Boatnik 2021 canceled due to COVID-19, but uncertainty remains

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Boatnik was canceled last year due to complications during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Now, this year’s Boatnik is seeing a similar fate. But organizers are being vague about why.

Since 1959, the Grants Pass Active Club has brought together thousands of people on Memorial Day weekend. But this year, for the second year in a row, Boatnik isn’t happening.

The organizers of the festival issued a statement Friday, announcing the decision to cancel.

It reads in part “As large and complex as our event is, we require permits to run components of Boatnik. We were not granted those permits this year, meaning no carnival, vendors, or parade due to the state’s COVID-19 outdoor gathering restrictions.”

Grants Pass Mayor, Sarah Bristol says she doesn’t know what permits the statement refers to.

“We were allowing them to make the choice about the event, it 100% was not the city’s decision to do anything to stop Boatnik,” said Bristol.

The Active Club declined on-camera interviews. Charlie Simons, the Co-Marketing Chairman for the club, said on the phone that he wrote the statement. He said he was purposefully vague, and didn’t want to specify who didn’t grant the organization the proper permits. Simons says not having the event two years in a row, makes it difficult for the organization to have an impact on local youth.

The Active Club gives out scholarships with proceeds from Boatnik events. Bristol says it’s a huge loss. But because the event is such a huge draw, it would be hard to accomplish in a pandemic.

“Boatnik is an unfenced event at the park where there’s an admission fee to get into the park, it would be very difficult to control crowd numbers,” said Bristol.

Bristol says while she knows it was a tough decision for the organization, she anticipates it will be back next year.

“I know it was so hard for them, they put their heart and soul into this, it takes months to plan, it’s a very popular event that we all be really glad to have back once we’re able to have it,” said Bristol.

While the parade and carnival won’t be happening, the Active Club says it will perform a Memorial Day ceremony and race on May 31st.

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Jenna King
NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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