Winterruption YEG postponed as COVID-19 cases rise

Winterruption YEG, a winter music festival scheduled to run Jan. 27 to 30, has been postponed as COVID-19 cases in Alberta hit record highs.

"It is incredibly frustrating at this point ... when you see a light at the end of the tunnel and then that light just ends up getting smaller and smaller and smaller," festival producer Brent Oliver told Taproot.

Oliver was optimistic that the event would go ahead as planned this year after its inaugural run in January 2020. It was set to be a mix of outdoor and indoor shows, with the majority of the latter to be held at The Starlite Room. But ultimately it was decided with the five partner festivals in Western Canada that it made sense to push the events to early spring.

"I really wish that there would be more of an effort from our provincial authorities to put public safety on a governance level instead of on an individual business level," Oliver said, addressing that the responsibility to determine whether or not an event should go ahead currently falls to individuals as Alberta has not yet introduced additional regulations.

In addition to safety concerns and audience hesitation amid the Omicron variant, it was difficult to keep artists scheduled when other gigs they had booked on the same tour fell through.

"It's this really large row of dominoes ... provincial regulations not only across Canada, but also internationally because we have a few U.S. artists," Oliver said. "If one of those (festivals or events) can't do the show, then it just doesn't become financially viable for an artist to tour to play these venues."

And without further support from all levels of government, Oliver expects there will be more casualties in the arts and entertainment industry during this wave. He was glad to see the $1.2-million in funding to the arts and culture community in the city budget that was recently approved, but wonders how venues and other gig economy workers in the sector will be supported.

Jenesia sings, wearing a fuzzy coat

Jenesia played at Winterruption YEG in January 2020. (Kristin Breitkreutz)

Oliver said the TOPS show was selling particularly well and he expects to be able to rebook the Montreal band, but he's also anticipating at least three mid-size artists to not be able to play at the rescheduled festival.

Refunds are available for the several hundred passes that have already been sold, or those who have purchased individual tickets or wristbands can hold onto them for the rescheduled event. New dates for Winterruption YEG 2022 are expected to be announced on Jan. 14.

As for other upcoming winter festivals, both Silver Skate Festival and Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival are planning on going ahead. Silver Skate will primarily be based on the programming it created in 2021, with all events outside; and Deep Freeze also said the majority of what it has planned will take place outdoors.

Meanwhile, Flying Canoë Volant has been pushed a bit later this year, taking place March 1-5.