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Lions suspend Canada Day plans for Port Dover

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The fate of a long-standing local tradition hangs in the balance with word the Port Dover Lions have backed away from organizing a Canada Day parade for July 1.

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The reason cited is public-health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic alert.

If Canada Day comes and goes without a calithumpian parade, it will end Port Dover’s uninterrupted string of July 1 parades since the first Dominion Day was proclaimed in 1867. Port Dover is the only community in Canada that can lay claim to that distinction.

The cancellation includes suspension of planning for the Canada Day boat parade at the waterfront, the soap box derby on Chapman Street East, the dog show in Powell Park, and the evening concert and fireworks display at Silver Lake Park.

“Today marks a difficult decision for the Lions,” Paul Boulanger, president of the service club, said in a news release.

“Each year, we look forward to providing opportunities to bring the community together. Unfortunately, with the uncertainty that remains, we regretfully had no choice but to cancel these summer events. The amount of planning and resources that go into each of these events make it very difficult for us to continue to delay in making this decision. It’s a sad day for all of those involved.”

Vittoria Coun. Chris Van Paassen said the decision is regrettable but understandable.

“It is rather disappointing,” Van Paassen said. “That’s been a legacy since Confederation. It’s always been there.

“But people don’t realize the work the Lions put into it. It’s going to disappoint a lot of people. But the Lions need to do what they need to do.”

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The COVID-19 virus causes serious respiratory illness and is highly contagious. Public health officials at all levels are advising social distancing.

“Not being able to celebrate with our community will not be easy,” Boulanger says. “However, the club will use this time to make these annual events bigger and better in 2021. We eagerly look forward to re-connecting with our community.”

The Port Dover Lions may have stepped away from organizing the Canada Day event, but Van Paassen holds out hope that the health emergency might abate in time for the community to stage something informal and keep the uninterrupted string of parades in Port Dover intact.

“Let’s wait and see if something can be thrown together at the last minute,” Van Paassen said. “I have faith in the ability of the residents of Norfolk County to think outside the box and get things done.

“We’ll see what’s happening June 30. Someone might just slap a flag on a car and drive it down Main Street.”

The Lions’ announcement included word that their 68th annual Fish Fry & Not a Stag has also been cancelled. The fry was originally scheduled for June 6 but re-scheduled to Aug. 15 due to the pandemic alert.

Also suspended till further notice are the Lions’ Monday-night Show and Shine events in Port Dover. The car shows were scheduled to begin this spring May 25.

The Lions’ dramatic actions raise questions about the biggest local tradition of them all – the Norfolk County Fair. The agricultural fair and horse show has been held every year in Simcoe since 1840. Planning is underway for the 180th edition of the fair this fall.

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George Araujo, general manager of the fall classic, addressed the question in a news release. As it stands, Araujo said, it remains all systems go for this October.

“Although our annual fair is still 24 weeks away, we are deeply saddened by the direct and sudden impact of the virus on so many of our county’s vibrant festivals, events, attractions and businesses, and (we) will be reaching out to help where we can,” Araujo says.

“We remain optimistic — and have the utmost confidence in Norfolk and the effort to flatten the spread of this virus — that soon we will be able to come together again to enjoy all that our great community has to offer, including the 180-year tradition that is the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show.”

The Norfolk County Fair is the fourth largest community exhibition in Ontario with annual attendance of more than 120,000.

Araujo says he and the fair’s management team are in regular contact with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit as they monitor the spread of COVID-19 and local efforts to bring the pathogen under control.

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