Organizers of the Virgil Stampede, gearing up for another celebration of the May long weekend, learned Friday the popular three-day event would have to be cancelled.
Members of the Virgil Business Association, led by president Richard Wall, had been discussing that eventuality, knowing it was a possibility, and had set May 1 as the date for a final decision.
But the closure of all Town facilities announced Friday, extended until June 30, means the 54th annual family event, which began with a neighbourhood fireworks display for locals, will not go ahead.
Last year, the stampede proceeds were to help pay for a new skateboard park in the Virgil Sports Park, and the $150,000 donation promised by the VBA, of which The Local is a member, will still go ahead, said Marcia Penner, secretary of the organization.
“We don’t spend money we don’t have,” says Penner, “so in that sense, nothing changes.”
This year’s stampede proceeds were set to go to the Crossroads Public School accessible playground, and the $35,000 donation already committed to that project will also go ahead, she says.
The Town sent a letter to the VBA before the closure announcement was made public, says Penner, and although it wasn’t unexpected, “it’s still very heartbreaking. We know the kids really look forward to it. We all look forward to it.”
While the cancellation is unfortunate, she says, “it is the right decision, and is in the best interest of everyone.”
The closure of Town facilities to June 30, and possibly longer, “really hits home the enormity of this,” she says. “This is not a short-term problem. I hope people will start listening, and stay home. Let’s not make this go on any longer than it has to.”
This is the first time in its 54 years it’s had to be cancelled, says Penner. “There have been events cancelled because of the weather, but never the whole stampede.”
Last year, with the heavy rains leading up to the long weekend causing muddy conditions, there was a discussion about whether it could go ahead. The popular demolition derby had to be cancelled, but with a reconfiguration of the layout of events, with midway rides being moved to paved areas, the stampede was able to open all three days.
In the decades since the first stampede, when proceeds went to help fund the Centennial Arena at the sports park, the VBA has raised more than $1.2 million to put back into the community.
“We’ll be happy when we can get back to helping the community,” says Penner.