In my line of work as a weekly news journalist, there’s a hefty amount of repetition that comes with the job.
Hey, it comes with the territory when your ‘beat’ is rural Saskatchewan. This is completely understandable given the area that I cover and the number of years that I’ve been doing it. (“It’s not the years, it’s the mileage,” – Indiana Jones)
I’ve grown to love covering the annual events that dot the Outlook and surrounding Lake Diefenbaker area and help add to everyone’s quality of life. Whether it’s things like Canada Day celebrations (well, not this year’s), Remembrance Day ceremonies, or unique-to-Outlook events such as Santa Claus Day every December, there’s always something to capture and it rarely feels like actual work from my end.
There’s one event in particular that I’ve come to adore in the last half-decade or so – Outlook’s Community Appreciation Awards. This yearly occurrence sees a spotlight shone on a small handful of the town’s best and brightest, be they volunteers, a dedicated local organization, or a business that goes above and beyond.
The event started long ago as a banquet for the yearly Citizen of the Year award recipient, but it was enhanced almost ten years ago to add three other award winners to the bill; Business, Youth, and Group of the Year. Thus, the Community Appreciation Awards were born.
I’ll preface this by saying that I do enjoy the actual award banquets when the evening arrives each year, but what I look forward to the most are the weeks leading up to it because it allows me the time to speak to each recipient and interview them for special front-page profiles in this newspaper. These interviews I’ve conducted over the years have gone down as some of my favorite conversations with a handful of Outlook’s dedicated and standout citizens, businesses and groups, including citizens such as John McPhail (2014), Maureen Weiterman (2016), and Brent Larwood (2019), or businesses and groups such as the Outlook Funeral Chapel (2018), the Outlook Fire Department (2018) and AG Foods (2019).
I’ve learned new things about some of the people, groups and businesses that I’ve known for years, and I always appreciate getting a more well-rounded picture of who someone is or what a business or community group is all about at the end of the day.
Then we arrived at 2020, and the Covid pandemic struck a critical blow to this year’s edition of the Community Appreciation Awards.
I believe things had reached the point in March where the nomination forms had gone out and the deadline had actually passed before the pandemic pretty much caused life in general to grind to a halt in some circles. Obviously, such an event couldn’t go forward due to the guidelines of social distancing and only having X amount of people under one roof.
Time went on and things have gotten a little better as far as the pandemic goes (peaks and valleys, I’ve come to accept), but there’d been no word on the state of the awards from the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce. Then I read a question on Facebook that specifically asked about the event, and it was said that it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Not postponed or set to be rescheduled to a later date – just outright cancelled, at least according to the comment I read.
I can’t help but ask, why does it have to be cancelled? Of course, there’s no way you’re going to be able to organize the same kind of awards banquet that has happened in the past; not only due to the guidelines surrounding Covid, but the Outlook Civic Centre is going to be persona non grata soon because of extensive renovations. But the question still remains – why does it absolutely *have* to be cancelled for this year?
If there’s anything good that the pandemic has shown, it’s that we’re a very resilient and creative society when it comes to retooling and revamping events that were originally on the chopping block. Sure, we couldn’t have the typical high school graduation ceremonies for the respective classes of 2020, but I’d argue that the community parades seen in the likes of Outlook and Dinsmore were a lot more memorable and surely a lot more fun.
Do we ‘retool and revamp’ Outlook’s Community Appreciation Awards? Maybe as an online event to be broadcast on Facebook or YouTube? Perhaps it’s held closer to the end of 2020 to make it a year-end sort of celebration? Does the Chamber of Commerce maybe hand over the reigns to someone else or perhaps a formed committee? Maybe the people of Outlook and surrounding area vote on the recipients and there’s a ‘surprise reveal’ element to it?
All valid questions, but unfortunately no answers to them right now.
Maybe I’m grasping at straws here and maybe the right move is to wait until 2021, but I just feel that the pandemic has already taken enough away from us. Yeah, you can take our grad ceremonies or the right to sit in a crowded movie theater, but I still believe that the rightful citizens, businesses and groups in this community deserve to have that spotlight shone on them. Even if it has to be done in a different and unique fashion.
It’s been a year seemingly full of negativity. It just feels right to do something to cast a light in all that darkness.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.