I stared in shocked disbelief as I read that Thunder in the Valley was cancelled for 2012. Why? How? What is going on? I watched the tv news stories on youtube and even signed the petition on facebook, all the while experiencing a turbulent mixture of emotions: anger, sadness and frustration.
For almost 20 years this grassroots event has gained in popularity precisely because of its humble beginnings. Hundreds of volunteer hours. Volunteer firefighters taking courses on fireworks to make the show even better each year. Local businesses donating money to buy “booms,” and let’s not forget the employees all over the community who proudly wear their sweatshirts/t-shirts every Friday to promote the event.
You couldn’t pay for the kind of powerful word-of-mouth advertising this event has. How many times over the years have I read in the local papers that “this year” the council is going to do something about economic development? How many committees and sub-committees have been formed, trade shows and conferences attended, reports written (and sometimes even re-written), resulting in an actual plan? I’ll tell you the answer to that: A big fat diddly-squat.
Thunder in the Valley has achieved what years and years of committee meetings have failed to produce: results. The event generates a powerful mode of advertising that is absolutely free. Radio shows talk about it, tv segments are aired about it – all for free. It is word-of-mouth advertising on steroids. This simple event literally draws tens of thousands of people here for the fireworks show.
Like it or not, the Crowsnest Pass is on showcase that weekend in July. There are people who know where the Crowsnest Pass because of Thunder in the Valley. And this is a very good thing.
Make no mistake, Rum Runner Days and Thunder in the Valley is synonymous in most people’s minds. Take away the fireworks and you are left with the same small town parade/car show/etc (yawn) weekend that you can find duplicated in any number of other rural Alberta towns.
I must be clear that I still do not know the precise reasoning behind the council’s motive to cancel Thunder in the Valley. Only confusing and contradictory statements abound (Fireworks are illegal because there is no bylaw against them? What?) and nebulous excuses (“We’re not at the point where we feel that we could provide safety to the public and volunteers” What does this even mean?)
Where is the leadership? Instead of canceling the event and fobbing off responsibility onto an ever-diminishing group of volunteers, why don’t council members step up and volunteer to help? They are the community’s elected officials after all – who better than them to help a small volunteer group navigate the bureaucratic waters of logistics and rules and regulations? I mean really – what else are they doing?
Another question I have is why now? Why after almost 20 years of success is it suddenly imperative to cancel Thunder in the Valley until some future time when some kind of plan (Who is to make this plan? Who decides it is good enough?) is in place?
Details people, we want details! Is it an emergency evacuation plan that is not up to snuff? Is it to address the seven people who complain about drunk people peeing in their yards? What exactly IS the problem?
I am disheartened by the huge disconnect between the town council and Pass residents – I for one voted for new council members because I believed the hyperbole and rhetoric. I thought council members would fight for this community, not roll over and submit.Look for a way, not a way out.