British Columbia

Metro Vancouver's Canada Day celebrations move online and into cars

Canada's 153rd birthday is being celebrated in strange new ways thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Country's 153rd birthday marked in new and unique ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Celebrating Canada Day in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic means never leaving your car. (CBC)

Canada's 153rd birthday will likely go down in history as one that felt anything but festive thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down almost all events and traditional fireworks displays.

But in Vancouver, organizers at the Pacific National Exhibition managed to buck the trend of moving Canada Day parties online by staging a rare live celebration — albeit one where revellers had to stay in their cars.

The Taste of the PNE drive-thru advertised itself as "our country's only Canada Day parade."

For $10 a car, people in the same COVID-19 bubble were invited to roll through the Pacific Coliseum and PNE grounds to take in a logger sports show and other Canadian-themed performances while, of course, snacking on fair staples like corn dogs, cotton candy and lemonade.

Spokesperson Laura Ballance said the event could accommodate close to 4,000 vehicles total. She expected it to be close to a sellout by day's end. 

A minivan full of revellers take in the logger sports show in the Pacific Coliseum during the PNE's 2020 Canada Day parade. (CBC )

"It really has been a special day so far," she said. "So many people have decorated their cars. Virtually in every car people are waving Canadian flags."

Beside the opportunity to get in the Canada Day spirit, Ballance said the event is providing much needed income to performers and concessionaires who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

"The owner of the logger sports team said this is their one day of work for the entire year. They came from Vancouver Island to be here today. And many of the concessionaire families are really struggling," she said.

In Surrey, Canada Day celebrations moved online, with the main event on Facebook and YouTube at 6-9 p.m. PT.

Virtual Surrey Canada Day will be hosted by Hayley Wickenheiser and features a raft of performers including 54-40, Alex Cuba, Bif Naked, Vancity Bhangra and the Wild Moccasin Dancers.

Members of the Surrey City Orchestra, which was supposed to appear live before the pandemic cancelled the celebration, will also perform.

The Surrey City Orchestra, conducted by Stuart Martin, performs O Canada virtually. (Surrey City Orchestra/YouTube)

A week ago conductor Stuart Martin took to his backyard by himself to lead the orchestra in an online version of O Canada.

"On this particular day, I had a neighbour peek over the fence trying to figure out what I was doing,'' said Martin. "It's an amusing thing to watch, but when the video's all together it actually kind of looks like an orchestra. It was pretty neat.''

"Overall, as distinct as Canada Day is going to be this year, I think connecting virtually is something that we're all really starting to enjoy and really starting to cherish,'' he said.

"This is just kind of an extended version of a Zoom meeting.''

Most Metro Vancouver municipalities are staging some sort of virtual celebration in place of regular live Canada Day events, including Coquitlam, Richmond and New Westminster.

With files from Canadian Press

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