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Posted: May 26, 2020

Cars Under the Stars parked for now

A proposed Canada Day gathering in the Western Financial Place parking lot called Cars Under the Stars was parked May 25 by City of Cranbrook council.

At the root of the discussion was a May 22 order by Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, banning gatherings of more than 50 vehicles.

Council reviewed a report from Paul Heywood of the city’s Community Services department, regarding a funding request (up to $4,300) to help stage Cars Under the Stars, council voted to support the event if the provincial government relaxes the numbers allowed for social gatherings, putting planning on pause.

Before getting to that vote, council had to first deny the funding request and field a new motion.

Coun. Wes Graham argued in favour of funding the event.

“I think it is in the best interests of the City of Cranbrook to pursue this event as planned. Changes from the Ministry of Health have been issued daily over the past months and we can anticipate the same over the next while. I think it is prudent that we continue the planning and see where this lands at the end of June. I feel there is nothing to validate the arbitrary number of 50 cars. In any given time there are more cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” he said.

Graham said with proper signage and a few people patrolling the parking lot “we could definitely make something like this happen; making sure people aren’t getting in and out of the vehicles. We also have to have a bit of faith in humanity through this. This will build resiliency and give us a sense of hope.”

Coun. Norma Blissett argued against providing the funds but also considering holding any community events this summer.

She said she worried about the potential for many people to show up at the event “on foot. It is certainly within walking distance of many people. How are we going to control that? Personally, I think we might be better off saying ‘you can’t have any community events this summer. That has been said by Dr. Bonnie Henry for over a month. We need to comply with that for a short period of time and yes, it is painful but if we do it now then we can have a better fall.”

Prior to council defeating the original motion, Mayor Lee Pratt said, “I don’t think we should go against the higher authority” but council could set things up so the event could be ready to go if provincial orders should change in the next few weeks.

Aside from Coun. Graham, council voted against providing funds and launched a second motion, made by Coun. Ron Popoff, detailing that if rules are relaxed then the city would approve the funding; and city staff should continue preparing as much as possible for a possible event.

Coun. Blissett was the lone vote against that motion.

“It does provide a glimmer of opportunity,” Graham said.

Heywood told council he will remain in discussion with local production companies “and line up as much as I can and I would think we would have to set a certain date but I will let you know through an administrative update on what would be an absolute cut-off where we let it go or commit to it.”

The “Cars Under the Stars program was initially set up to support MBSS, which was looking for a way to commemorate the 2020 grads during this COVID-19 pandemic, Heywood outlined in his report to council.

The events would require patrons to park their cars and watch from within their vehicles, a live production on the portable stage and giant LED screen.

“City staff heard of several communities in the U.S., that were celebrating graduation ceremonies with ‘Cars Under the Stars.’ With this concept, the City of Cranbrook contacted PB-Pro Audio and asked them to put together a package that would allow the grads to formally celebrate in the WFP parking lot on June 25. Several other local community groups, were asked to participate in the Cars Under the Stars productions, increasing the number of events during the one week run that the stage/screen was available. This helped to significantly reduce the costs for the community partners,” he reported.

Lead image: A look at part of the Western Financial Place parking lot, taken during Sam Steele Days last year. e-KNOW file photo


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