COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Canada’s Biggest Little Birthday Party, as for the first time in its 75-year history the Steveston Salmon Festival on July 1 was a no-go. Coinciding with Canada Day, organizers including the City of Richmond hosted a series of online festivities.
“The decision to cancel this year’s event was not an easy one to make,” Steveston Community Society president Alan Sakai said in April. “There are hundreds of volunteers, artists, vendors and support staff required to host this event that has been attended by up to 80,000 visitors in recent years. In light of the current COVID-19 protocols put in place by BC provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, cancelling this year’s event was determined to be the most responsible decision to make at this time.”
Richmond’s major malls continued to welcome customers with enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures. Although never fully closed, new protocols allowed more stores to open during BC’s second phase of COVID-19 recovery.
Richmond received some long-awaited good news when the province announced a new state-of-the-art emergency department and intensive care unit for the community is on the way.
“People have been calling for a new tower at Richmond Hospital and our government took decisive action to make it happen,” said Premier John Horgan. “We’re proud to give the green light for a bigger, bolder plan for Richmond Hospital that will bring the facility into the 21st century and deliver the care Richmond needs.”
The province originally announced its commitment to replace the patient care tower in March 2018.
Usually a blast of the horn in vehicle traffic is a sign of anger. But Honk 2020 was just the opposite. This unique drive-by event held outside Richmond Hospital June 20—the first day of summer—was a chance for locals to show their support for frontline workers. During the coronavirus pandemic, frontline workers’ efforts and dedication have been unwavering. Organized by the Richmond Sentinel, Skytalk Media and WesternDriver.com, participants were also urged to further show their support by donating to Richmond Food Bank.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce named lawyer Brian Corcoran as its new chair at its first-ever virtual AGM.
The Richmond Girls Soccer Association is no more after reorganizing and changing its name to Richmond United Soccer Club.
“Since 1974, we have been dedicated to helping Richmond soccer players reach their sporting potential. However, it had become clear that our name was not in keeping with the inclusive nature of our programming,” said acting board president Marty Mueller.
Tourism Richmond launched an ambassador program for locals called “Pacific. Authentic. Locals.” The program enabled residents to showcase the city to visitors from a unique perspective.
“Visitors are looking for an authentic experience. They want to do as the locals do,” said Tourism Richmond CEO Nancy Small. “Now, locals have a chance to share their love of Richmond with future visitors. We’re looking for residents to give a warm Richmond welcome to visitors when travel restrictions are lifted.”
Maggie Xiong had never been one to self-reflect. But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it became the source of inspiration. The recent Burnett secondary grad released her first book last year: Trekking the Pacific: The Cornerstone of Two Cultures.
“Writing was always an interest and passion when I was really young,” said Xiong. “But by the time I got to high school I stopped journaling because I started comparing myself to other people.”
Following the overwhelming success of the inaugural One Book, Three Cities community reading project, the second annual returned for an encore performance last summer. Through August, many literary enthusiasts in Richmond, Xiamen and Qingdao found themselves engaged in Dear Life, a collection of short stories by award-winning Canadian author Alice Munro. In 2019, Life of Pi by fellow Canadian author Yann Martel was the book of choice.
City council debated expanding a backyard chicken program at an early July general purposes committee meeting. But they ultimately approved a staff proposal in July enabling all residents on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) property to keep backyard chickens—regardless of their property’s size. Those who reside outside the ALR, in detached single family homes in residential zones, can also keep chickens—provided their property covers at least 2,000 square metres.
Richmond’s economic development office released its response and recovery report, which highlights measures implemented by the office to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our economy as actions necessary to mitigate risks to public health forced businesses to close and people to stay at home,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “Along with ensuring public health and community safety, supporting local businesses and boosting economic recovery remains a top priority for the city.”
Even before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, cycling was on the upswing. By mid-summer it was in full-on boom.
“I think it can be attributed to a few factors—one being something to get out and do in a safe manner, whether by yourself or within your family, keep a safe distance, and be out in the fresh air,” offered Brett Martyniuk of Village Bikes in Steveston. “With the pandemic shutting down gyms and, at the beginning, ski hills and even golf courses, cycling becomes a go-to option to get your fitness in.”
Several public facilities re-opened during the summer with limited access. These included the Richmond Art Gallery (which encouraged pre-booking visits), as well as Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site (allowing a maximum of 30 people at a time), and the South Arm Outdoor Pool (through pre-registration only).
To better serve its clients living in the West Richmond area, the Richmond Food Bank Society opened an express food hub at Hugh Boyd Park. As of Aug. 10, a depot began operating in the parking lot off Francis Road every Monday (with the exception of stat holidays) from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
A bit of a perfectionist, Craig Johnston, 20, spent the previous two years bringing an idea to life but then wasted no time developing a brand identity. A new line of luxury streetwear, Unsighted Clothing’s inaugural selection of hoodies and t-shirts is available through the company’s website. The stretch materials are developed and sourced sustainably, and are free from harmful substances as well as being ethically traded and created under the most fair and socially responsible conditions for workers.
“I wanted to make clothing people could buy and still be able to go out and show off,” says the young clothing designer. “Fashionable first, luxury in feel and quality second and affordability third.”
When it comes to lottery luck in 2020, Richmondites fared pretty well. No sooner had Lisa Tsang stepped forward to collect $1 million in the Aug. 22 Lotto 6/49 draw, than another Richmond lottery winner was confirmed as Howard Hepworth claimed $50,000 on a Super Crossword Scratch & Win ticket. A frequent 6/49 player, Tsang initially heard there was a winner from Richmond and decided to check her numbers on the BCLC website.
Richmond students returned to in-person classes on Sept. 10 after deliberation by provincial authorities. The gradual restart aimed to allow extra time for students and staff to learn about new health and safety measures.
Though it took place entirely online, the Richmond Maritime Festival again paid tribute to Richmond’s strong maritime heritage. Performers included local artist Marina Szijarto, singing quartet Serenata, and The Moccasin Dancers. Tuning in daily through Sept. 7, web visitors were treated to a compilation of music, hands-on activities, story-telling and history from great artists and performers.
After extensive delays, the Minoru Centre for Active Living opened its indoor aquatic centre on Sept. 21. The aquatic centre comprises six bodies of water including Canada’s largest hot tub and the Polar Plunge, the country’s only municipal cold plunge pool with a refreshing temperature of 15 degrees.
“The Minoru Centre for Active Living is a facility that everyone in the city can be proud of and we are delighted to finally be able to showcase its many features,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “While we are only able to provide access in a controlled manner right now due to our COVID-19 safety protocols, we encourage everyone to take some time to come and experience the centre themselves.”
The facility boasts a 650 square metre (7,000 square foot) leisure pool featuring a Mega Drop Bucket, a rapid flowing River Channel, a slide and an Errant Rain Cloud shower. Two 25-metre pools with 14 lanes provide a variety of opportunities for recreational and lane swimming, in addition to aqua fit classes, an over water climbing wall, drop slide and diving board.
Theatre lovers learned they will have to wait a bit longer to return to Gateway Theatre, with the cancellation of its 2020-21 season.
“With social distancing measures, and restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people for the foreseeable future, we want to keep everyone safe,” Barbara Tomasic, director of artistic programs, said in an update. But while the season can’t be presented as originally planned, the Gateway team is adapting their offerings to the pandemic. Their upcoming re-envisioned season will include a musical retrospective, old-fashioned and interactive family-friendly entertainment, outdoor and digital events and community partnerships.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel