It wasn’t a Remembrance Day service like people are accustomed to seeing, but the Estevan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion still found a way to host a ceremony this year.
The event was held outdoors at the city’s cenotaph on Nov. 11, with a small number of people gathered to honour those who have served their country in various combat missions, peacekeeping efforts and at other times in Canada’s history.
The ceremony was filmed and livestreamed so that people could watch it from home, and so that the legion could meet COVID-19 restrictions.
This year marked the first time in more than 50 years that the service was held outdoors. The Estevan Comprehensive School, the traditional site of the ceremony since the early 1970s, was not available.
“I think it went over very well,” said Troy LeBlanc, the chairperson for Estevan’s Remembrance Day service. “As always, I’m very proud of the city of Estevan for their ongoing support for our veterans. As I always say, we will remember them.”
People were understanding that the legion couldn’t have their tradition Remembrance Day service at the Comp that would attract hundreds of people.
“It was apparent with our small turnout today that everybody did enjoy it here, but hopes is that we’ll be able to do our normal program again next year,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc reiterated his previous statements that the legion was going to find a way to have a service. Other communities also found ways to have something, with a few people in attendance and a digital broadcast.
“There was no way we would not have a service today, one way or another, even if there was only five of us. We would make sure that some form of remembrance would be done today.”
This year’s service did have many of the features of past years, with prayers and music. There was the Last Post, two minutes of silence and Reville. John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Field was read out.
But traditional features such as a guest speaker did not happen this year. And the wreaths were placed at the cenotaph before the service began, rather than during the wreath-laying ceremony.
Representatives of a few organizations in the community were able to attend to silently acknowledge those who served during the cenotaph ceremony.
People who attended braved sub-zero temperatures. A moderate breeze blew during the ceremony.
LeBlanc said they would like to move back to an indoor service because it’s climate controlled, and they can accommodate more people.
“We don’t have the capacity here on Fourth Street, unless we were to block off the main drag, and I don’t think we would want to do that,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc noted there was a technical problem with the live stream on the Facebook page at the last minute, as their computers shut down due to the cold. They were able to upload it later so that the public could enjoy it.
Later in the day, the bells at St. Giles Anglican Church rang 75 times to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, which was earlier this year. A few members of the legion gathered at the cenotaph to listen to the bells.
A digital poppy drop was shown on the cenotaph.
And the multimedia presentation that has aired at the Remembrance Day service in previous years was shown at the Power Dodge Curling Centre building. The presentation has photos of people from the Estevan area who have served their country, with old-time music playing in the background.