The Wildfire Recovery Party is happening this Saturday (Sept. 29) at LeBourdais Park.
There will be a keynote speaker, performers, children’s entertainers, information booths for those impacted by the fires, all-day yoga, taekwondo and other fitness activities, and food vendors with salmon, bannock, pizza, burgers and more. And all of it is free.
It starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday and will run until around 9:30 p.m.; however, booths and other activities will end at 6 p.m. when Darby Allen, the retired Fort McMurray fire chief and current motivational and crisis leader, will give the keynote speech. Following Allen’s speech will be a performance by country music artist Jason Blaine.
Charlene Lawrence was part of the wildfire recovery office contracted to write a document about the city for the province following the 2017 wildfires. During that process, they found out about a Red Cross grant for community engagement events for cities impacted by the 2017 fires.
They ended up receiving grant money, which was funded by the Red Cross, from the United Way for a community event that had to do with health and wellness.
The 2018 wildfires erupted shortly after they’d received the grant, and many of these fires were even closer to home.
Now, Lawrence says the party is about bringing the “fun” to a community that feels like it has lost two summers in a row to the wildfires.
“The wildfires… they affected a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” says Lawrence. “But I think it affected a lot of them in the same ways too. [And people think] they’re alone, but they’re not. So we’re hoping to get the conversation started with health and wellness. Let’s heal, and let’s have some fun.”
She says the event will have something for everyone. At the party, participants will also have the opportunity to take part in a YouTube documentary about the impact of the fires on the community, and for people to tell their own personal stories about the fires.
Everett White, an indigenous motivational speaker and healer, will also be speaking at the event, and illusionist Jesaja Class will be walking through the crowd and performing. Children’s entertainer The Purple Pirate will be performing, as well as several local bands. The Friendship Centre will also be providing a teepee where storytelling will take place.
“When you sit with other people and you talk about what happened to you, it all comes out, because we’re all in the same boat,” Lawrence says. The party is intended to both help people find all the information they need to recover from the fires, and provide a fun, social place for healing.