A longstanding annual event aimed at paying tribute to veterans has a new location for the 2017 edition.
The Canada Remembers air show that has a long history in the Saskatoon area will take place as something of a modified event this year, set to be held at 17 Wing Detachment Dundurn from June 10-11.
The weekend festivities will be known as “Armed Forces Day – Salute to Heroes”.
The event was traditionally held as an air show at the Wyant Group Raceway in recent years, but it also faced a number of challenges due to scheduling issues as well as development near the race track that restricted the ability to have planes flying overhead.
Longtime organizer Brian Swidrovich is excited to hold the event at the Dundurn base. And while the tribute won't be featuring a full-on air show, the Snowbirds will be putting on a demonstration, as will the Canadian Forces parachute team. The weekend will also feature fly-bys by CF-18 Hornet aircraft.
As far as action on the ground goes, the Army will be taking care of that, with displays of equipment and a special 'Boot Camp' area for kids.
Because 17 Wing Detachment Dundurn is an ammunition depot for the Canadian Forces and contains a live-fire ordnance range, the weekend event will have to operate within certain restrictions, such as some parts of the base being off-limits to the public and capacity capped at 5,000 people per day.
Swidrovich says the summertime atmosphere provides a great opportunity to draw as many people as possible in order to help pay tribute to the men and women of the Canadian Forces.
“Other than Remembrance Day, very seldom are there opportunities for thousands of people to gather and pay tribute to our fallen heroes,” said Brian, in an email to The Outlook. “As an example, the April 9th VIMY Memorial gathering in Saskatoon was a great chance for families to come out and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice 100 years ago; unfortunately, less than a few hundred people attended. The appeal of a larger community attraction each summer, as the Air Show has tried to tackle since 1995, attracts many thousands for the entertainment factor, yet the educational and tribute aspect of the project will send people home with a completely different perspective as to the need to actually pause and remember what others have done for our communities and country.”
With this year being Canada’s 150th birthday, Swidrovich says the Salute to Heroes weekend will undoubtedly acknowledge the monumental occasion in some form.
“There are many Canada 150 programs being planned across the province and country; the Salute to Heroes will definitely acknowledge the 150 celebration,” he said. “However, we will be careful not to overshadow the equally or possibly more important recognition of our fallen and currently serving members of the Canadian Forces, our Veterans, RCMP and all Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS and Emergency personnel. Honouring the sacrifices made by these men and women is why we can gather as a nation to peacefully and proudly celebrate 150 years; there is a need to make sure our next generations do not lose sight of the values and service of those who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.”
Scheduling and putting together an event of this scope and magnitude brings its own challenges, such as coordinating air traffic in the sky so as not to disrupt commercial airliners. But there’s still a feeling of satisfaction with being able to pull it all off in the end.
“Organizing the Canada Remembers project is definitely full of challenges and certainly the most difficult event I have ever produced,” said Brian. “Each location, from Sask Place to the Saskatoon Airport to Wyant Group Raceway -- and now 17 Wing Dundurn, all carry individual logistical issues and some opportunities. I believe one of the hardest parts of producing this air show is trying to coordinate the aerial performances within daily flight schedules of commercial and civilian traffic; it's necessary to have so many moving parts work in tandem – and here in Saskatoon that involves numerous organizations; Transport Canada, NavCanada, WestJet, Air Canada, Delta, Transwest, WestWind and other local or regional traffic, as well as the Saskatoon Airport Authority and its many tenant businesses. We usually need the input and assistance from several City Departments including Fly-Over approvals from the Mayor's or City Manager's office. The Police, Fire, Airport Crash & Rescue, RCMP, Highways Dept., MD Ambulance and many, many others, all require involvement at some level in order to make the event safe and enjoyable. Of course, there's a sense of accomplishment when the project is over and the crowd leaves with a renewed sense of appreciation for what they just experienced -- and I guess that might be one of the motivations.”
Swidrovich suggests that perhaps events such as this, or any tribute to veterans of any size, need to happen more often, as he says the men and women who put on the uniform and serve our country do not get recognized enough for all that they do.
“Being able to provide a public forum for our veterans and serving members to come out and be thanked by thousands of civilians -- it's something that does not happen enough,” he said. “Being a 100% volunteer effort from everyone, we can only hope the attending families will look around and recognize how many hours might have been necessary to pull everything into one educational and entertaining weekend. Yes, the weather can ruin it all, but the end result is worth trying; our veterans need to be thanked more than once a year.”
Admission passes for the Salute to Heroes event will be available at Shell gas stations, with the passes marked for either June 10 or 11. This means that the pass will only be good for that day in order to keep the event within capacity at the 17 Wing Detachment.
The event will run from 11:00 to 5:00 on each day.