Maplefest in Buckhorn, Ont., cancelled over coronavirus concerns

Organizers of the popular Maplefest in Buckhorn, Ont., announced on Friday morning that the event will be cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, less than a day after saying it would go forward as planned this weekend.

The 26th annual event, held at McLean Berry Farm north of Peterborough, attracts thousands every March on weekends with a variety of maple syrup-producing activities and events, food samples, sugar bush treks and more.

McLean said Thursday that the farm was implementing a number of changes to the event.

However, on Friday morning, farm manager Erin McLean took to Facebook and told Global News Peterborough that she and her family had made an “incredibly difficult” decision to close Maplefest this season as a health precaution.

There are no reported cases of coronavirus in the Peterborough region, according to Peterborough Public Health.

“This is not a decision that we make easily or lightly — we love welcoming people to the farm and will miss seeing everyone enjoy Maplefest,” she wrote. “We know that we have many staff who are counting on the paycheque from the event, we have poured thousands of dollars in to setting up.

“But in the end, we spent a sleepless night wondering what was the right decision and wishing we had clearer direction from the government, looking to other provinces, which are limiting events, and not knowing what the right decision is.”

McLean said the health of guests, staff and family is the main priority.

“We have to get ahead of this thing before it gets bad — and that may mean we all need to hang out at home, having group video chats and watching Netflix virtually with each other — and while that may not be quite as fun as Maplefest, in our hearts we just want everyone to stay safe and healthy,” she wrote. “I fear that even with our proactive measures to try to reduce crowds and change how we do things, that it wouldn’t be enough.”

McLean said the farm’s store will remain open for maple syrup and other food product purchases and also to explain to visitors the cancellation of Maplefest along with visits to the sugar bush.

“We fear that things will get worse before they get better — things are indicating that they likely will,” she said. “But my greatest hope is that in a month we will all will have said that we have overreacted, that things didn’t get that bad and it was silly to have made this call — but to know that we were a part of helping to slow things down and reducing the peak of infection and know in our hearts we made the right decision.”

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