This weekend, Aurora families could have been sitting around the camp fire.
If you’re staying at home, you still might be able to, but the hopes of gathering with your friends and neighbours at Town Park on Friday nights this month as part of Aurora’s Friday Family Campfires received a hefty dose of cold water, leaving organizers to hope they can resume on Family Day weekend in the month ahead.
Until the recent stay-at-home orders were implemented, with further limitations on outdoor gatherings, registrants were looking forward to the free campfire series which would have been open to 10 people. Now, organizers are closely watching the numbers and further Provincial orders to keep the flame of hope alive.
“It depends on the next steps of if we go back to a grey zone, a red zone or whatever the next step is because we are willing to run the camp fires with up to ten people,” says Shelley Ware, Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Aurora. “There’s still a lot of winter left. Even though there was a plan starting on January 12 going forward for the following six weeks, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t start on February 12 and go for six weeks.”
Although the fire has gone cold, at least for now, Aurorans are keeping warm with ongoing, distanced geocaching initiatives with six ports of call dotted around Town. A great way to safely get some fresh air, new geocaches will be launched bi-weekly throughout the winter.
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt where participants use GPS to find marked destinations. A recent location has been Sheppard’s Bush, which has, according to the Town, been rated a 1.5/5 on the difficulty scale – just as a warm-up. For more information, and specific adventures, visit aurora.ca/geocaching.
“Our geocaching adventures are really picking up huge participation, which is really nice to see,” says Ms. Ware. “It has always been a passion of mine. The thing I find most appealing is it is a global experience that we can all experience wherever we are. Now, with our current circumstances and the way that we are socializing and gathering, geocaching seems like a really good fit because it can be done safely and follows the guidelines set up by the Government of getting daily exercise. We’re going to share these stories and experiences. We actually had two grandparents who went geocaching because their grandchildren told them about it. Different families got to have the same experience at different times and were able to share the common elements of that.”
Who knows, future geocaching quests might take you to Town Park over the Family Day weekend.
In normal circumstances, Town Park is teeming with people on Family Day itself for Aurora’s popular Arctic Adventure day. Although these gatherings won’t be taking place this year, adventures have been tailored for the virtual realm.
“When we looked at planning Aurora’s Arctic Adventure, we really wanted to plan many adventures to make up for the whole and spread it and span it across the whole Family Day weekend,” says Ms. Ware. “Now we’re focused on two categories of experiences: distanced activities and virtual activities.”
In addition to geocaching, another activity that falls under the “distanced activities” banner is a reconfiguration of the Battle of the Chainsaws. Rather than seeing ice carvers compete in person for chilly supremacy, ice sculptures will be created by artists on their own and displayed in a local park, where families can take in their creations safely and on their own time.
Family favourites, such as the Speaking of Wildlife presentation will be performing live over Zoom to make the experience as interactive as possible. Magicians will not only be performing virtual shows, but virtual lessons as well so kids can wow their parents and friends with the sleight of hand they picked up. Cooking demonstrations focused on “comfort food with a twist” will also unspool online, as will six different paint night sessions – including a couples’ paint night just in time for Valentine’s Day.
New virtual elements include a “Critter Storytime” with stories about animals being read alongside the real thing.
“I feel like we have pulled out every possible stop we could in creating different experiences virtually for this event,” says Ms. Ware. “Each of our events in 2020, there was always a virtual element, whether it was a livestream or an online experience. Perhaps some of these adventures might not have been what you thought you were going to do for the Family Day long weekend 2021, but you try it out of curiosity and it ends up being, hopefully, a very worthwhile experience.
“If we are permitted to, we will immediately jump into Family Campfires on Family Day weekend, but we have to wait until the announcement is made. We’re just going to be ready to pivot and if we get the chance to maximize and build on that, we’re ready to pounce!”
For more, visit aurora.ca.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran