'We just can’t do it in good conscience': Pandemic shutters Saskatoon's Winterruption
SASKATOON -- In a long string of cancellations because of the deepening pandemic, Saskatoon’s Winterruption is the latest casualty.
“Our job, full time, all year round, is to give people a reason to leave their house and to publicly gather and to do things,” said Kirby Wirchenko with the Broadway Theatre.
“We love giving people something to look forward to in the longest, coldest, darkest month of the year and now we just can’t do it in good conscience.”
Slated for a week in January, Winterruption has grown from just a handful of shows across a few Saskatoon venues to 27 shows across nine venues, bringing international artists and injecting life into the Bridge City.
However, with restrictions limiting the number of people allowed to gather, and the number of new infections of COVID-19 rising, Wirchenko said pulling the plug on one of Saskatoon’s largest winter festivals had to happen.
“Last year Winterruption indoor and outdoor combined was just about 8,000 people that we served over a weekend in January so it’s not small,” Wirchenko said. “Just the hotel stays alone generated between $6,000 to $10,000 on one weekend in a slow month. We created that economic impact.”
The outdoor component, usually behind Ecole Victoria School on Broadway, would normally see a tipi raising, inviting families for free outdoor programming as well as offering educational settings for students at Ecole Victoria School. Those plans have also been dashed by the pandemic.
Local artist Ellen Froese said she’s eager to get back on stage.
“I’m pretty anxious now, Winterruption would have been sweet, I know Kirby was trying to get some really cool musicians in and I may have opened for one of them, but it’s going to feel good when it happens,” Froese said.
Without the opportunities to perform, Froese said she’s taken up horticulture studies at the University of Saskatchewan to stay busy and to spark some interest in other areas beyond music.
But the allure of a live performance and feeding off the energy of a live crowd is something she can’t replicate.
“I miss people, I miss seeing shows, my musician friends. There’s a thrill that comes with playing a live show,” Froese said.
“Hopefully next summer I’ll be able to play some of those music festivals I was supposed to play.”
Winterruption 2021 would have been the sixth installment of the winter festival.