Joni Guenther, left, vice-president of the Royal Canadian Legion and Legion president Leo Holthuysen at the Cenotaph. The Legion will host a drive-by Remembrance Day ceremony this year due to COVID-19 (Kelly Sinoski, 100 MIle Free Press photo).

Drive-by ceremony planned for Remembrance Day

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 260 is planning a drive-by ceremony on Nov. 11 in 100 Mile House.

There will no parade, veterans or even Cadets selling poppies at the 100 Mile House Remembrance Day ceremonies this year, but the public will still have the chance to pay their respects.

Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 260 are planning a drive-by ceremony on Nov. 11 to allow people to honour the fallen while adhering to COVID-19 protocols. Birch Avenue will be restricted to one-way traffic – south to north – at 11 a.m. so people can take a photo as they pass by, while those wishing to lay wreaths can buy them from the Legion and have them placed at the Cenotaph in their stead.

Those in attendance at the Cenotaph will be limited to 10 people, including police officers and the Legion executive, who will hand out pamphlets with O Canada and the Act of Remembrance.

“There’s no parade and unfortunately no veterans. We have to do the COVID thing,” Legion president Leo Holthuysen said. “There’s to be no public there at all; they can only drive by and take a picture. I’m not really thrilled but we have to do the best we can. It hurts.”

READ MORE: Importance of Remembrance Day in 100 Mile House

The changes in the annual routine are expected to have a significant effect on the local Legion, which relies on the annual Remembrance Day open house to bolster its coffers, drawing people into the Legion for food and drink following the ceremonies. This year, visitors to the Legion on Nov. 11 will be restricted to members only, with 28 people allowed to come in for an hour-and-half. The Legion will be closed and sanitized in between groups. No food will be served.

Donations are anticipated to be way down this year, Holthuysen said but he hopes the 100 Mile Legion isn’t among the estimated one in 10 Legions that aren’t expected to survive the pandemic. COVID has also brought a halt to the Legion’s meat draw, which usually brings in a crowd. But with just 28 people at a time it’s not worth it, Holthuysen said, noting the Legion only gets 15 percent of all proceeds – the rest goes to the community.

““Usually we’re packed, you can’t get another person in there,” Holthuysen said. “Right now we’re hanging on for dear life at our Legion. It’s really hard for Legions right now.”

Even poppy sales are likely to be affected. Cadets, who usually bring in half of the annual collection from the poppy sales, will not be stationed in their usual posts outside businesses this year while some shops are not sure if they will allow the boxes in their stores. The Legion will still sell poppies but there will be few face-to-face donation tables. More information is expected to be rolled out later on the poppy campaign.

“We’re going to miss the cadets because they’re in it every year,” Holthuysen said. “We’re trying to keep people away because of COVID. Most of our members, the average age is 58, 60 at least, and probably more. If you want to show your appreciation, drive-by, take your picture and show your wreath.”

Holthuysen encourages residents to buy wreaths for the Remembrance Day drive-by, noting if they are purchased by the end of the month, donors can have their photos taken with the wreaths and published in the Free Press. Those interested should contact the Legion before the end of the month, either by calling 250-395-2511 or popping in between 1-7 pm Wednesday-Saturday. “Anyone can buy one and have it laid,” he said.

100 Mile District Mayor Mitch Campsall said the District will support the Legion in hosting the drive-by event. “If that’s what they want we’re more than willing to do it,” he said. “I don’t think there will be an issue with that. Let’s respect our military and what they’ve done.”

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Joni Guenther, left, vice-president of the Royal Canadian Legion and Legion president Leo Holthuysen at the Cenotaph. The Legion will host a drive-by Remembrance Day ceremony this year due to COVID-19 (Kelly Sinoski, 100 MIle Free Press photo).

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