Why Vernon won't have fireworks at this year's Canada Day celebration

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VERNON - A time-honoured tradition won’t be on the lineup of events for Canada Day in Vernon this year due to a shift in the event’s organizational structure.

Normally, Vernon resident Terry Schmauder would lead preparations for the Canada Day fireworks show, something he’s done for the past 12 years. But that all changed when the city announced it wanted to dissolve the fireworks committee Schmauder chaired in favour of a new organizational structure.

"(By) request from the City of Vernon, it was agreed that 2014 would be the final Canada Day evening event that would be organized and presented by the Vernon Canada Day Fireworks Committee with (me) stepping out of the role,” Schmauder says. “A new society was to be formed with volunteers along with representation from the City of Vernon in order to avoid liability exposure on the part of the City.”

Moving from a committee to a society reduced the city’s liability and created legal distance between it and the event, Schmauder says.

“The committee was set up years ago by a former mayor and as such it’s been operating under the committee status,” Schmauder says. “Now they’re looking at all the legal ramifications and decided it would be wise for them to create a society, a distinct entity not directly done by the city.”

But the new society has yet to be created, and as such, no planning has gone into this year’s fireworks show, and the city has no intention of assuming responsibility.

“I think sometimes the impression is the city was always involved with running the Canada Day festivities but it has never been involved in either event (fireworks and the celebrations in Polson Park),” Mayor Akbal Mund says. “We supported the events, but it was always handled through volunteer people.”

With dry conditions and an annual fireworks ban in place (previous events had to get an exemption from the ban), Mund questions whether the city would even support holding the event this summer, even if funds were available.

Past events have cost around $30,000 and while Schmauder applied for and secured a grant for this year’s event, Mund says further donations and sponsorships would still be needed. He says council will see what it can do to 'get the ball rolling' for next year but adds organizing the event is not likely something council would take on in the future.

“I think we’ll have people wanting to come forward,” Mund says. “What we’ll be doing is getting people within the community to join the board and look at how to move this forward.”

But Schmauder doesn’t see much hope for Canada Day fireworks returning to the city. He says the city is 'seeking alternatives' to fireworks going forward.

“I get the impression they’re trying to move in a different direction,” he says.

In all the years fireworks were put on for Canada Day, there were never any mishaps and numerous firefighters and engines were always on site to ensure safety, Schmauder says.

“In particular I would like to extend my appreciation to Bill Wacey and all the BX Fire Hall pyro technicians, as well as Lawrie Skolrood for their many years of service to the event and finally, thank you to everyone in the community for coming out to see the show,” Schmauder says.

He fully expects community members will step up and fill the void with a new, fun and exciting event to celebrate Canada Day.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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