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Tuesday March 13th, 2012  
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"I don't want to see any more of the forest burned."
- Larry Mitchell  
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Kimberley Massey photo
Local residents gather in Gazebo Park in Blairmore on Thursday, March 8th to protest the cancellation of Thunder in the Valley.
 
After months of discussion and number crunching, Crowsnest Pass Municipal Council voted unanimously to cancel the 2012 Thunder in the Valley fireworks show last week.
The decision was reached at the Council meeting on Tuesday, March 6th, after Municipal Chief Administrative Officer Myron Thompson recommended on behalf of Administration that the festivities be deferred for a year in order to allow more time to reorganize the event, which brings approximately 30,000 people to the community for one night every year.
“Thunder in the Valley has been a very important element of the Rum Runner Days celebration… but it has grown to the proportion that it has created concern for the Municipality,” said Thompson.
“We’re not at the point where we feel that we could provide safety to the public and volunteers.”
According to Thompson, the total cost to put on the entire Rum Runner Days weekend, including Thunder in the Valley, would come in at around $197,000 this year, due in large part to the need for increased policing costs (an additional $35,000) and $25,000 to bring in regional peace officers to help with enforcement during the fireworks, as well as additional costs such as $23,000 for CP Rail police and fencing along the railroad tracks in Blairmore, the cost of running a shuttle service for those attending the fireworks show, and roughly $40,000 in “soft costs” such as employee time and services.
“If this event is now going to cost us over $150,000, I’m going to have a really hard time supporting additional costs,” said Councillor Brian Gallant.
Thompson said that deferring the fireworks show – and thereby alleviating associated costs - would mean the cost of the Rum Runner Days weekend to taxpayers would only come in at around $40,000.
Both Council and Administration noted that costs are not the only major concern to the municipality but also crowd and volunteer safety, which is difficult to guarantee due to the large amount of people and traffic in town the night of Thunder in the Valley.
Interim Manager of Enforcement Services Donna Tona also told Council that measures such as preparing a Crowd, Threat and Traffic Management plan, staging of emergency services vehicles, and emergency operations centre provisions would be required in order to move forward with the event.
Following a great deal of discussion, Councillor Siegbert Gail moved to defer the Thunder in the Valley event from the 2012 Rum Runner Days celebration until such time that Council determines and approves an appropriate Traffic, Emergency Measures and Financial Plan, which would allow for the reincorporation of the event.
The motion was carried unanimously, with Councillor Emile Saindon, who serves as the chair of the Rum Runner Days organizing committee, abstaining from the vote.
The news of Council’s decision was met with mixed reactions from the community, with several residents and business owners expressing disappointment that the event will not be held this year.
 

A group of local residents gathered to protest the decision at Gazebo Park in Blairmore on Thursday, March 8th.
Kristin Sciarra, who started the protest by creating an event page on Facebook and an online petition entitled “Crowsnest Pass Council: Bring back Thunder in the Valley” on change.org, said the community would suffer if the event were not to be held.
This sentiment is echoed by several local business owners, such as Sears and Neat ‘N Nifty owner Anita Ferguson, who said she receives a large percentage of her business over the course of the Rum Runner Days weekend.
“Last year I made more in that one weekend than I made in the entire month of January this year,” said Ferguson.
“I’m going to lose a lot of money because of this.”
Ferguson said it is unfortunate for the community to lose not only the business that the weekend generates but also the exposure to residents from other communities.
“I love to see people come here and enjoy this community and we need that,” she said.
“The fire departments have worked so hard to do something for the town that we all can enjoy and that will make this a place to come and now we don’t have that.”
In a statement from the Thunder in the Valley Fireworks Committee (formerly known as the Blairmore Fire Department) organizers said they had postponed fundraising efforts and purchasing of fireworks while waiting to receive word from the Municipality, as they expected the event could be cancelled.
“Although we may not agree with this decision, we will abide by it,” stated the press release.
Blair Painter, one of the firefighters on the Thunder in the Valley committee, said he was disappointed to learn of Council’s decision and wished that the matter could have been worked through, adding that he did not believe that several of the costs presented in the budget were accurate.
“I definitely understand their concerns with the policing and with the CPR issues, but I totally disagree with their budget,” said Painter.
“I think the Rum Runner budget is way overinflated.”
According to Thompson, the majority of the figures in the budget were based on those from years past, as well as additional costs which were indicated through consultation with the RCMP, CPR and
Enforcement Services.
Council stressed that Thunder in the Valley has not be cancelled indefinitely, only deferred for a year in order to allow sufficient time to reorganize and plan the popular event, adding that alternative entertainment will be arranged for Saturday night in place of the fireworks and the remainder of the weekend’s events, including the midway, parade and car show will continue as planned.
Councillor Saindon will appear at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon this Wednesday, March 14th at the Blairmore Lions Pride Hall to provide further information.
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