Summerland once billed itself as the Town of Festivals, but in 2021, for the second consecutive year, legendary community festivals were cancelled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Polar Bear Dip, which involves participants starting the new year with an icy plunge in Okanagan Lake at noon on Jan. 1, did not happen because of the pandemic.
In May, the Giants Head Grind – Christopher Walker Memorial Race, an uphill race to the summit of Giant’s Head Mountain, was held as a virtual race rather than the traditional race from previous years. In 2020, the event had been cancelled entirely.
Then, the Summerland Action Festival, held in early June, was cancelled for the second year in a row. The Action Festival, a mainstay since 1982, draws thousands of people to the community for sports, entertainment, a parade and more.
In early spring, organizers expressed uncertainty about the 2021 festival. Because of the restrictions in June, the event did not proceed. It had also been cancelled in 2020.
Canada Day and Remembrance Day events, both organized by the Summerland Legion, did not proceed in 2021 because of the pandemic restrictions.
The Summerland Farmers Market was held on Sundays during the summer, and in late September, the Summerland Fall Fair had some booths set up at the market during the day.
The Summerland Festival of Lights, held in late November to mark the start of the festive season, was modified to meet the pandemic restrictions. This festival had been cancelled entirely in 2020.
Instead of a large community festival on the last Friday of November, the event was scaled back and held on three consecutive weekends in December. A drive-by light-up event was held on Dec. 4, allowing participants to see Summerland’s best lights displays from the safety and privacy of their vehicles.
Stores offered Saturday sales and special events were also held in downtown Summerland, but the crowds seen in previous years were not present at the 2021 weekend events.
Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 10,000 people would attend the festival.
The future of the Festival of Lights and the Summerland Action Festival is not yet known, but the Summerland Kinsmen Club has announced that its Polar Bear Dip will proceed on Jan. 1 at Sunoka Beach.
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