Summertime throughout Canada is when people take in the warmth of the outdoors as they celebrate the season’s festivals in their localities. This year however, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also made casualties of those summer festivals.
In Steinbach, the province’s third largest city and home to roughly 2,000 kababayans, the third weekend of June is when the city traditionally celebrates Summer in the City, its premiere festival that features local arts and entertainment. Main Street is transformed into a fairground that includes amusement park rides, art tents for children, sporting demos, a variety of food trucks, and much more. At sunset, the main stage becomes a concert venue for musical headliners invited from across Canada.
But because of health and safety concerns of coronavirus transmission in such a large outdoor gathering that typically attracts thousands of festival-goers, there was little surprise that the event was cancelled as early as mid-April. Speaking as a guest on the June 25 episode of the Barangay Canada vodcast, Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk explained that more significant than the revenue loss of the event’s cancellation was losing the opportunity for residents to re-connect with one another after being apart during wintertime. “There’s not a price tag that you can put on that,” the Mayor emphasized.
A similar story unfolded in the Town of Altona, home of Manitoba’s Sunflower Festival. The town earned its title as Canada’s Sunflower Capital from its annual event held in the last weekend of July. Ever since 1964, the Sunflower Festival has been entertaining residents and visitors alike with its vibrant and colourful activities and attractions. In early May however, the anticipated cancellation was announced. In fact, the town was also slated to celebrate its 125th founding anniversary on June 27, with celebrations planned to piggyback on Manitoba’s own 150th anniversary, but the pandemic yet again put the kibosh on both events.
Guesting on the June 18 episode of the Barangay Canada vodcast, Altona Mayor Al Friesen reminded that their increasingly popular Sunflower Selfie Plot will remain open to visitors starting in mid-July, and their outdoor Aquatic Centre will be open to visitors from all over. He also mentioned that although the Sunflower Festival was cancelled, the Festival Queen Pageant is pushing through by shifting to a virtual format on its website at https://manitobasunflowerfestival.ca.
For their parting massage, both Mayors Funk and Friesen encouraged disappointed residents and festival-goers to look at the silver lining. The two community leaders expressed optimism that because the festivals were cancelled this year, the enthusiasm that will be built up will make next year’s festivals even more special.
Kris Ontong is the co-Founder of the Barangay Canada media project and is a finalist in the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards for 2020