THE organisers of one of Helensburgh’s most popular annual events, the Winter Festival, have revealed their sadness after taking “the most difficult decision ever” in cancelling this year’s gathering.

The volunteer-run festival, which has become a key element in the area’s festive celebrations since its inception in 2012, is the latest victim of the Covid-19 pandemic with committee members stating that the task of maintaining social distancing and keeping everyone safe was “simply impossible”.

There also remains uncertainty around the entertainment, including kids’ rides, live performances, the Santa Dash and Santa’s Grotto.

Committee chairman, Councillor Lorna Douglas, said: “We held off making the decision as long as we could but when we considered the task of maintaining social distancing and keeping everyone safe it became clear that we would not be able to do it.

READ MORE: Pictures from Helensburgh's 2019 Winter Festival

“We would likely be classed as a mass gathering as it’s not possible - or intentional - for us to control visitor numbers or self-distancing. This can only take place in phase four [of the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown] and as yet there is no indication of when this might happen.”

Last year’s weekend of activities was hailed as “the best ever Winter Festival”, while earlier in 2020 the event was awarded a share of £90,000 from Argyll and Bute Council to enable it to continue.

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Cllr Douglas added: “We are, however, considering how we can keep the spirit of our festival alive in a virtual way and we will be announcing the results of our deliberations in due course.

“Anyone who has any ideas or suggestions will be very welcome to contact us through our website or Facebook page.”

READ MORE: Winter Festival secures £90,000 share of Argyll and Bute 'major events' fund

Vivien Dance, chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce, said the absence of the event, which was due to take place on November 28 and 29, will leave a huge void in the area’s social calendar.

She said: “This is extremely disappointing news for the town but also for all the volunteers who work extremely hard to stage this event. This must have been a very hard decision to accept for all of them.

“The town will miss the buzz and the crowds of the Winter Festival weekend which gives a tremendous boost to local commerce, residents and visitors alike as Helensburgh begins the festive season.

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"It will be another void in the town calendar and it will be missed.

“However, Helensburgh is no different to the rest of the nation. So many events have had to be cancelled this year and this has added to the impact of the virus on our lives

READ MORE: Look back at our coverage of Helensburgh's 2018 Winter Festival

"We all miss the social side of such events and seeing the community spirit alive and well in the town.

“Cancellation also means that many local fund-raising groups have not been able to have stalls and promote their local activities just as they do at the Winter Festival.

Helensburgh Advertiser:

“Not having events has a knock-on effect on so many in the town and of course the footfall that is normally part of the Winter Festival weekend is a tremendous boost to local businesses.

“The Chamber is hopeful that everyone will continue to shop local and continue in their efforts to support the local economy to recover after this extremely difficult year.”

Organisers have assured fans that the festival will be back bigger and better next year. To make a donation or to find out more information, visit the event's website.

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