Races at the Penticton Speedway on July 4 saw about 1,500 people gathered in the stands, while others who could not get in gathered on the hillside to watch from afar. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

‘Resistance’ from Interior Health puts races in Penticton on hold

It’s unknown if races planned for this weekend at the Penticton Speedway will take place

It’s unknown if races planned for this weekend at the Penticton Speedway will take place, as the group works to formulate a plan with Interior Health.

On Tuesday, July 14 speedway owner and pit boss Johnny Aantjes explained things are up in the air, and that they are taking it day-by-day.

“Right now we are planned to go for this weekend, but we’re having some resistance from Interior Health, so we’re trying to work with that,” he said.

He cited frustration at what he calls ‘inconsistencies’ and ‘poor planning’ in the government’s COVID-19 strategy, particularly the 50-person limit on gatherings.

“There are so many other similar situations that have a lot more people than (50) that going through their locations, and I don’t want to call out any other businesses but she (Dr. Bonnie Henry) could work with us a little bit and help us get through this a whole lot easier.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the raceway was submitting another plan to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office.

Aantjes believes they can hold their event without putting people at risk.

“We won’t put any people at risk, or (we will) limit the risk as much as possible, and we can still hold our event.”

The races on July 18 and 19 were originally expected to host monster trucks, but last week organizers cancelled the main attraction citing their inability to cover costs with a smaller crowd due to social distancing measures.

The speedway’s last event on July 4, which was their first of the season, resulted in the speedway turning away between 500 to 700 cars. About 1,500 were gathered in the stands, with others watching from the hillside surrounding the speedway.

READ MORE: In photos: Penticton Speedway celebrates opening weekend

Speaking to their last event, Aantjes said they would change a few things, but overall was happy with how the event went.

“We had a lot of people at our event, and there were no reported cases that came out of it, so I think that was a good sign,” said Aantjes.

The Western News received some concerns from members of the public in regards to the races taking place, with some stating that it would be hard for 1,500 people to socially distance at an event like this. Others were concerned about those who did not wear masks and claimed that vehicles parked along the road posed a danger to those driving.

Last week the track owner responded to some of these concerns. He said it was difficult to turn away so many people. He also stated at the time they would put more staff in the concession area to reduce the lineups. He also hoped to have more bathroom facilities available.

“The people that parked on the road, police did come by, but I think in the spirit of – I wasn’t collecting any money from those people – but in the spirit of COVID relief if you will, they were kind of letting people watch from that area just to help stop from having so many people inside the racetrack,” said Aantjes.

“I know that having cars parked on the side of the road isn’t great, but to avoid the bigger crowds inside the facility, it was probably necessary, or at the least an option at this point.”

Aantjes isn’t sure when they will hear back about the upcoming races. If they proceed, the races will include Hornets, Street Stock and Hit-2-Pass events, with the Hit-2-Pass vehicles towing boats and trailers as they race.

“It’s going to be a day-by-day deal, and we’ll try to make it happen,” he said.

Interior Health was reached for comment; however they have not responded. This story will be updated with comment from IH when it becomes available.

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

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