Legion forced to cancel Canada Day festivities among pandemic, but there’s still ways to offer support

Canada Day draw going ahead so legion can continue supporting community

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Prince Albert Legion to cancel its 2020 Canada Day celebration in Kinsmen Park. In this photo from 2019, Ed Laird (right), who helped start the event in 1966, listens to local entertainment. (Herald file photo)

The Prince Albert Legion may have cancelled its Canada Day celebration this year, but it still has a lot of plans ahead for 2020 as it eyes reopening.

The only other time members have cancelled was in 2015, when raging wildfires across the north pushed many to evacuate their communities and engulfed the city in smoke.

The annual festivities on July 1 began in 1966, when it was called Dominion Day.

Jim Turner and Ed Laird, the only members at the time, started the event in Kinsmen Park.

“They said ‘You know, we’ve got to do something for the people that are in town and our kids,” said Brenda Cripps, who chairs the Canada Day event.

“They approached the legion and asked for some funding. The legion gave them $2,000 and they were able to buy food and stuff and they had kids games.”

But the intention over the years has been the same: “It was for the family.”

On average, the legion’s festivities have brought in around 1,500 people per year to enjoy food, local entertainment, bingo, sports and kids activities.

However, due to public health restrictions on large gatherings, the event can’t happen this year.

“Everyone was down about it because the last few years we’ve been getting, like I said, bigger and better with our sports and good entertainment and we’ve had good reviews,” said President Rick Hodgson.

“We have to follow the guidelines and go with it and do the safe thing for everybody.”

The cancellation gives Cripps and Hodgson all the more reason and motivation to focus on next year, making the celebration even more impactful.

But, as Hodgson explained, there’s still ways to help the legion support the community. Unlike the poppy fund, where the money must be authorized before spending, Canada Day funds go into the legion’s general account and are distributed through several initiatives.

Hodgson said they’re still able to bring in funds through their Canada Day draw, which will take place on July 1.

“We have our draw on that day for our big ticket prizes, and with this year not being able to get out and sell tickets, it’s going to be tough,” he said.

The first place prize is $3,000, second place is $2,000 and third is $1,000. To purchase tickets, contact the legion through its Facebook page or call (306) 763-7979.

Hodgson said the legion is also looking towards reopening. However, on June 8—when the province is allowing restaurants, lounges and bars to open their doors again—members have decided they’ll likely hold off.

“We’re still going to have another meeting going ahead here but we think we might delay our opening yet until July,” he said.

“If we just open up to sell alcohol or snacks behind the bar to raise money, it’s not going to be feasible, but we do want to get opened up for sure in July because we do look after all of the seniors homes around here for our Saturday suppers.”

Saturday suppers will need to adjust to COVID-19 restrictions because food is normally served buffet style, which isn’t allowed for the time being under the province’s reopening plan.

Hodgson said the legion continues to support the area’s veterans and seniors, but wants to be careful on reopening because they mostly serve a more at-risk population.