MEDFORD, Ore. – Wildfire smoke in southern Oregon is forcing organizations that are dependent on tourist dollars to scramble for other options.
The air quality in Medford and surrounding towns continues to range from “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “hazardous” levels. The air quality Sunday night in both Medford and Ashland moved into “hazardous” territory, the Mail Tribune reported.
A number of southern Oregon businesses catering to tourists during a limited season say they are watching profits dissipate like so many smoke fumes as fires persist.
Orange Torpedo Trips in Merlin, a whitewater rafting and kayaking trip company, hasn’t been able to run single- or multi-day trips down the Rogue River near Hellgate Canyon since a closure was issued July 29.
“You’re really unable to recover from the lost revenues,” operations manager Scott DeBo said. “We have such a short window. Our business is a seasonal business.”
Smoke has forced outdoor theater and entertainment events inside or forced cancellations, which also come at high price tags. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has canceled at least one performance of each of its three outdoor plays this season: “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Book of Will” and “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” In addition to eight total cancellations, three performances have been moved to indoor venues, including Ashland High School’s auditorium, said spokeswoman Julie Cortez.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has already canceled more shows this year than it did in all of 2017, Cortez said. “We are a nonprofit theater company, and so this is serious,” she said. “We depend very much on ticket revenue.”
A canceled show translates to a loss upwards of $50,000, she said, which doesn’t account for concessions and other sales losses.
Predicted air quality conditions can change dramatically in a few hours, and organizations walk a fine line between an expensive, potentially unnecessary cancellation and giving customers a too-late warning.
Cortez said with all the outdoor shows now ready to perform in the high school auditorium, the possibility of a show relocation will continue to be a daily guessing game. “We just have to see where the winds take us this week,” she said.
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