Not this year

Peachland's popular Polar Bear Swim, a past edition of which is shown in this file photo, will not be held on Jan. 1, 2021 because of COVID-19.

The seemingly relentless cancellation of popular Kelowna-area events due to COVID-19 has now extended into 2021.

Peachland’s Polar Bear Swim, a fixture of New Year’s Day for many years, will not be held on Jan. 1. Also scrubbed is a community run usually held the same day.

“Yes, I expect our polar events to be cancelled,” town recreation director Cheryl Wiebe said Wednesday. 

“To date, we have not strategized a reasonable way to host the swim and the run is not financially viable on its own,” Wiebe said. 

The Polar Bear Swim sees hundreds of people, many shoulder-to-shoulder, charge into Okanagan Lake for a brief but refreshing dip in the 2 C water. 

Physical distancing, as required under COVID-19 safety guidelines, would not allow for so many people crammed into a relatively short stretch of beach at the town’s Swim Bay. 

The town is also scrubbing a popular ‘Santa Walk’ in early December. Hundreds of people usually turn out for a walk down a closed-off section of Beach Avenue, following Santa Claus on a firetruck. The event culminates in the annual Christmas light-up and fireworks display in Heritage Park. 

Instead, the town will organize a Zoom meeting with Santa sometime in December. 

Event cancellations due to the pandemic started in early March when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reduced the size of allowable public gatherings from 250 people to 50 people. 

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a worldwide pandemic on March 11.