Sparse snowpack and ongoing drought are starting to impact summer events across the province, with some organizers making changes to scheduling or cancelling their events outright.
Earlier this week, the Fort St. John International Air Show Society announced the cancellation of its much-anticipated August air show, citing concerns over wildfire risk amid the ongoing drought in the Peace Region.
The Kamloopa Powwow Society has also rescheduled its annual three-day celebration, from August to June 28-30, to avoid extreme heat and potential wildfire smoke.
In a similar vein, the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society is bumping up the dates for its annual Roots and Blues Music Festival, from August to July 26-28.
For Sandi Miller, producer of the Fort St. John International Air Show, it was a tough call to make.
“It’s definitely a very difficult decision for our group. We spent two years working on the show,” she said in an interview with CBC’s Daybreak North.
Daybreak North6:48Wildfire concern grounds airshow
The last air show in the city was in 2022 following a five-year hiatus. Weather concerns, the pandemic and runway upgrades had shuttered the event in the years before.
This time, it’s the double-whammy impact of inadequate resources and the risk of wildfire, Miller said.
“Resources are harder to find, mainly people, volunteers and the wildfire situation is expected to be not good at all this year.… We’ve had virtually no snow,” she said.
“When the wildfire season is in full swing, there’s a lot of air traffic at our airport. So a lot of helicopters, a lot of airplanes, water bombers to smoke jumpers [will be] going in and out of our airports. So [having an airshow] would be interfering with that.”
A B.C. River Forecast Centre report released this Thursday revealed snow levels across the province are 39 per cent below normal, heightening concerns about wildfire risks amid worsening drought conditions across the province.
Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said unless there is significant improvement in snowpack levels in the coming months, B.C. may face a repeat of the devastating wildfires experienced in 2023.
“We really need to see very strong, aggressive, proactive drought planning from the province. All of these regions where water stress is likely to occur should have water sustainability plans in place,” he told CBC News.
Organizers of other summer events are also taking precautionary measures.
Melissa Mathias, treasurer and sponsorship co-ordinator for the Kamloopa Powwow Society, said this is the first time the event will be held outside of August.
The Kamloopa Powwow is one of Western Canada’s largest gatherings celebrating the heritage of the province’s Secwepemc people.
“Extreme heat waves have been occurring in August and especially with the dancers wearing regalia, [there are] safety concerns around heat stroke as well,” she wrote in an email to CBC.
Mathias added it’s better to err on the side of caution than risk people’s well-being.
“Last year the devastation with our neighbouring First Nations in Chase, Squilax, having fires rip through their community and people lost their homes,” she said.
“This was in 2023, in 2003 there were fires in every direction … the attendance [at the powwow] was extremely low and it was hard to make enough revenue for operations.”
Organizers with the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society say last year’s wildfire caused significant disruption to the Roots and Blues Music Festival, as it had to be cancelled after the first night of performances.
“While the city of Salmon Arm was not directly on evacuation order, air quality had plummeted,… province-wide travel restrictions were put in place. It simply was not feasible or safe for us to continue with our event,” said Althea Mongerson, the society’s marketing co-ordinator.
“Our society then had to undertake the large process of ticket refunds and donations, which as you can imagine has had a financial impact.”
She said the organizing team is taking extra precautions this year, increasing shade, as well as the number of water stations and rest areas across the festival grounds.