Alaska Life

Bear Paw Festival officially canceled due to rising number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska

The Bear Paw Festival has been canceled for the first time in its 34 year history, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday.

“The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce and its directors do not feel that the festival could be held safely under current rising case numbers, orders, and uncertainty,” the Chamber wrote in an email. “This is our decision as organizers.”

The festival, which is typically held the second week of July, was postponed in June. But organizers had hoped to announce a new date and had chosen a theme -- “Bear pause.”

However, case numbers in Alaska surged in July, and Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced an emergency order last week that halts dine-in service at bars and restaurants and limits gathering sizes in an effort to help slow transmission of the virus.

[Anchorage will halt indoor service at restaurants and bars, shrink gathering size limits starting Monday]

“We do not feel that planning a community-wide festival when we have moved back to phase two in the reopening plan is a responsible decision,” the chamber wrote.

In preparation for the festival, the chamber had acquired 5,000 cloth masks for attendees that it will now be distributing to the community. The chamber could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon about how the masks will be distributed.

Aside from the lack of food and fun the festival provides, Bear Paw was also a funding source for the chamber and its programs, the chamber wrote. The money raised at the festival is used to sustain its operations, business mentoring, workshops, networking opportunities and events, according to the release.

“We will be putting out a call to help keep our non-profit afloat in these uncertain times and are hopeful for your upcoming support,” the release said.

The chamber is planning for the festival to return next year.

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