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Want to celebrate Canada Day with a bunch of people, watching a fireworks display? Prepare to go on a road trip.
Normally, Winnipeggers would gather at The Forks or Osborne Village or Assiniboine Park to celebrate the nation's July 1 birthday, but COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have forced the cancellations of all three in recent weeks.
Instead, The Forks is holding a virtual Canada Day on Facebook and YouTube, capped off with fireworks — in a video prepared several weeks ago at an isolated location.
"There is signage all over the site, telling people there is no show and no fireworks," Clare MacKay, The Forks vice-president of strategic initiatives, said Monday.
"We will have extra people on that day saying the same to all who ask. (Meanwhile), the site is open, as it always is, with 54 acres to spread out across, and our shops and restaurants are open as they are normally on a weekday."
Posted: 29/06/2020 5:18 PM
Canada Day in Winnipeg will look a lot different in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It's still a day off work for most, but annual events such as the Osborne Village street party and Canada Day concert at The Forks have been cancelled in light of public health orders limiting gathering sizes.
The Free Press does not publish a July 1 print edition, but an e-edition of the paper will be available at winnipegfreepress.com.
For those determined to see live fireworks in southeast Manitoba, both Richer and St. Pierre-Jolys are going ahead with their evening celebrations.
Darson Dueck, a director of the Richer Community Club, said the event will be held at Dawson Trail Park. The community some 60 kilometres east of the city is planning to host hundreds of vehicles.
"We were planning to cancel it — we were on the edge — but then everybody was cancelling and that gave me motivation and started to brainstorm," Dueck said. "We figure we'll get a good turnout."
Dueck said everyone attending will be asked to follow provincial pandemic guidelines, including only exiting on the driver's side of the vehicle, where they can put down a blanket or chairs to watch the fireworks display. The nearby church will be going around selling snack food; first 500 children will get a free goody bag.
"There is big interest for this," he said.
Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, two companies that sell fireworks say sales have skyrocketed in the last couple of weeks.
"It's probably the quietest Canada Day, but also the most complicated Canada Day," said Candice Mitchell, director of sales and events with Archangel Fireworks.
"Fireworks bring people together and around, but unfortunately now that is the last thing you want... but this is always a really busy time for us and we've been so busy this year. We are probably busier than we usually are."
"Fireworks bring people together and around, but unfortunately now that is the last thing you want." — Candice Mitchell, director of sales and events with Archangel Fireworks
Mitchell said the other side of the business — going around the province, blasting off large-scale fireworks shows — has taken a hit this year, with the vast majority being cancelled or being rescheduled to September, for now.
Matt Bialek, president of Red Bomb, said his business took a 40 per cent drop during the initial weeks of the pandemic and non-essential business shutdown.
"We didn't know what would happen, but in the past two weeks, we've seen the demand come through," Bialek said. "I don't know how we would have recovered if not for Canada Day.
"It is last-minute — people are realizing there isn't any place to go."
However, you can't just light a fuse and watch a Roman candle go up. First, you have to get a fireworks display permit from the City of Winnipeg (firstname.lastname@example.org). It is free, but the restrictions attached will likely mean you'll be looking elsewhere for your fireworks fix. (For cottage country use, check with the local municipality or provincial park.)
Sherry Reich, director of fire prevention with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, says the main problem for an urban resident is adequate space.
"Your base has to be 100 feet from property lines, overhead wires, buildings — even the street," she said. "It really prohibits most people from getting these permits."
"I don't know how we would have recovered if not for Canada Day." — Matt Bialek, president of Red Bomb Fireworks
Reich said some are able to get enough room if they go in with a neighbour, but most can only shoot off private fireworks if they reserve a spot in a civic park. It runs about $65 for four hours and needs to be pre-booked before applying for the fireworks permit.
"We want to make sure people are safe," Reich said. "Fireworks are regulated as explosives."
Reich said the city processed 16 consumer fireworks permits last year.
"This June, we have processed 12 so far, but I called our clerk and she says there are about 25 in process," she said.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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