The latest edition of Chase the Ace in Hay River had been set to start on March 13, but has been delayed by concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Late on the afternoon of March 13, the host organizations – the Hay River Golf Club and the Hay River Ski Club – announced the delay.
The announcement on the Facebook page of the golf club stated that Chase the Ace has been “postponed for the time being” until health issues have subsided.
Those issues are, of course, fears of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“We asked the town for a suspension of the licence,” said Randy West-Pratt, the secretary of the golf club and an organizer of Chase the Ace.
West-Pratt explained organizers learned on Friday that Polar Pond Hockey had been cancelled for that day, and that more government action might be coming to fight the coronavirus, such as travel restrictions.
“And we sat back to reflect quickly. I put out a quick motion to the golf club directors suggesting that we request a suspension from the town until we can assess the risks with the coronavirus to our sellers in particular, who will be handling all of that cash, and take a look at what we need to do to mitigate any risks, or whether or not we would just cancel,” he said.
“And I actually recommended that we just ask for a suspension, sit back and look things over. So the board voted in favour of doing that.”
The organizers were not requested to postpone the event, he noted. “But we took it upon ourselves to just ask for a temporary suspension while we took a look at it.”
The town agreed to the temporary hold.
The decision to ask for the postponement was later backed by members of the ski club.
Chuck Lirette, the biathlon coach at the ski club and another organizer of the new Chase the Ace, said they are going to proceed carefully and make sure that the issues with coronavirus are not going to impact volunteers.
“All of the concerns around the coronavirus and the health issues that have arisen in terms of handling money and those kind of fears,” Lirette said. “We’re just going to postpone the start of the lottery.”
West-Pratt doesn’t know how long the postponement will last.
“We just don’t want to put our own people, our volunteers at risk, and really the public as a whole,” he said. “Let’s not have Chase the Ace be the thing that brings them out into an environment that they shouldn’t be in.”
West-Pratt said it was a difficult decision to postpone the event.
“We’re anxious to get it going,” he said. “We’re all pumped up and ready to go.”
The Town of Hay River announced on Feb. 24 that the Hay River Golf Club had been awarded the new Chase the Ace licence.
Afterward, the golf club and the ski club agreed to jointly host the event, and the town amended the licence to include the ski club.
“The golf course qualified on their own, but the program, if you look at the bylaw, it actually encourages groups to get together to participate in it, both from a volunteer capacity and then also in terms of the benefits of the proceeds so it’s spread over a wider part of the community if there are more groups involved,” said Judy Goucher, the senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, speaking last week before the event was postponed.
“And everyone knows it takes a lot of volunteers to administer the Chase the Ace. So for us it’s a positive to have groups join together to do it.”
The first Chase the Ace in the community was held in 2016 by the Hay River Curling Club. That was followed by two from the Host Society of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games, and then by Branch 250 of the Royal Canadian Legion.
West-Pratt noted the new licence became effective March 13, meaning organizers have 52 weeks from that date to conclude the lottery.
The golf club and the ski club have jointly formed a new committee – called CTA 2020 – to oversee the new Chase the Ace, including its finances.