Timaru's annual Caroline Bay Carnival has been cancelled, but visitors are still being encouraged to visit the region over summer.
Organisers made the announcement on Friday morning with Caroline Bay Association president Shane Clarke saying the decision "was hard to make'', but "we believe it is the right one''.
It is the carnival's first cancellation in its 111-year history. The announcement also includes the canning of the annual New Year's Eve fireworks on the Bay.
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"We had a discussion a couple of weeks ago to look at the current situation [around Covid-19]. At that stage nothing could be announced,'' Clarke said.
''When we made our decision, there was no sign of the South Island changing before Christmas. The Government guidelines at the time meant there was no way we could have a carnival.''
A volunteer helpers meeting was held on Thursday night where the cancellation was announced.
''Even now with the traffic light system coming into play soon, even though makes it slightly more achievable, it still makes the risk high,'' Clarke said.
''With the Government event scheme announced, we are not eligible and feel that on top of health and well-being of volunteers in the community, the financial position of the carnival would be in jeopardy and any exposure of Covid-19 during a carnival would close the door leaving us heavily out of pocket.''
Organisers wanted to protect volunteers and the community, he said.
''It will be a strange couple of weeks not having a carnival and will be widely affected throughout South Canterbury, but we feel good about this decision knowing we are not putting any large scale risk in our community.''
Clarke thanked "our amazing volunteers'' who give of their time to plan the carnival, set up the rides, as well as those who run the mini golf facility at the Bay.
'’Mini golf will be operating throughout the Christmas holidays with Covid-19 protections in place.''
The cancellation follows last month's announcement that Caroline Bay Bandquet had been cancelled , as well as the canning of the region's Christmas Parades.
On Friday, the South Canterbury District Health Board was ranked ninth of 20 DHBs on the fully vaccinated list with 42,466 of the eligible population having had two doses.
The region is 4860 doses away from reaching the 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark but just 341 short of the 90 per cent first dose level.
The number of unvaccinated people eligible for a vaccine is 5599 (10.6 per cent).
Venture Timaru operations manager Di Hay said the announcement was "very sad news but not completely unexpected in the current environment''.
"The Caroline Bay Carnival is an iconic event for Timaru and does attract visitors each year, so there is likely to be some impact for us,'’ Hay said.
"But one thing that has been noticed in different regions is when events have been cancelled it doesn't necessarily stop people coming back to the region.
"It appears that a good number of people who’ve made plans and booked accommodation still go ahead with their plans in spite of the cancellation. It just means the event isn't on, but they still are keen for a holiday or a long weekend away, so we need to make the most of this opportunity.''
She said as the regional tourism organisation for the district, Venture Timaru will be focusing on what people can do in the area while on holiday.
"There are still plenty of reasons to come here, especially our central location, fantastic cafes, the beach and lots of family fun activities.''
Timaru District mayor Nigel Bowen said while the decision would have been difficult for the Bay Association to make, it showed the difficulty of planning events during a worldwide pandemic.
"When running events at the moment, it's the unknown,'’ Bowen said.
"And if you get one bad year the impact can run on for years.''
He said many people visited Timaru every year for the carnival, but with the cancellation of the carnival it was important to showcase what the rest of the district had to offer.
"We can look at the positives to showcase the other elements here.''
Caroline Bay Association life member and former president Warren Barker said the cancellation was disappointing but believed the right decision had been made.
"I believe there's probably going to be Covid cases here before too long, and they couldn't take the risk,'' Barker said.
He said "a lot of business people will miss out'' with the cancellation, as the annual event brought people to the district.
"They [organisers] couldn't take the risk.''
A member of the Bay Association since 1959, 17 of those as president, Barker said he never imagined the carnival would ever be cancelled.
"It's still got the members keeping it going.''
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