COVID causes different look for Canada Day

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Canada Day may look a little different this year as public health restrictions continue to limit gatherings, but one way Hintonites will be celebrating is with a drive-in movie theatre.

The Hinton & District Chamber of Commerce will not be moving forward with the Canada Day Parade, the Town does not have the staff capacity for fireworks and a pancake breakfast, and the Föhn Festival was also cancelled.

“It will be a very different year for our community without the Föhn and the Parade,” said Natalie Charlton, executive director of the Hinton & District Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, organizers of the Föhn Festival, a number of community members, and a few local businesses put their heads together to come up with a different way to celebrate Canada’s birthday while keeping in line with the COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead of a festival featuring different bites from across the globe, organizers are bringing a double-header drive-in movie event to Hinton on June 30 and July 1.

When the provincial government announced that gatherings up to 100 people were permitted outdoors, the Föhn Fest committee wanted to try and provide some type of celebration for the community.

While there won’t be live entertainment and cultural vendors in the regular Föhn Fest format,  Morgan Roberts, 2020 Chairperson of the Föhn Fest committee, said they were very happy to be able to do something that will work within COVID parameters and provide a fun family value to residents.

A 50 foot screen and transmitter in the parking lot of the Big Rock Dodge dealership will broadcast Top Gun and The Goonies on June 30 and Toy Story 4 and Dirty Dancing on July 1.

Roberts added that it was hard to pick movies within the short time frame since the province announced the larger gathering limit.

Through an online poll, committee members selected a number of films that residents in Hinton wanted to watch. One of the highest requests was for the Jurassic Park Movies, unfortunately these movies are very dark and due to the nature of an outdoor movie it’s difficult to see dark movies from a far distance.

The chosen movies are more colourful options for a better viewing experience. 

“Now if this continues to be as popular as it appears to be then I hope there is a group in town that wants to maybe take over and do more of these because it does seem like a fun community event,” Roberts said.

Roberts noted that the Town of Edson recently held a drive-in movie event that was successful and received a lot of positive feedback.

“The idea that other municipalities are already taking those steps, we figured this is something that should be explored,” Roberts said.

She added that the local health inspector has been helpful in providing information and resources for the committee to make sure the event falls in line with new standards. 

There will be some food vendors on site, but organizers are still working out logistics around that.

The Hinton & District Chamber of Commerce has also come on board and, in lieu of the usual parade, is hosting a car decorating contest as part of the event. Those attending the drive-in movie are encouraged to decorate their vehicles for Canada Day.

The contest will only be for the July 1 movie night, when Chamber volunteers will come around and judge everyone who has decorated their vehicles at the event in celebration of Canada Day. 

Winners will be announced at 10 pm with prizes available for first, second and third place.

“We are hoping that people will come with their vehicles decorated with balloons, banners, flags, etc. Anything goes, and it is just meant to be fun and to help celebrate Canada Day,” said Charlton.

Gift cards from local businesses will be presented as prizes in lieu of trophies in order to help keep some dollars in the community.

All vehicles will be removed from the lot and the screen will be placed up against the building and raised on top of a flat deck in order to get some extra height for better viewing. The first showing will start at dusk and the second showing will happen around midnight, Roberts added.

“It is first come, first served, that’s important. The gates will open at 8:30 pm, they will be able to line up to fill those slots,” Roberts said.

Volunteers will place vehicles where they best fit and some of the larger vehicles may be placed further back to allow for the best viewing experience for as many people as possible.

While the drive-in movie event will be free for the public to enjoy, 100 per cent of the benefits will go towards a local family, the Cudmores.

Donations will be accepted at the gates and given directly to the Cudmores, who are in need of some help due to a medical emergency. 

“We’re really happy to be able to tie in supporting a local family and really in its inception, the Föhn Fest has always been about helping out those in the community,” she said. 

For a number of years, the Nepal group that used to have a cultural vendor tent at Föhn Fest, raised money for an orphanage in Nepal. 

“It has always been a way for the community to get together and give back and to really understand the faces in our community and celebrate the diversity,” Roberts added. 

Last year, organizers made donations to the food bank through the free train ride that was available in a large circuit around green square.

This year would have been the 14th Föhn Festival in Hinton and its organizers are proud to be able to host another event this year.

“I know it’s not exactly what we would normally do but it is still a way for Canadians and for Hintonites to come out and celebrate six feet apart, together,” Roberts said.

Without the impact of the pandemic this year, Roberts believed they likely would’ve had a record number of attendees to the Föhn Festival.

When July 1 lands on a weekday, there is usually a larger turnout because locals don’t leave to go somewhere on the weekend or attend the annual ball tournament that happens on the Canada Day weekend.

Roberts stated that the volunteer committee is already brainstorming on new and exciting things for the 2021 festival. 

“Some ideas being discussed include adding an additional day to the festival, larger open air markets and as always a proud representation of the cultures that make up the beautiful fabric of our country,” Roberts said.

All movies will take place at the Big Rock Dodge lot at 186 Tocher Ave, Hinton.

Gates open at 8:30 pm and attendance will be first come first serve.

The committee is still searching for volunteers and welcome anyone interested in joining the committee, contact Morgan Roberts at (780) 740-4725.