COVID-19 has been a drag. The constant news of death, illness and the toll taken worldwide can be overwhelmingly grim. We must pay attention to it, of course, but let’s think about something we haven’t likely thought much about lately – parties.
By the end of the fall, we will have lost most of the Trout Festival (which was supposed to be a big anniversary celebration this year), much of graduation season, the entirety of Blueberry Jam and a good chunk out of other events including Flin Flon Pride. Depending on how the disease is handled, we could see some autumn traditions like Culture Days be impacted, too. Other events like the Roller Goodwin have been outright cancelled.
All this has me thinking one thing - when COVID-19 is gone, a vaccine is found and we can return to our mundane lives, Flin Flon will need one thing: a block party.
Even during the celebrations we’ve had, there’s been an undercurrent of fear. What if someone here is sick? Don’t get close to anybody. Oh no, the person next to me coughed - I better back away. What can I do? Am I doing everything right?
All those things we know and love about Flin Flon livin’ - campfires, parties on the back deck to the bush to someone’s garage and everywhere in between – have been impacted in some way. Summer road trips have been kiboshed. Fishing and fun outdoors is fine, but there’s still that nagging fear.
Long periods of fear and uncertainty inspire apathy. It’s logical at first – if everything I care about sucks and makes me feel bad, surely I’ll feel better (or at least less bad) if I stop caring, right?
Flin Flon has an uncertain future. Hudbay still plans to shut the mine down in less than two years. Nothing the company has looked at right now has proven feasible. There’s surely still ore in the ground, but we don’t know if a mining company will find pulling it out of the ground up here worth its while. Flin Flon could look very different in 2023.
The last thing this community can afford to do is give up. The best parts of our community come from people who give a rat’s ass, even if they don’t need to. Did the Kolts have to do everything they’ve done with the arts? No. Did the organizers of Blueberry Jam need to bring the festival here? Not really. Do we need a festival every year celebrating one fish that isn’t even the fish most of us locals enjoy the most?
This isn’t about need. It’s about want. It’s about fun, entertainment – something that makes Flin Flon worth living in.
Without things like this, Flin Flon becomes just another mosquito pit or a ghost town. Nobody wants to live in a place where all you ever do is wake up, go to work, go home and play out the clock until you can fall asleep and do it again tomorrow. A town like that isn’t worth living in.
We have to prove to ourselves that COVID-19 and everything around it hasn’t broken us. It won’t be immediately, but someday, we’ll have the chance to live freely and celebrate again, to say to the world and say out loud to life, “We’re still here, dammit.” If we’re here and COVID-19 isn’t, then we ought to celebrate that.
Now I must be clear – I’m not proposing we do this right now. Yes, we haven’t had a case of COVID-19 for more than three months up here. Big whoop. It only takes one person to ruin that streak and create an outbreak.
During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, more than one public event or parade was held prematurely, leading to a giant spike in cases and deaths. The most famous example of this would be the Liberty Loans Parade in Philadelphia, meant to promote government war bonds. It raised a ton of money for the war effort, but not long after, many of the 200,000 people who went to the parade started feeling sick.
Long story short, nearly 50,000 people got sick with the Spanish flu, with about 12,000 people dying. So many people died after the parade that over a thousand people weren’t immediately buried – people were dying faster than labourers could dig graves.
Philly flattened the curve – it went from being a curve to a straight line upward.
That’s why I’m suggesting that, for this massive shindig, that we wait for a widespread thumbs-up. Wait for a vaccine. Wait for the “all clear”. Wait a couple weeks to make sure the “all clear” wasn’t given too early, George W. Bush “Mission Accomplished” style. Start the planning. Burn the midnight oil. Give double middles to the disease, to that feeling of fear.
When that day comes, let’s get the damn party started. Trout Festival, Blueberry Jam, Culture Days, Pride, safe grad and all the others rolled into one. Take the week off work. Bonfire at Pioneer Square. Stage on Main Street, right in the middle of the road. Carnival rides for the kids, a big ol’ beer garden for the grownups, food trucks and stands as far as the eye can see. Street hockey in the Red Apple parking lot. Whipper-snip all the weeds out of Phantom Lake (ok, maybe use something heavier like chainsaws or napalm) and party like it’s 1959. Drop a few pontoon boats in Ross Lake, build a platform over them and bring back one of the old floating dancehalls I’ve heard so much about. Pack the Whitney Forum for a re-done Fish Fry – BYOF, free admission, so much beer even Flonners won’t dry it out.
And a parade... oh man, a parade, so long it’ll stretch from hill to hill on Third Avenue, people joining at a march, joy and excitement.
I think there will be a time and place for reverie in the aftermath of COVID-19. Until that day, we continue to follow the rules, to make the right moves and keep safe.
When that day comes, we tie one on like never before. I don’t know about you, but I will be ready for the rager.