for planning and logistics reasons, this is the time for big events when a decision needs to be made.”

Huggins admitted not hosting Cherry Fest this year is “heartbreaking” considering it has been an annual event held within the municipality since the mid-’60s.

“It’s the longest-running and oldest festival in Chatham-Kent,” he said. “It has changed form from Sidewalk Days to [adding] rides and then the Cherry Fest part being incorporated into it. But to my knowledge, it hasn’t been cancelled before.”

Plans for the now-cancelled 2020 event will be moved to ideas for the 2021 festival. Huggins said organizers had once again planned to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most people simultaneously spitting cherry pits.

Should COVID-19 precautions be lifted soon, Huggins said there is a possibility of┬áhosting a small family-friendly event in Blenheim in the late summer or early autumn. Discussions between the Blenheim BIA and organizers have started but it’s something that will need to be discussed further.

“[Possibly] a smaller, scaled-back version of the Cherry Fest, maybe without the rides or maybe just shutting the main street of Blenheim down for the day,” said Huggins. “Doing some cherry-oke, and pie-eating, and have our pit spitting, and some food… kind of a family gathering/celebration that still embodies the spirit of Cherry Fest.”

Blenheim Cherry Fest and Sidewalk Days is the latest Chatham-Kent event to be cancelled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A full list of cancellations and closures can be found by clicking, here.