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Food and running festivals cancelled in Huntly

By Pat Scott

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HUNTLY's two showcase events will not go ahead this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Huntly Hairst and the Room to Run festival which were due to take place, just over three months away, on the weekend of September 5 have been called off.

The three main groups involved, Huntly Hairst, Huntly Sports Hub and Networks of Wellbeing unanimously agreed this week that in the interests of public safety, and with no indication of when large events might be allowed to go ahead, planning for 2020 events should be suspended.

In recent years, the combined Hairst and Run event has been a massive success for the area and has become a major iconic event in the north-east Scotland’s calendar, attracting crowds estimated at over 3000.

The organising groups took the view that even if the event were allowed to go ahead, restrictions on the number allowed to attend and social distancing measures would have to be in place, which it would not be possible to enforce, leaving them with no option but to postpone.

Bruce Murray who leads the Huntly Sports Hub group said: "It's looking very unlikely that any large scale events will be allowed this year by the Scottish Government – there will be strict limits on numbers.With key expenditure commitment dates looming, the organising teams shared each other’s thoughts and options before coming to a collective and unilateral decision that the event could not go ahead."

Emma Plumpton who is chairwoman of the Huntly Hairst group has promised that the event will be back bigger and better in 2021.

Hairst's part time organiser, Laura McNeil has suspended planning but is busy putting the final touches to a new website for Hairst which will go live in July.

Mr Plumpton said: "We are disappointed the Hairst will not go ahead this year but we feel that the safety and wellbeing of the community have to come first. Even if restrictions are eased, it was felt that local people might not be comfortable with a large influx of visitors into the town.

"We trust the Huntly community will understand our decision as we all try to navigate through these difficult times.

"The new website will make it possible for people to visit our virtual market with details ofstallholders so that they can use their services, as they too are trying to keep trading going during these challenging times."

A spokesman for NoW said: "Our concern is that the people might not welcome an influx of people into Huntly while they are still nervous about moving out of a strict lockdown. We are seeing an increase in anxiety levels."

Mr Murray continued: “We are disappointed that nothing more encouraging has been forthcoming but fully support the cautious approach taken by the Scottish Government and that they are unable to provide a more accurate timetable towards restrictions easing.

"Our priority is the health and wellbeing of those coming on the day.To leave any additional and as yet unknown safety requirements until the last minute was something we didn’t want to risk.

"Registration for the runs was to be in The Gordon Schools but Aberdeenshire Council, have said that no events will be permitted on council property until August 30 at the earliest but that could be extended and we could not take that chance."

A number of Hairst events will be run online, including the already launched poetry competition. Other events will be posted on the Huntly Hairst Facebook page as they are confirmed.

Room to Run 2020 was on course was to be another sell-out and over 1500 runners had already signed up - they will have the option to carry forward their place to the 2021 race or a refund of their entry fee.

Runners who would like a refund should contact sportshub@huntly.netby June 30, otherwise entries will automatically be transferred to the 2021 race.

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