BARRIE, ONT. -- When the organizers of Barrie's Kempenfest had to cancel the popular event because of the pandemic this year, they started thinking outside the box.

The festival would have celebrated its 50th year as one of Simcoe County's biggest fundraising events this weekend.

"It's an $11.5 million economic impact that Kempenfest has on our community," said Louise Jackson, Kempenfest General Manager and Director of Attractions.

Determined to continue the tradition, organizers of the arts and crafts festival decided to move it from the city's waterfront to online.

"We're doing online artist performances. We want to drive traffic to our website so people can support all of the vendors who would have been here," Jackson explained.

Most of Kempenfest's 350 vendors will showcase digitally through the long weekend, starting Friday.

The local tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic as the cancellations of local fairs and festivals continued to pile up.

Nearly half a million visitors head to Barrie each year, most for the outdoor events. The hotel industry alone employs more than a thousand people.

In a typical year, tourism means big business for the city of Barrie, to the tune of $140 million, but this is no typical year, and Tourism Barrie expects it will take years for the industry to recover.