The Town of Stettler will move ahead with plans to celebrate Canada Day, but the event will be significantly different from non-pandemic years.
Councillors heard a report on the subject at the June 2 regular council meeting.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky, along with staff members Alan King and Brad Robbins, gave councillors a report on how the town could offer a Canada Day celebration amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
CAO Switenky stated it’s important to decide ahead of time whether large events should be cancelled, as a lot of planning is needed for events like Canada Day, including booking entertainment.
He pointed out that unless pandemic measures change before July 1, Canada Day in Stettler will be different from past years.
He also pointed out some of the activities were included in the annual budget.
Robbins gave an update from the Recreation department’s point of view.
He stated some large events, such as Music in the Park and Canada Day, are coming up in about a month and have not technically been cancelled. However, since it’s getting close and some planning is needed, Robbins said it’s time to decide.
He said the town could try to wait a few more weeks, but the entertainers involved would like to know whether they will perform.
Robbins stated Canada Day is usually a very popular event in Stettler and includes food offerings, giveaways, live entertainment and fireworks.
He noted the live entertainment probably won’t work this year with pandemic measures in place, including a limit on the number of people in a gathering and social distancing.
However, the fireworks show is still possible at 11 p.m. Town staff could be located at the entrance to West Stettler Park and guests could remain in their vehicles for the fireworks.
Robbins pointed out some events like Music in the Park could also, in theory, be held at a large venue like West Stettler Park since there is so much room to work with and guests would simply be informed of pandemic measures and expected to follow them.
He also noted that live entertainment planned for Canada Day would be booked to perform at Music in the Park about a week later.
Robbins had an interesting idea for Stettlerites to celebrate Canada Day. He said the town could encourage people to celebrate Canada Day at home by, for example, decorating their houses and yards in tribute to Canada’s birthday.
King pointed out that virtually everyone would like to see life get back to normal, but for now all pandemic measures have to be followed to ensure everyone is safe.
Coun. Malcolm Fischer pointed out that social distancing doesn’t apply to members of the same family household, so those people wouldn’t have to social distance with each other at the event.
Coun. Scott Pfeiffer stated town staff would be on hand to guide people, the park has lots of room and it sounded like the event could go ahead.
Coun. Wayne Smith stated he agreed with Robbins’ assessment but also stated the town shouldn’t be perceived as pushing the boundaries of pandemic measures.
Mayor Sean Nolls stated as long as the town staff were counting heads and keeping track of how many people were there, things should be fine.
He stated later that it was vital to have the pandemic measures posted clearly and often at any event.
Switenky stated he wouldn’t be surprised if Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw was already thinking ahead to how Canada Day could be handled.
Coun. Al Campbell asked what would happen if Canada Day has to be cancelled at the last minute.
Robbins stated the fireworks cost about $12,000 but also stated that it should be fine to run as long as pandemic measures are strictly followed.
When asked about parking, Robbins answered that he planned to talk directly to Alberta Health Services about how parking should be handled.
Switenky suggested requesting the use of other nearby parking lots for guests if needed.
The town should get the word out to residents that Canada Day is going ahead, said Pfeiffer.
Robbins stated a publicity campaign was planned.
Barros said she was glad to hear Music in the Park could go ahead, as everyone around Stettler was looking for something to do outside of their homes.
Mayor Nolls said it sounds like Canada Day can be hosted safely in Stettler.
“I think it’s a good idea to forge ahead,” said Nolls.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter