Sarnia’s Canada Day – Why change a winning formula?

Sarnia Canada Day Committee members Becky Wellington-Horner and Rachel Veilleux, in front of the city’s Canada 150th mural at City Hall. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

After nearly 50 years on Sarnia’s Canada Day committee — this year’s might be Becky Wellington-Horner’s favourite yet.

“I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised,” she said of the triumphant return of the city’s popular, traditional July 1 event — the first since 2019.

“We’re not changing a lot because people want what they know, right?

“So we’ve gone and planned as usual, being as inclusive and welcoming as possible. It’s a free day, and we’re just going to go out and have a joyful time.”

Wellington-Horner was 18 when she joined Sarnia’s Canada Day committee — and hasn’t been able to pry herself away since.

“I started on the committee with Anita Hobbs and when Peter Henderson was chair,” she said of the late, legendary Sarnians. “This sort of fell into my lap. I love planning special events. I’d rather work them than go to them, honestly.

“I really feel committed to our city.”

This year’s event follows a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to do our best to make sure it’s safe and we ask people to do the same thing,” said Wellington-Horner.

“There’s going to be a lot of people, a lot of crowds. Just be reminded to please stay home if you are ill.”

The full-day slate of July 1 events at Canatara and Centennial Parks hasn’t changed much over the years — and that’s part of its charm, said fellow committee member and the Sarnia Community Services Coordinator Rachel Veilleux.

“I would say, out of all the activities we put on, it’s the parade, the multicultural food booths and the fireworks — those are the three main attractions that bring the biggest crowds,” she said.

“It ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 people, depending on the year, and the weather of course.”

Some years, it’s believed, Sarnia’s celebrations have been among the largest in Canada — second only to Ottawa, said Wellington-Horner.

“We’ve been saying that for years,” she said. “There’s so many people who come down from all over Canada, who plan on visiting friends and family in Sarnia on July 1 because this is where they want to be.”

Sarnia’s Canada Day schedule includes:

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Canatara Park Activities Open (multicultural food booths; handmade market; inflatables, etc.

11:30 a.m. – Parade begins (at Colborne on Lakeshore Road)

12:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies (Lambton Concert Band; National Anthem singing; birthday cake; parade winners announced)

6 p.m. to 11 p.m. – Centennial Park Evening Entertainment (Rebound Rocks; Dave Chaulk; Painkiller Jane)

10 p.m. – Fireworks

NOTES: Sarnia Transit’s “Special Canada Day Service” will operate on Friday, July 1 from 9 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., and regular service will resume on Saturday, July 2 at 8 a.m.

And bike racks are available at Canatara, courtesy of Bluewater Trails