Riders embarked on the journey to Port Alberni starting at Little Qualicum Falls on a Saturday in September 2019, led by Santa Claus himself. KELSEY MCLEAN PHOTO

Riders embarked on the journey to Port Alberni starting at Little Qualicum Falls on a Saturday in September 2019, led by Santa Claus himself. KELSEY MCLEAN PHOTO

Port Alberni’s annual Toy Run switches up over COVID-19

No parties, no large gatherings, but a drive-by toy drop is planned for September

The 36th annual Port Alberni Toy Run will have a new look in September, thanks to COVID-19 measures restricting large gatherings.

“Instead of having the Toy Run weekend, given what’s going on in the world and on Vancouver Island, it was best to modify it instead so we’re in compliance with restrictions,” Toy Run chairperson David Wiwchar said.

The decision was made on May 9, 2020, after board members had a meeting to discuss their options. Even though B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has only said no to mass gatherings until the end of August, “I wanted to see where everyone was coming from and the different perspectives of what people were comfortable with,” Wiwchar said.

This Toy Run will be called a “drive-by” toy run for 2020, and will still take place on Saturday, Sept. 19. “Riders will be invited to come to town and we’ll have a location they will be able to drop off toys and donations, likely between 1–4 p.m.”

There won’t be a route for spectators to gather and cheer on the bikes this year, and motorcyclists will be asked not to gather in groups larger than 50, Wiwchar added. The afternoon games, motorcycle and trade shows and dance have all been cancelled. So has the mass gathering at Little Qualicum Falls—riders will be asked to make their own way to Port Alberni during the day.

The Vancouver Toy Run operates in much the same way, with riders starting at a mall, riding to the PNE grounds to drop off their toys and have a cup of coffee, then going home. “That’s the largest toy run in the province; I’m sure we can modify ours to something similar for this year anyway.”

Volunteers began working on details to change Port Alberni’s toy run last week. A location for the event will be agreed upon later. Organizers are hoping to print a limited number of T-shirts for 2020 and are figuring out another way to raise funds. Revenue from the dance tickets and beer garden is usually significant, and this year Toy Run volunteers won’t be approaching the business community for silent auction or raffle prizes like they usually do.

The changes are loose at the moment, as COVID-19 measures are constantly changing, Wiwchar added. “If we need to change things, we certainly can.

“This is our new reality.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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