There were certainly high hopes for this weekend’s celebration in Ottawa.
It took almost 12 hours to get there, between accidents backing up the 401 and portions of Highway 7 slowed down to a snail’s pace.
Official festivities were set to start at 11 and the streets didn’t seem busy at the hotel. A handy map showed the various streets that were closed. It looked like a three-block walk from a parking lot and we were in.
It didn’t work quite that way.
With rain gear in tow, the journey began. Quickly it appeared like a lineup had started. It would be a block and a half later before the end of the line became known. As the line slowly moved forward, snaking between city equipment planted as barriers, everyone seemed in good spirits. The rain actually let up long enough to take the damp out of soggy clothes.
Then the latecomers arrived.
Realizing they didn’t stand a chance in line we figured they chose to amble through side streets and find a large screen to watch the show.
As the line ground to a halt it became fairly clear they had simply joined the line further up, leaving the patient to wait longer. By noon, part way through the performance, we left the line-up defeated but not beat.
We learned that evening that at another gate the crowd got antsy and a bit of shoving ensued – that also didn’t help the cause at our end. That, combined with ponding of water on Parliament Hill, meant there was just no way we would have made it in.
Down Sparks Street on the way past the National Memorial to the Byward market the crowd was thick. Some watched the large screen and others busied themselves looking for lunch or figuring out what was going on.
It was a disappointment really.
After lunch, our parents went back to the hotel and we trucked on to see a museum and other sites. It was a day of walking and waiting, but it was good to have the whole family together. The evening was capped off with a dinner and fireworks.
Perhaps the only pleasant surprise of the trip was the splendid view from the hotel of the top peaks of the parliament buildings in the distance. It was perfect – no crowds, no noise and no rain.
While weather always poses a challenge, we do think the city of Ottawa underestimated the size of crowds and did a very poor job with crowds. We can talk terrorism potential all day long, but really, it was a pretty disorganized event.
But like so much of today’s world, the customer comes second when it comes to delivery of services. The politicians got in, the performers got in, some of the public got in, but the rest of us were left on the sidelines.
Some ingenuity, gating and other crowd control measures (with signage) would have helped a lot. Even numerous wide screens set up throughout the core would have helped. It is 2017 after all.
Let’s see if Ottawa can make some improvements for the 175th anniversary.