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Port Moody pushing to revive Cheer at the Pier for 2021 holidays

Despite ongoing concerns about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, Port Moody council wants staff to begin the process of organizing city events again, beginning with a slimmed-down version of the Cheer at the Pier Christmas event this December.
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With thousands of visitors and local businesses filling St. Johns Street, Port Moody councillor Diana Dilworth said the time is right to bring the city's annual Car-Free Day next summer despite ongoing doubts about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cheer at the Pier Christmas event is also expected to return this December.

There might be holiday cheer at the pier this year after all. 

As well as a day next summer to walk up the middle of St. Johns Street and not worry about getting run down by a car.

At its meeting Tuesday (Sept. 28), Port Moody councillors approved funding of up to $16,500 to stage a slimmed-down version of the annual Holiday Cheer at the Pier at Rocky Point Park that is highlighted by the illumination of thousands of twinkle lights along its iconic pier. 

They also charged staff to begin the process of organizing Car-Free Day again for next summer by reporting back on its feasability.

“It feels like it is something we owe to our community,” said Coun. Hunter Madsen who successfully put forward a motion to have staff look into resurrecting the seasonal celebration that had to be cancelled last year because of COVID-19 public health restrictions.

But with many of those restrictions easing, especially for outdoor gatherings, Madsen said people are eager to get together again.

“It feels like it is something we could do, even though we are being careful.”

Devin Jain, Port Moody’s manager of cultural services, said while the time frame for planning the event that is usually held in early December is running short, “It is something we could do.”

In a report to council, Jain had recommended the celebration be put off again for another year, while the city could proceed cautiously on resuming other events in 2022 like its annual community barbecue for volunteers, the Spike Awards, and Canada Day festivities. 

All would need their funding restored, he added, as their cost had been removed from Port Moody’s annual operating budget for the past two years.

Jain had also advised the city’s annual Car-Free Day be postponed again until 2023. 

At a cost of about $110,000, it’s Port Moody’s most expensive event, he said. But with local businesses still struggling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned recouping any of that expense through sponsorship would be difficult.

Some councillors said those struggles are exactly why the city should consider bringing the event back sooner rather than later. The last Car-Free Day, in 2019, drew about 25,000 people who enjoyed family activities like live music, roving performers, a rock climbing wall, bike rodeo and beer gardens. Dozens of local merchants also had displays and booths to show off their wares and services.

“Our business community has been hit pretty hard,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth. “We need a ‘hey look Port Moody, we’re back’ type of event.”

“I know Coquitlam has had outdoor concerts,” Coun. Steve Milani added.

“Obviously we can’t predict what things are going to look like 11 months from now,” Coun. Zoe Royer said. “Events are part of what makes Port Moody great.”

Still, cautioned Coun. Meghan Lahti, while busting loose with events after being deprived for so long might be laudable, the city has to be careful not to break the bank.

“The bigger issue is putting all these back in the budget in one year,” she said. “It will be a shocking price.”

Lahti added community organized events that don’t come with a significant financial cost to the city, like Ribfest and Golden Spike Days, are scheduled to go ahead next year, providing ample opportunities for residents and visitors to get together again and let off a little steam.