COVID kills Winter Blues

By Alex Gretgrix

THE 2020 Echuca-Moama Winter Blues Festival has been cancelled.

It may be the last — and largest — community event to be coronavirus collateral damage as the Victorian Government joins other states in relaxing restrictions.

Organisers met with local venues and late last week held a meeting to make the final decision.

“We didn't make this decision lightly,” Winter Blues organiser Peter Williams said.

“As a committee, we looked at all of our options and decided it was best to postpone until next year.”

While there were talks of the event going ahead in September or October, Mr Williams said it was safer to leave the date as the last weekend in July and plan for 2021.

“We did consider moving to later in the year, but with all the restrictions and the uncertainty around when they will be fully lifted, we decided it would be safer for everyone if we just leave it for this year,” he said.

With preparations well underway prior to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers were disappointed the event couldn't go ahead.

“We had almost everything organised and we're looking at losing around $30,000,” he said.

“It was disappointing to not be able to run this year, but the safety of our musicians and locals is important to us.”

The decision leaves the committee concerned about their musicians and local vendors.

“Our event usually brings in a lot of business for local pubs and motels during the winter months,” Mr Williams said.

“And of course with venues closed due to coronavirus restrictions, a lot of these musicians aren't working at all at the moment.

“All the while a lot of them aren't eligible for JobKeeper so I am concerned for our entertainment industry.”

But he does see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“With overseas travel suspended for a while, this could be a chance for our local musicians to benefit from that once restrictions are lifted,” he said.

While this is a setback for the event, organisers are looking to the future.

“We've already started organising next year's event so we'll be ready,” Mr Williams said.