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Looking like no Canada Day fireworks in Guelph this year

Financial and manpower pressures have led to The Rotary Club of Guelph stepping back from the event, and it's likely too late for someone else to step forward
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Tony Saxon/GuelphToday file photo

It’s looking like there will be no Canada Day fireworks in Guelph this year. 

The Rotary Club of Guelph has taken the lead on Canada Day events for more than nine years, but due to operational capacity issues and adjustments to fundraising efforts, the organization is stepping back. 

And just six weeks away from Canada Day, the city isn’t able to take its place. 

“Based on timing, to organize and so forth with neighbours, we won’t be leading fireworks this year,” said Danna Evans, general manager of culture and recreation. 

Evans said the city has been having ongoing conversations with the club, and “realizes that it’s disappointing for the community. But we want to support Rotary to focus on their efforts for fundraising and other programming in the community.” 
It’s something president-elect Brian Martin says the club didn’t plan on happening – it just came as a result of conversations about their current capabilities. 

“The original Canada Day we used to do was a fairly large production,” he said, often a day-long affair, sometimes even two, with games, concerts, fireworks and more. 

“That type of production took thousands of hours of volunteer work from the Rotary Club of Guelph, as well as some other rotary clubs to put on. We sort of lost the ability to do that during COVID,” he said. 

The pandemic also impacted membership and engagement within the club to decline – the club that once had about 140 members now has fewer than 80. 

A number of current members are also getting older and less engaged, “so the real capacity we have for executing projects is substantially smaller than that.” 

“It’s getting more and more difficult to put on something of that scope,” he said. “So we decided that this was an appropriate year to hand that back to the city.” 

Martin said there are only a few other municipalities where the local government isn’t responsible for putting on Canada Day celebrations. 

“We would frequently spend $100,000 to $150,000 to put on the full Canada Day. It actually got to be a kind of two-day event towards the end. And we would obviously recover more than that through the sponsorships and various elements of fundraising,” he said. 

But over the years, the returns were becoming smaller.

“It’s a tough decision, because obviously Canada Day is popular. Everybody likes fireworks. But it just wasn’t looking like it was ever going to get back to the scope that would do justice to it. We felt it needed to be the city that carries on.” 

Martin did say RSOG would be open to helping with future Canada Day events so long as it wasn’t taking the lead, and isn’t ruling out taking the lead again if membership returns to pre-pandemic levels. 

“It’s definitely with mixed feelings that we draw this to a close, because it was always a pretty fun project to get done,” he said. 

As to whether the city could put something on, Evans said six weeks isn’t enough time to plan – from securing plans and emergency plans and access shuttles and more. 

“It’s just not enough time to be able to turn that around safely and enjoyably,” she said. “Hopefully there’ll be a few opportunities, although not fireworks, to have the community come and gather for celebration.”

If there is an organization that wants to rent the park to do fireworks, she said she’s open to talking, but isn’t sure how feasible it is with the time constraints. 

As for next year, the city is exploring the possibility of accepting proposals from organizations interested in planning future Canada Day events.

“We’ve just had such a strong relationship with Rotary as a community organization who can also have benefits. (They) used this as a fundraising opportunity as well, so there is potentially another organization that wants to do that.” Evans said, adding she hopes there is “some balance with reconciliation as well.” 

For now, details of other events happening this year will be posted in the coming weeks at


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Taylor Pace

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