Post 166
To Jasmine and Grace and the Driver with the Tunes

It's Raining: Reflections on the Evacuation of Hawrelak Park

Well that was stupid.

Who was the brainiac behind issuing a mandatory evacuation order because it was RAINING?

Since when are RAINDROPS an emergency?


Raindrops, rainclouds, accented with some thunder and lightning.

For this, they evacuate?

For this, the police interrupt a festival and require everyone to leave AT ONCE? No notice? Just get up and leave?

A huge festival with thousands upon thousands of people is suddenly shut down, by order? Can’t believe it.

Please tell me, how many festivals have been and are held in Edmonton through all kinds of weather? How many sports events have been and are held in Edmonton through all kinds of weather?

If there’s one thing we Edmontonians can deal with, it’s most definitely weather.

I protest the July 30, 2016 evacuation of Hawrelak Park. It was unnecessary, unpleasant and highly imprudent.

Raindrops, lightning and thunder are the types of things that people can observe for themselves. Raindrops, lightning and thunder are the types of things that people can deal with. They have seen these things before, and as a matter of fact, I believe I could go so far as to say that human beings have even BEEN OUTSIDE when raindrops have fallen from the sky. I could take a wild guess and say that people have BEEN OUTSIDE when lightning has flashed and thunder has sounded.

Yet someone decided that Edmontonians couldn’t handle these things.

There I was, calmly finishing a chocolate crepe in France. (France once again ran a good pavilion at this year’s Heritage Days festival. Third place. For 2016, first prize goes to Ukraine and second to Ireland. Yes of course I’m gonna rate them.) We knew it had been raining for a few minutes. We were happy to be where we were. We even had a spot at a table (not everyone had one – some people were standing around, just glad to have found somewhere cozy and dry). I was deftly handling my little plastic fork. That’s when we heard that the park was being evacuated.


The fellow who notified me was all in a panic. He was one of the volunteers and he was visibly agitated, because he had gotten the Most Urgent Message.

Poor fellow. As I looked out onto the grounds, I saw that he wasn’t the only one who was now more than a little Freaked Out.

Some words are more powerful than others.

The word “Evacuate” tends to push people’s buttons.

Indeed, people suddenly weren’t okay. But you see, it wasn’t really the Rain. It wasn’t the thunder and it wasn’t the lightning.

It was that stupid evacuation order, and the way it was done.

I spoke to one woman who said they were enjoying the dancing at another pavilion when a policeman loudly announced that everyone had to leave – “Police Orders!” he shouted.

I see.

Maybe a little


Most people aren’t used to these sudden demonstrations of Airport Security. Most people aren’t used to these rather random and unexpected Nanny State Interventions. Before you knew it, people were looking like wide-eyed cows and sheep all squeezed into buses.

How entirely stupid.

It was raining. So what?

Leave people to their own resources. Everyone will decide what they want to do. Some will call for a ride. Some will take the bus. Some will buy a $1 poncho and try to wait it out. (Oops, did I say $1? Now that it’s raining, the price might have changed.)

Now that it’s raining, even a garbage bag (a hole cut out for the head) is apparently Rather in Fashion.

People are remarkably creative.

The solutions that they think of, when left to themselves, are amusing and inventive. I saw a man standing there gallantly holding a rather large bag over the head of the woman he loved. At least, it looked like he loved her. I hope she appreciated his efforts.

I saw some children laughing and running in the rain. They liked the excitement.

My point is, let the people deal with the weather.

Let the individual pavilions deal with the rain. Don’t doubt that the volunteers have been watching the forecast for days. Don’t doubt that they’re watching it now. Don’t doubt that they are resourceful and that they know how to work together and devise clever solutions.

Look: if the people running pavilions have been able to cooperate well enough that they can put on a dance production, prepare and sell food, set up sound systems, install elaborate murals, coordinate volunteers and everyone’s schedule, then they can deal with some Drip Drops.


Let them decide whether they want to keep soldiering on or whether they want to pack it in for tonight.

Let Poland compete with Ukraine, and see who can keep dancing and singing the longest. Let Serbia face off against Russia and see who can stay in the game the longest. Just let it be. To each his own. It could have been fun. I wouldn’t have intervened. I wouldn’t have made everyone leave.

Some people like the rain. Some people aren’t afraid of lightning and thunder.

Nowadays I like the sound. Last night, it put me to sleep – made me feel entirely at ease. God was there, and he would one day make everything right. God was there, and he will vindicate. Can’t wait.

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with feeling unsettled with the sounds from a storm, and it’s really a shame when people pretend that nothing bothers them ever. They lie to others, and they lie to themselves and sadly, they lie to their children.

But why?

We’d all be happier and freer if we were just simple and honest.

Admit it. You’re still a little scared of the dark. No? Never? Then you wouldn’t mind being in that corner of the basement when the electricity konks out, leaving you in a pitch black place?

Admit it. You’re still a little freaked at certain kinds of bugs. No? Never? Then you wouldn’t mind if someone says you’ve got a spider in your hair?

