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Pandemic is having a huge impact on shuttered local venues

'While we are saddened by the devastating health and economic impact to Orillia ... we are happy to be doing a small part in slowing the spread of this virus'

I hope you are staying in your home except for lone walks and essential trips to the grocery store. We are all in this together and the better we adhere to the government’s instructions, the quicker we can get through this global pandemic and the curve will flatten.

Regarding local arts and entertainment updates, Roots North Music Festival announced Monday there will be no festival in 2020. Smartly, the committee has decided to skip 2020 and concentrate their efforts on putting together a bang-up festival in 2021, when we can hopefully push the restart button on our lives.

The Roots North organizing committee is asking ticket holders to hold onto their tickets for next year, or if they possibly can, consider donating them, to help the festival’s bottom line. All the best to Roots North for this wise decision and here’s to an awesome show next year.

I have been notified of a few virtual events, including an at-home trivia night through the Orillia Public Library this Friday, through Zoom. Click here to find out more and register to receive the Zoom link.

Yaymaker Barrie is holding a virtual paint night. If you have the tools, they will walk you through the process. This is an all ages event on Sunday at 1 p.m. and it will be through Facebook live, so click here for information and to register:

A Facebook group called Caremongering Orillia has been busy with lots of help and resources for all of us in Orillia these days. Meg Leslie, a local artist who started this group, recently posted a fun Easter idea for all those parents at home with kiddos at Easter time.

Her idea: make bunny masks from recycled paper, paper plates, cardboard, or any other materials you have lying around at home. When your kids’ masks are all done, have them model them and post the photos on Caremongering Orillia under the thread #4Easter. Meg’s hope is, after we all get through this, they can have a temporary art installation of all the masks somewhere in Orillia for everyone to enjoy.

This week, I reached out to some of the venues in town to see how they are faring with the mass closures and cancellations as a result of COVID-19.

At St. Paul’s Centre, the building is closed, staff are working from home and church services are on-line. To date, events up to July at St. Paul's Centre have been cancelled, but many are rescheduling, either for late summer or fall.

The facility is hoping to re-open in the fall and begin to recoup lost revenue; there are also cost-savings plans in place.

Don Porter, owner of the Geneva Event Centre, said shutting down was the right thing to do.

“When this virus became a thing, we decided to just shut down and cancel all upcoming shows. At this time, we are hoping we can still run Hells Bells for the downtown car show weekend in August," said Porter.

“I also cancelled rent for the bar (which is operated jointly by two community business partners) for as long as it is closed, as I feel it's not fair to charge rent for a commercial space that has been now ordered closed by the government. I think we will be OK as long as we don't lose our heads.”

I also spoke to Mike Somerville from the Brownstone Café, which has had to shut down entirely due to the spread of the virus. Somerville was very philosophical about these challenging times.

“While we are saddened by the devastating health and economic impact to Orillia, our staff, and patrons, we are happy to be doing a small part in slowing the spread of this virus. Lives are at stake," said Somerville.

“Our hope is that the silver lining will be that many of us gain a better understanding that we share this world and in the end are all in this together. As an individual, community and species we are facing a historical challenge and indeed have many others in front of us in the form of climate change, income inequality and the like," he said.

"All of these challenges will be easier the more we care and the more we work together. The Brownstone has always stood as a true public house, a place to congregate and share ideas and experiences. Our hope is to return to form when this is all over to provide a beautiful venue for artists to share their craft in all forms and for you to share your stories," said Somerville.

On that note, let’s stay in, stay safe and enjoy some of that virtual arts and culture that is all around us, through the wonders of the internet.

Let me know your arts and culture news, at by Tuesday at noon.