CONWAY — The inaugural White Mountain Outdoor Fest, which was scheduled for early June, has been canceled due to social distancing concerns and fears about the spread of the coronavirus, the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday.
It was to have been held June 4-7 and consisted of a multiday celebration of the valley’s outdoor amenities, including running a race up Mount Chocorua, guided mountain and road biking, ock climbing, and holding a 5k walk/run, stewardship clinics, gear demos at Cranmore, music and food.
The plan is to reschedule it for June 2021.
“After much discussion and consideration, it was clear that the health and well-being of all participants, spectators, volunteers and hosts is the No. 1 priority. The committee felt that the only way to be sure to protect everyone involved from any exposure was to cancel the event for 2020,” a statement released by the chamber said.
Michelle Cruz, the chamber's community engagement director, told the Sun on Thursday: “We on the committee have had conversations probably starting in early March just as things were unraveling (concerning the virus), and we kept our eyes on it."
She said committee member/competition coordinator Paul Kirsch of Acidotic Racing noted that in addition to spectators, volunteers and committee members, it was not fair to athletes to have them compete during a pandemic.
“Paul brought the perspective and concern that for people who do get and overcome the virus, they would not be in a physical condition to participate in the athletic events," Cruz said.
"Seeing what the Tri-State area and our country are going through makes it clear this is no time to schedule an event like this,” said Cruz, who serves as the chamber’s representative to the event committee.
She said the event was geared toward a wide spectrum of participants, from elite athletes to recreationalists just getting started in outdoor sports.
Those registered to be a vendor at the Outdoor Fest's Gear Village will either be refunded their registration fee, or they can forward the vendor registration to 2021. Those involved may contact Melanie Luce of the White Mountain Trail Collective at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their intentions.
“We are very grateful for everyone who became involved, as there was a lot of interest from sponsors supporting it and people interested in coming to participate," said Cruz. "So we are very excited about the event for 2021.”
She said the Gear expo at Cranmore had attracted interest from 50-plus vendors and that “six to seven speakers” had been lined up to discuss outdoor topics, including local bicycling author Marty Basch.
Cruz said that while the Outdoor Fest is out of the lineup for 2020, some specific events may be rescheduled, including the Chocorua Mountain Race (rockhopperraces.com/chocorua) and Cranmore Mountain Race (acidoticracing.com/cranmore-mountain-race).
Outdoor Fest committee members who met in December included: John Higgins and Harry Mann of the MWV Bicycling Club; Kirsch of Acidotic Racing, which presents the annual Cranmore Mountain Race; Paul Durfee of Cranmore Mountain Resort sales and ticketing; Laura Lemieux, director of marketing and events at Settlers Green; Luce, executive director of the White Mountain Trail Collective; Shannon Hanley and Jordan Cargill, store manager and experiences supervisor, respectively, at REI North Conway; race director Vince Vaccaro of Tunnel to Towers, which honors the memory of first responders of 9/11; and Aysia Morency, manager of Tuckerman Brewing Co. of Conway.
To learn more, go to mtwashingtonvalley.org.