The skies of Calgary will once again be lit up when GlobalFest's International Fireworks Festival kicks off Thursday night in Elliston Park.
The festival is back after being cancelled last year because of COVID-19 — but it will look a little different, said Ken Goosen, chief operating officer of GlobalFest.
Though teams from China, India, Japan and the Philippines will still competing to see who can put on the best display of light and sound, the artists themselves won't be here. Usually the designers and their assistants — two or three people — put on their productions in person.
This year, though they're in different countries, the designers are still the resource to bring the show together.
"COVID's allowed us all to become experts in Zoom and in Google Meet and stuff like that. And so if we have any questions, we're able to just dial them in," said Goosen. "They're as close to being here without being here, but they've still done the designs."
Goosen said it's part of several changes to the festival to minimize "the things that we just felt were not really safe to do."
Bouncy houses, beer gardens and any other place where people might cluster — all closed.
But the festival has added a lot. In the past, it's had two stages with multicultural performances. This year, there will be four.
In a normal year, the firework shows can use up to 12-inch shells — the biggest that are legally allowed in Canada — that will fly more than 1,000 feet into the air before breaking.
Because COVID limited what factories are able to produce, GlobalFest has reduced the size of shells used to six inches, which still create quite the spectacle. And using the smaller shells has created more space, said Goosen.
"It's opened up an entire south side of the park that we've never been able to use before," he said. "For those people who really like fireworks, you get up close and personal. You're still really safe, but you can get up close to the fireworks so you can see what's going on as they're blasting off."
Some COVID restrictions in place
The festival will still be offering a shuttle service from Marlborough Mall for $6, which gets you to the park and back. Masks must be worn on the shuttle and in line to get into the park, where COVID screening will be taking place.
After that, 80 per cent of the park is mask optional, and in two areas, masks are mandatory.
"We're just asking everybody to really be respectful," said Goosen. "We have a lot of families who bring their younger children. Those kids haven't been vaccinated."
He said it's important to have GlobalFest this year, even if it is a little different.
"This has been a tremendously difficult year for many of our diverse communities," said Goosen.
"There's been a lot of blame [and] hate regarding COVID. And as a multinational city with residents from all over the world, our mandate is about cultural engagement, about really building bridges amongst cultures.
"For us, it was really important to help break some of that down to say, you know, we can be a resilient community, but we need to be a community together."
With files from The Homestretch.