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From drive-in fireworks events to virtual shows, New Year's Eve will be different!

COVID-19 has put a cork in most New Year's Eve events across Alberta, but there are several options to ring in 2021.

COVID-19 has put a cork in most New Year's Eve events across Alberta, but there are several options to ring in 2021.

At least three centres across central and northern Alberta – Stony Plain, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie – are providing drive-in fireworks displays on Dec. 31.

A spokesperson for the Town of Stony Plain said all 300 tickets for the event at Heritage Park have been allocated and anyone without a ticket should not attend.

"We are worried that people might show up and stop by the side of the highway," said Tevra Graham. "We do not want an influx of attendees."

Graham said the free town-issued tickets were scooped up quickly and "we are trying to ensure we do not advertise the event any more.”

The town isn't allowing walk-up or standing participation and will only be permitting vehicles with tickets to enter.

Access to the Stony Plain site begins at 7:30 pm for the 9 p.m. show. All patrons must remain in their vehicles and bathrooms will not be available on site.

There is a list of restrictions for those attending the event to ensure the health and safety of those attending.

All vehicle occupants must be from the same household and all occupants must remain inside the vehicle at all times. There are no concession or food services available and there are no washroom facilities.

Like Stony Plain, the fireworks event at Fort McMurray's MacDonald Island Park along with a show at Grande Prairie's Community Knowledge Campus East Football Field and Muskoseepi Park are following similar COVID-19 protocols

Steady sales

Owners of fireworks stores report sales have remained steady leading up to Dec. 31.

"We've seen more people buying less," said John Adria, owner/operator of Uncle John's Fireworks, which has four stores in the province.

Ron Schnitzler, owner/operator of Discount Flags in Edmonton, said he has seen the traditional bump in fireworks sales for this New Year's Eve but no more than previous years.

"It's about the same. People are coming in but it's more for in the backyard event,” he said.

For those wanting to welcome 2021 from home, there are events available online.

Edmonton-based comedian Lars Callieou will be headlining a virtual extravaganza in front of four large HD TVs – all equipped to handle 50 small screens each – in a unique videoconference interactive display at the Infinite Event Services warehouse.

"Basically, we're putting Zoom on steroids," said Infinite's Sheldon Fingler, whose technical team has successfully used the setup during a series of December shows.

"A comedian never wants to perform in front of nobody," said Fingler, explaining Callieou will be able to interact with the crowd –which will be capped at 200 – during the performance.

"The event industry is dead right now so we had to pivot. We decided to go ahead with this," said Fingler.

"Lars will be the only performer in the room. Essentially, we are turning it into a TV-style broadcast."

Nisku-based Rig Hand Distillery has partnered with Infinite Events and is offering a variety pack of their products called 'New Years for two in a box' in a separate promotion for those watching the event.

"We want people to feel like they are at New Year's Eve," said Callieou.

For those looking for a spiritual end to the year, Edmonton's Buddhist temple is offering a Zoom-facilitated New Year's Eve event called Look Towards the Light.

“I will talk about the teachings of showing compassion,” said Kadam Kelly Loeffelmann, the resident teacher. “I’ll say a Buddhist prayer of compassion and then we will meditate for compassion for the whole world"

At midnight, all attendees will be encouraged to cheer together with a non-alcoholic toast.

Gary Poignant is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Great West Newspapers. This story was funded by the Google News Initiative.  

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