With COVID-19 restricting the number of people at local events, organizers are looking at innovative ways such as drive-through or boat-in events as a way of hosting cultural activities around Huntsville.
Katie Love, sales coordinator for the municipality, stated that the Town’s community services department in collaboration with the Huntsville Festival of the Arts is looking at “how to best rebuild the slow and safe re-emergence of culture for the community.”
Two events currently in the works which would be held on municipal property involve a movie at the Town Docks and a drive-through Rib Fest at the Canada Summit Centre, council heard at its June 24 electronic meeting.
A free screening of the movie Titanic is being planned. “The film will be shown under the open skies on a one-sided screen set atop floating docks provided by NyDock/Pipefusion. The audience would watch from their boat only, with physical distancing the boats six feet apart. The proposed location, currently under review, would be at the Town Docks (screen facing Boston Pizza to avoid gatherings on the dock) with proposal date of August 1, 2020 at 9:00 pm-11:30 pm,” noted Love in a report to council.
Permissions are also being sought by Rib Fest organizers with the venue changing to a drive-through format. It would be held at the Canada Summit Centre.
“Rib meals would be brought to car trunks and/or back seats. Car idling would be kept to a minimum and traffic could exit directly back onto Brunel Road. People will be encouraged to stay in cars, however port-a-potty washrooms will be available that will be cleaned and sanitized as per guidelines,” wrote Love in her report. “The people cooking the ribs would be physically distancing and be trained and wearing all required personal protective equipment and would be health screened prior to employment each day. There would be no handling of cash and a hockey stick would be used to provide debit and charge to and from cars.”
Love said the dates requested for the event are Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25, 2020.
Organizers for a third event mentioned in Love’s report for a drive-through concert where patrons would tune in on radios have decided to host the event at the Huntsville Fairgrounds instead, she noted.
Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe applauded the initiatives and said he looks forward to similar examples of cultural events that establish a community sense of place.
“I think the municipalities that do it well and really keep that idea of sense of place at the heart of their decisions, especially in the next six months or so, are going to be the ones that really come out maybe even stronger than before,” said Wiebe.
Mayor Karin Terziano spoke to the Rib Fest event and asked who the suppliers for the ribs would be. “I’m just thinking in terms of are these local businesses, or are we bringing in somebody that’s going to be competing with our local businesses who are already struggling?”
Love said she would have to get those details and noted that the report was a preliminary one to ensure council agrees with the type of events being planned.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock suggested that perhaps this year a local marché could be held instead of a Rib Fest, featuring food from local restaurants and food vendors. “This will support our local people and I think that, from my perspective, should be the number one priority for this year.”
Councillor Jason FitzGerald agreed but also reminded council that such events are generally held by community service groups and charitable organizations that have limited ways to raise funds that go back into the community. “So be careful how we focus on only one sector. We have [a] responsibility to everyone in our community,” he said.
Love noted later in the meeting that while the Lions Club was involved with the last Rib Fest, this time around the event was being organized by a private entity.
“I was not aware that it was just a private enterprise that was trying to come into town, so I don’t think I can support that,” added FitzGerald, who also noted that he too would be in favour of a marché featuring food from local businesses struggling during COVID-19.
Councillor Brian Thompson also said he liked the idea and suggested that council could put out a challenge out to a local charity to organize such an event.
Director of community services for the municipality, Lorrie O’Brien, said in speaking with the event organizer one of the things he stressed is that Ontario pork farmers are really suffering. “Many Rib Fests throughout Ontario have been cancelled and so the pork farmers themselves would see this as a good thing to support.”
O’Brien said there’s really no reason to deny the request as it meets the Province’s stage 2 opening approach, it does not conflict with another local event, nor does it preclude other events, such as a local marché, from being organized.
“I think maybe what I’m hearing here is if this is a local organization or a local non-profit organization, they have our support. If it’s maybe a private organization from outside our municipality, maybe we should have more information,” said Terziano.
Huntsville CAO, Denise Corry, said under normal circumstances staff would simply grant approval through the municipality’s permitting system which is based on policy approved by council, but because of restrictions surrounding the pandemic, it was brought before council to ensure that they are in concurrence with the type of events planned, which would attract people to certain locations.
“With respect to is it a local business or not, that is a bit of a slippery slope.” Corry said it is illegal in Ontario to give permission to one business over another over where they are from geographically.
Councillor Dione Schumacher said it’s a short event and a way to provide the community with something to do which is different from what they’ve been doing for the last few months and still be able to socially distance and follow the provincial guidelines.
Wiebe said he hopes the events go forward and anyone else thinking of organizing events within the provincial guideline steps forward with their plans. “I hope that we have more of these events and I hope these are one of those things that helps us get back to things feeling a little more normal.”
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