Last year around this time, we ran an editorial entitled “A June like no other” detailing how, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sixth month of the year in Thompson was gong to look very different than it had in nearly 50 years due to the inability to hold large-scale events like Nickel Days and National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations.
This year, June will not be unique, however. And unfortunately, the one it will resemble most closely is that of 2020 and not any of the years before.
For the second year in a row, and the second time ever, Nickel Days is cancelled. That didn’t happen when the traditional fairgrounds were unavailable due to the construction of the Thompson Regional Community Centre, or even when the first planned location for that year’s event couldn’t be used. As usually happens in Thompson, someone stepped up and offered a space to ensure that the show could go on.
Thompson is also missing out on the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds for the second year in a row, though there is hope that the city may be able to convince them to come back another time. Canada Day will not likely be what it has been recently, with food and performances at the rec centre, although the fireworks to cap it all off will be going ahead, even if the new provincial public health orders merely delivered more of the same as the current ones.
In some ways, June 2021 could be harder for Thompson residents to deal with than the same month of last year. Everyone has been under such stress and strain for over a year now and it’s not over yet. At least last year we had the idea that these events would be back in a year’s time and that we’d appreciate them more than ever. Can we say for sure that they will be next year? Nothing is set in stone, but it’s likely that will be. Still, the same reason doesn’t carry quite as much weight when it’s used for the second year in a row, does it? It’s sort of like the boy who cried wolf syndrome.
On the other hand, unlike last June, we in the north now know what these restrictions on our freedom and our big summer events are all about. In 2020, there hadn’t been enough cases to need two hands for counting in the region by the time June rolled around. Since then, we’ve seen nearly 7,500, dozens of northerners hospitalized and 53 of the region’s residents die from the virus, including three from the Thompson/Mystery Lake area. The ramifications of not having these orders in place have become clearer and more concrete, which hopefully makes observing the restrictions a little easier to bear, even if struggling businesses trying to keep afloat are desperate for a lifeline.
As chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at June 7 press conference, COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, but we will reach the post-pandemic era sooner than that. With rising vaccination rates, falling case numbers and hopefully no fourth wave on the horizon, there is a chance that Manitoba will see looser public health orders at some point before summer is over, and be able to enjoy them knowing that it won’t lead to literally hundreds of our friends and neighbours losing their lives as a consequence.
A second straight celebration-less June is not ideal, but people and organizations will find a way to mark special occasions, as R.D. Parker Collegiate did with its graduation last year and as many of the elementary schools did as well. The good news is that a more normal way of living should be returning sooner rather than later, leaving lots of time to plan next year’s events. Perhaps, after going without for two years and no longer being able to take them for granted, even more people will be motivated to help out with organizing and volunteering come 2022. If so, it too may be a June like no other.