Living Skies Come Alive in doubt for second year due to pandemic restrictions

·4 min read

Usually every summer people come from across southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba for a fireworks spectacle at Moosomin Regional Park. There’s tens of thousands of people, food and drink, bands performing, and of course, the fireworks.

The Living Skies Come Alive International Fireworks Competition is a beloved event in Canada and draws competitors from all over the globe, as far as China and the Philippines—it’s the largest event in southeast Saskatchewan.

It’s a world-class competition that’s on the same level as some of the best international fireworks competitions. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours are invested into the competition each year with it all coming together as the fireworks mesmerize over Moosomin Lake.

From the competitors to the planners to the performers to the vendors to all the spectators it draws, it’s one of the most important weekends of the year for the local economy.

In 2020, the event had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic restricting gathering sizes and international travel—it would have been the 11th year of the fireworks in Moosomin.

For the second straight summer, the competition looks unlikely to go forward.

Although August is still months away, preparation for such a large event begins early and Karen Hebert, head of the fireworks committee, says that without knowing what will be allowed down the road, there’s just no way of planning such a substantial gathering.

“Until we can gather a large amount of people it’s just definitely not an option,” she said. “Our crowds are in the thousands so whenever the guidelines open up, is when we’ll be able to look at something like this, but until then, it’s definitely not an option at all. For now it’s off the table unless things open up, I can’t see that happening.”

Another factor working against the event right now is that it’s an international competition and non-essential travel is not recommended, meaning any competition would need to be strictly Canadian.

“With the parameters that are in place right now, I just can’t see things being able to open up enough and then also even if we could gather people, would we have to have two Canadian companies? Because do you want to bring other countries in? And with the travel restrictions, at this point in time it’s not an option.”

Hebert doesn’t believe any fireworks event will be able to happen this summer based on how things are looking in Canada with the slow rollout of the vaccine and says all they can do is sit and wait with no control over what’s to come.

“There’s really nothing we can do about it and at this point in time,” she said. “I can’t see the fireworks being able to happen in 2021 unless some major changes happen, but the way we’re going right now and with the lack of vaccines, I just can’t see things opening up very much.”

Alternate options for the event are under consideration if things open up more, but it’s a logistically tough situation to work with, says Hebert.

“Our main fireworks contact with the Canadian company is Peter (Palmer of CanFire Pyrotechnics) and he called me last fall hoping we could do something smaller, but at that time people would have had to drive in and park somewhere to see it and we don’t have a facility in order to handle that,” she said.

The best chance of a fireworks show for this summer at Moosomin Lake would be if gathering restrictions open up and a smaller scale event is possible within the guidelines.

“If we can host something then we’d for sure look into that,” she said. “We’ve discussed different options, but until we can actually gather people, none of those can be planned out.”

In a normal situation, nearly a full year of planning goes into the competition to ensure entertainment, vendors, and competitions are set, but given the circumstances, the committee hasn’t been able to do anything in preparation for the summer of 2021.

“We would have already started planning,” she said. “Once we put the previous year’s to bed, we’d maybe take the rest of the month off and then we’d start again by September to get ready for the next year. We need to book our bands and entertainment and all of that stuff so we would have already had a lot of prep work done at this point in time.”

At this point, Hebert doesn’t even think 2022 is a sure thing for the fireworks competition because of all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and nobody knowing what the “new normal” will look like as the world recovers from Covid-19.

“This is just the reality of our new Covid life,” she said. “What are they going to do for large concerts and large gatherings of people? I don’t know when that will return or what that could even look like in the future. Nobody can really say anything, we really know nothing.”

Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator