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Highway 169 road work forces cancellation of popular boat show in Muskoka

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The Canadian Antique and Classic Boat Society says it had no choice but to cancel this year's summer Vintage Boat Show at the Muskoka Wharf because of the two-kilometre-long project on Highway 169 in Gravenhurst.

The long-running annual event attracts thousands of people to the Muskoka Wharf every summer.

"We had to make a tough decision. We have the largest antique boat show in Canada and one of the largest in North America, and if we could not deliver a first-class show for our members, we decided we would hold off one year and come back to Muskoka Wharf in 2025," says Mike Gridley, the chair of the ACBS Toronto Summer Vintage Boat Show.

Organizers of the boat show say accessibility would be restricted, leaving them no choice.

The district says the work must be done.

"There are sections where we are changing the nature of the road so the overall width of the road won't change, but we are adding things like transportation and trails for more accessibility. We're also doing a number of changes, upgrading signals, putting in pedestrian crossings really to make that section of Gravenhurst more pedestrian friendly," says James Steele with the District of Muskoka.

On top of losing the boat show this summer, the Farmers' Market and other local events will be on the move as the road work is carried out.

Bart Craigkowski owns and operates the shipyards in the Wharf and says losing the boat show this summer is unfortunate, but the work needs to be done.

"It's absolutely crazy in the Wharf. I mean, the docks are full of people. It was probably the busiest day in the Wharf last year that one day for the boat show, yes. It's very disappointing, but this street has to get done whether we like it or not," says Craigcowski.

Boat show officials say they plan to be at the Wharf for next summer. And hope to top the 6,000 visitors it had last summer.

The work on Highway 169 is expected to begin this June and take as long as three years to complete. Tenders for the project are expected to go out in the next several weeks.

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