People gather at Kin Beach to watch the Canada Day fireworks Saturday, July 1, 2017. Despite strong winds that night, the display went off without a hitch. (Parker Crook - Morning Star file photo)

COLUMN: A Canada Day to remember

COVID-19 has stopped summer plans in their tracks as we hunker down inside our homes and maintain physical distance from our communities to ensure the safety and well-being of loved ones, neighbours and strangers.

Typically, July 1 is a time for massive community gatherings, tasty treats and meats from the barbecue, live music and ,of course, fireworks.

I have always been fascinated by the loud bangs, booms and cracks as colours explode in the night sky to mark Canada’s birthday.

Growing up in Calgary, I would scout out a spot near the Centre Street Bridge in Chinatown among thousands of celebrators, as we watched the colours light up the cityscape and reflect off the waters of the Bow River.

Following the showcase, I’d have to navigate the sea of people as we twisted and turned through the streets of Calgary’s downtown core to the closest watering hole or wherever the next destination may be.

Hoots and hollers would echo off the skyscrapers and motorists’ horns would perform a symphony of impatience as the backing track to the stampede.

Last year, following an eight-hour drive, I raced to Kelowna – where I was living at the time – to catch the fireworks display over Okanagan Lake.

As a recent import, I had no one to go with, but that didn’t stop me from donning my red and white gear and high-fiving strangers surrounding the beaches and sitting on The Sails sculpture. That’s something that will be missing this year.

Although 2020 will be a little dimmer without the lights and sounds of the fireworks displays, it doesn’t mean this holiday will go unnoticed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all municipalities and organizers to think outside the box, to offer their communities some sense of normalcy in a time where that is hard to come by.

The North Okanagan Canada Day Society (NOCDS), having planned events for Canada Day celebrations in the Greater Vernon Area for several years, has really pulled through with new and exciting ways to mark the day, and I can’t wait to partake in the fun.

The society is hosting several decorating contests throughout Vernon for residents, business owners and children to show their patriotism. Remember to submit your decorating contest photos to the NOCDS Facebook or by emailing nocds.1867@gmail.com by June 28 for consideration by the judges!

Society members will be active on their Facebook page and website throughout the day to help celebrate from afar, so be sure to post your pictures and share on social media how you are celebrating the day.

I, for one, will have my bicycle decked out and be oozing Canadian pride.

At 9 p.m., in place of the fireworks, NOCDS is encouraging all residents to get outside and make some noise for our country. Whether that’s smacking some pots and pans together or simply hooting and hollering, let’s all get out there and celebrate together – while apart.

I will be tuning into 107.5 Beach Radio at that time, as the local station airs our national anthem.

Even though we can’t be together to celebrate, our community’s creativity, flexibility and endurance will shine through in a year that no one will soon forget.

Thank you to NOCDS and supporting community partners for providing us this opportunity to celebrate.

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