Huge crowds show up in Wasaga Beach, Ont., for car rally despite coronavirus restrictions

Huge crowds took over the Town of Wasaga Beach on Saturday for a car rally despite provincial gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nina Bifolchi, the town’s mayor, said officials were aware of plans for the event for a couple of weeks after posts began to appear on social media.

“We didn’t know how many would really show up because again it’s all over social media,” she told Global News.

“The organizers are unnamed and unaccountable really for these types of events. So it’s really hard to nail down what was going to happen.”

Read more: Street-racing group stages ‘mega meet’ in Hamilton amid COVID-19 restrictions

But Bifolchi said what ended up transpiring on Saturday was the “biggest uncontrollable event” she has seen in her 14 years on council.

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“There was just too many people to control. They were on every corner, they were in every parking lot,” Bifolchi said.

“And really the OPP along with all of their resources did a fantastic job — the best that they could in this situation.”

Images posted to social media showed huge crowds lining the streets and cars performing stunts. Many people did not appear to be wearing masks.

The event came one week after Premier Doug Ford’s government announced new restrictions for private or unmonitored gatherings amid rising coronavirus cases. Indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. Organizers of events in violation of the rules could face a fine of at least $10,000 and attendees could be fined $750.

Click to play video 'Hundreds attend gathering in Hamilton parking lot despite coronavirus restrictions' Hundreds attend gathering in Hamilton parking lot despite coronavirus restrictions

Hundreds attend gathering in Hamilton parking lot despite coronavirus restrictions

On Sept. 19 an impromptu car rally was held in Hamilton, leading to sharp criticism from officials, including Ford who called it “reckless behaviour.”

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A spokesperson for Ford also commented on Saturday’s rally in Wasaga Beach.

“The premier has been very clear, these large unorganized gatherings are irresponsible and unacceptable,” Ivana Yelich said in a statement.

“As cases continue to climb in Ontario, we must work together to control the spread of COVID-19. Our collective actions will determine how severe any potential waves will be.”

Biofolchi said she is aware of traffic tickets being handed out and cars being towed at Saturday’s event. There is no word on whether or not tickets were distributed for violations of provincial gathering restrictions.

Read more: New COVID-19 gathering restrictions expanded to all of Ontario

“It was a lot of unsafe activity going on. People in the middle of the street, standing in the street drinking while holding up signs, trying to get people to spin their tires,” Biofolchi said.

“To have this group come and take over your town with no regard for anyone else or the cost to the province — to have all the resources in place — is absolutely disgusting.”

Biofolchi said OPP officers set up checkpoints around the town prior to the event to look for illegal car modifications, but after so many people showed up, officers used the checkpoints to prevent any non-residents from entering.

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Biofolchi said Sunday morning that she was unsure as to whether or not those restrictions were still in place.

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 491 new coronavirus cases on Sunday marking the largest single-day increase in cases since May 2.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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