Lamenting the loss of summer events

Those of us who have lived in southeast Saskatchewan for a long time know that there’s no shortage of great events every summer.

It seems like most communities have something. Many of them will have their big event on Canada Day, and Canada’s 153rd birthday was shaping up to be a great celebration.

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Many of those events have been cancelled.

But regardless of whether it’s a city like Estevan, or a tiny village, communities give their residents something to look forward to each year between the Victoria Day long weekend in May and the Labour Day long weekend in September.

These events not only provide a great event for people to gather together and have a fun time and often raise money for valuable organizations in the community, but they are a celebration of that community and the dedication of volunteers.

I’ve been in Estevan for nearly 20 years. I’ve been to a lot of great summer events, and I was really looking forward to this summer.

For the first time since I’ve been here, the Estevan Fair and Rodeo were going to be held on the same weekend. Adding to the excitement was a concert with Gord Bamford and Jess Moskaluke, among others, and the second year of the Estevan Sings competition.

The Estevan Motor Speedway was going to host a weekend double-header for the Dakota Classic Modified Tour for the first time. And the Rafferty Rumble, which is well-positioned to be the party of the summer in Estevan each year – and the summer festival that many of us have been longing for – was going to be back for Year No. 2.

None of these events will happen this year.

The Oxbow Bow Valley Jamboree, Stoughton Daze, Midale Pioneer Echoes Weekend and the Lampman Sports Weekend have also been cancelled, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s tough to know these events won’t happen. I feel sad because I won’t be able to cover them. But most of all, I feel horrible for the volunteers and the people who put these events on.

Most of these events are volunteer driven. They pour their hearts into these celebrations, dedicate many hours and hope they will be supported.

The Estevan Exhibition Association spent more than two decades listening to people talk about how the fair and rodeo should be on the same weekend. Most people didn’t realize how difficult it would be to reunite the fair and rodeo. But the exhibition association made it work. And they’re going to have to wait one more year for it to happen.

These events create a buzz in their communities, and generate a considerable economic spinoff, with people staying overnight in the hotels, eating in restaurants, filling up their vehicles at service stations, taking a look at what’s to offer at downtown merchants, and doing other things that benefit local economies.

They dispel the myth there’s nothing to do in small-town Saskatchewan.

We’re seeing people adapt. That’s what smart people do. We’ve seen events go digital, such as concerts and art shows. Justin LaBrash and his band had a drive-in concert in Lampman earlier this month. Grad ceremonies, which are another big event in any small town or city, have gone virtual, with videos and tributes to the kids who comprised the graduation class. (It’s not just Grade 12s, either; we’ve seen similar concepts for Grade 8 grads).

We saw the community get behind the fantastic Grad Cruise organized for the Estevan Comprehensive School’s Class of 2020.

It`s hard enough when you organize an event, and it doesn`t work out because people just weren`t interested, or maybe it fell on a bad weekend. But it`s really tough when it doesn`t happen because of a situation beyond your control.

Ultimately, we have to be smart. We can’t afford to tempt fate with an event, and then have it lead to an outbreak of a virus that has strickened and killed hundreds of thousands of people. We’ve had reminders of that reality in this province a couple of times this month.

And we only need to look to our neighbours south of the border to see what happens when people don’t take this as seriously as they should.

We’ll get through this. These events will happen one day. We’ll be able to gather and dance and sing and eat together and have a great time.

We’ll be able to showcase our communities, our hospitality and our wonderful volunteer spirit.

We’ll be able to attend concerts in more conventional settings, watch summer blockbusters at our local movie theatre and converge at Mosaic Stadium to cheer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

It just won’t be this summer.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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