Camas Days canceled again

Organizers say pandemic prevented adequate planning for July event that regularly attracts more than 12K to city's downtown

Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files Crowds gather on downtown Camas' Northeast Fourth Avenue during the first day of the 2018 Camas Days celebration.

A stiltwalker greets children outside the Camas Public Library before the 2019 Camas Days' Children's Parade in July 2019. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

Organizers have had to cancel Camas Days for a second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Jennifer Senescu, the executive director of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce — the group that organizes the annual celebration that brings more than 12,000 visitors to Camas’ historic downtown every July — said planning an event the size of Camas Days takes several months of preparation.

“We begin planning Camas Days in December,” Senescu said. “With the uncertainty of when things would fully open up, we weren’t sure when we would be allowed to have such a large event.”

Senescu said she and other Chamber staff have been telling vendors since March that the event would not be happening this year.

Now that COVID-19 vaccination rates are increasing throughout the Portland-Vancouver metro area and public health restrictions are starting to loosen, many Camas Days enthusiasts have reached out to city leaders and Chamber staff to inquire about the possibility of throwing a last-minute festival.

Senescu, who quietly announced the Camas Days cancellation on the Chamber’s Camas Days Facebook site in May, said Chamber staff couldn’t pull a Camas Days off now even if they wanted to.

“We simply do not have the time to contact and organize everyone for this event,” Senescu told the Post-Record last week. “Events the size of Camas Days take months of preparation and we cannot put it together at this late date.”

Senescu said Chamber staff are working with other local groups, including the Downtown Camas Association, to see if they might be able to host “smaller community events” in Camas and Washougal this summer.

Last year, in May 2020 — two months after international public health officials declared a pandemic and days after Gov. Jay Inslee extended his “stay home” order — the Camas-Washougal Chamber announced the cancellation of what was to be the 46th annual Camas Days.

The Chamber said it is planning to resume the late July gathering — which includes parades, bathtub races, children’s activities, vendors booths throughout the downtown area and nightly musical entertainment — in July 2022.

Several other large-scale events, including the Clark County Fair, also have been canceled for a second year in a row due to the ongoing pandemic. Other large events, such as the Waterfront Blues Festival in downtown Portland, have reorganized to allow for fewer spectators and accommodate physical-distancing requirements.

For more information about the 2022 Camas Days event or other Chamber happenings, visit cwchamber.com.