Whitehorse will not be celebrating Canada Day in the same way that has become tradition for many.
The Whitehorse Legion has cancelled the annual July 1 celebrations hosted in Shipyards Park each year with the Rotary Club of Whitehorse also cancelling its Great Yukon River Rubber Duck Race that serves as a major fundraiser for the organization.
The cancellations were announced April 27 and 28 due to COVID-19.
“Based on the current medical information on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the realization that it is not likely to resolve itself in the near future, the Whitehorse Legion has had to make the sad and realistic decision to cancel this years Canada Day celebrations in Whitehorse scheduled for July 1, 2020,” Legion president Joseph Mewett said in an April 27 statement. “There is no way of forecasting when the restrictions on travel or large in-person gatherings will be lifted, making it virtually impossible for us to plan this event.”
While the legion oversees the day’s festivities, there are a number of organizations involved in various aspects of the day.
A pancake breakfast typically kicks off the day. There’s a parade followed by the flag raising and singing of the national anthem. Performances are showcased on a main stage throughout the day along with other festivities.
Mewett highlighted health and safety as the legion’s “upmost priority”.
Amid all the Canada Day fun at Shipyards Park, the Rotary Club drops 6,500 numbered yellow rubber ducks into the Yukon River for a “race” to the finish line. The numbers correspond with tickets that were sold and those who have the tickets for the first five ducks across the finish line wins $1,000 along with receiving a plaque featuring their winning duck.
At $5 per ticket, the event serves as a major fundraiser for the organization, helping to support events like the annual Rotary Music and Dance festival.
Rotary Club president Ian McKenzie said in an April 30 interview the money that had been set to be spent this year on the 2020 festival — which was also cancelled last month — will be moved forward to 2021.
“Last month, we made the heart-breaking decision to cancel the Rotary Music and Dance Festival for the first time in over 50 years,” he said. “Now, as we see the pandemic continuing, people’s well-being and safety remains the priority. Selling the tickets and preparing the ducks and collecting them at the end of the race would be impossible under present public health and safety conditions.”
Since making the announcement, McKenzie said the organization has heard from a few supporters who are disappointed, but not surprised by the decision.
“It’s unfortunate,” McKenzie said.
Along with the annual spring music and dance festival, the Rotary Club also helps fund a number of other projects and organizations, such as the Whitehorse Food Bank which received $10,000 from the Rotary Club in March.
McKenzie said the club is hopeful residents will continue to support the fundraiser next year.
In the meantime, he said, the club is continuing plans for its annual Rotary Roses fundraiser in October.
During that fundraiser residents can order roses from the club that are then delivered just before Thanksgiving. McKenzie noted that fundraiser doesn’t involve as much interaction between people as the duck race does and it’s anticipated it will go ahead.
While Canada Day in Whitehorse will be very different this year, Mewett said the legion is working to find a way for those in Whitehorse to show their civic pride and celebrate the nation’s birthday in a safe way.
“The federal government is working on a plan to have a National Canada Day Celebration online or through some virtual form, which we will endeavour to partake in to show our Yukon pride,” he said, adding that plan will likely be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org