Admit it. You’re still a little disturbed when the thunderstorm is close and really quite loud. No? Never? Then you wouldn’t mind riding your bike when the sky looks like that?

The way I see it, every time we distance ourselves from the truth about what we fear or what we don’t, we do ourselves a big disservice. Every time we distance ourselves from the truth about what we like (consider those bands from the 80s and 90s) and dislike, we do ourselves a big disservice. It’s a bad habit, to consider ourselves ‘beyond’ certain feelings, fears or preferences. Chances are, you haven’t changed as much as you pretend you have. The things that scared you then still scare you now. The things that intrigued you then still intrigue you now. I wish everyone would just admit who they are.

But anyway, back to this evacuation, I am looking forward to seeing the statistics. How many millimeters of rain fell today? It wasn’t very heavy, and it wasn’t very windy. If you ignored the sight of everyone freaking out, and just thought about how wet you were getting, you knew that it wasn’t a deluge and it wasn’t even really much of a storm. A little bit of boom and a little bit of blam, but nothing that really amounted to much.  [Total rainfall for Edmonton July 30: 17 mm]

Indeed, the worst part was the order itself. Evacuation of a park in the middle of Edmonton’s very best festival?

That was a Bad Call, plain and simple.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t entirely simple. Soon after giving the order, the police went ahead and made things Quite a Bit Worse. Hmm, said the Wizard of Oz. Shall we go for Chaos or Pandemonium?

Not only did they require that EVERYONE leave the park AT THE SAME INSTANT, but then they required that everyone leave the park in EXACTLY THE SAME MANNER.

By this, I mean that they did their very best to prevent people from leaving the park by any method other than bus.

Does this sound strange?

It was.

Many of us were standing in the driver pick-up zone, waiting for our ride, when the police woman began yelling at us that we should be moving along. She said that the Edmonton Police Service had re-routed traffic, so that none of the cars would be able to reach us.



She hollered at us: You can stand here if you want, but you’ll only get wet.

Her point was that we were screwed.



You’ve closed down roads, preventing drivers from reaching this particular section of sidewalk because it is, um, RAINING? (And don’t say it was necessary for bus traffic – buses were getting through without any problem.)

You’ve imposed Mandatory Evacuation and then prevented people from being able to arrange a normal method of leaving?


How entirely stupid.

Hey man, there goes my ride!

(The person who was trying to pick us up went driving by, unable to access me and the others. I saw him but he could no longer see us; his best efforts were blocked by blockade after blockade.)

I asked the police officer exactly what she expected us to do.

She said, Walk to the University.

She said, Meet your ride

At the University.

You must be kidding.

You evacuate me from a park, where I had shelter from rain, a plastic table, chair and fork, and tell me that now I should walk to the university (about 20 to 30 blocks away)?

You make me leave a park because of the WEATHER and tell me I should now begin walking to an unplanned destination with zero preparation in the EXACT SAME WEATHER?

Listen chicky: the weather that you’re so entirely worried about is happening SIMULTANEOUSLY beyond the park’s borders. It’s not as if there is ONE big cloud hanging above the ONE park. It is raining OUTSIDE the park AT THE SAME TIME.

But, thanks to you, I cannot catch my ride. You’ve blocked off the roads. You’ve re-routed traffic so that nobody can use a rather obvious solution. In the days of the cell phone, when timing can be almost perfectly precise, you prevent one person from darting into the designated Pick-up and Drop-off lane to pick up another?


How entirely mismanaged.

What a recipe for mayhem!

Make thousands of people suddenly scramble for a sudden way of leaving a place, and then deny them, also with no notice, a sensible way of leaving a place. Instead, you tell them to take a hike. You ridicule them while they stand there shivering in the rain. You’ve got a bright orange poncho and a baton and you figure that now You’re the Boss, and that you can be As Rude as You Like to people who have done you no harm, and whose ‘crime’ is standing on a sidewalk waiting for their ride? You turf them from a park and then turf their ride from the road?


Evacuations are an extreme solution, to be used very sparingly. The odds that I would be struck by lightning are very small, and much smaller than the odds that I would be hit by a bus, now that you have all the people panicking and rushing this way and that, and now that you mandate that the bus is the only solution.

She told everyone to walk up the hill (towards the university, in the rain).

So we walked down the hill.

(It’s always best to avoid being herded, if you can.)

We went to a place where all the vehicles (except for the buses) were being forced to go. Each vehicle that was trying to reach the park would now go under the overpass. An extra plus? Under the overpass, it was dry.

But the best plus of all was that we met someone else and she was catching a ride, and would we want to join them?

Ah – God’s timing is perfect.

A ride

All the way home

I tried to think –

How could I thank them?

A sudden favour from someone you don’t know

Just when you need it


People helping people
Edmontonians helping Edmontonians
Generosity where there is genuine need

I love it

Maybe that was enough
Maybe that made everything worth it

Thank you.