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No More Spark in the Sky: Banff Ends Canada Day Pyrotechnics

Banff's decision to cancel pyrotechnics displays marks a shift towards more environmentally conscious celebrations, addressing the impact on wildlife and the risk of wildfires

If you’re already planning your summer holidays and want to include Canada Day fireworks in your itinerary, then remove Banff from your destination list.

The town of Banff announced it is cancelling its Canada Day pyrotechnics displays.

The Council decided after the municipality’s Emergency Preparedness Services and Parks Canada raised concerns about fire safety.

A Ban on Fireworks

The town has always had a complicated relationship with fireworks and pyrotechnics. In 2018, the town council voted to ban traditional fireworks for Canada Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve celebrations due to their documented impact on wildlife.

While fireworks are a memorable experience for most humans, their noise causes significant distress to animals, including summer-nesting birds and wintering elk. 

During fireworks displays, birds and small mammals will fearfully abandon their nests, leaving their young ones behind.

The debris left behind from fireworks can also entangle and poison animals if ingested. 

The toxins in fireworks pollute the air.

Moving to Pyrotechnics 

Infographic about the risks of fireworks to both humans and animals | The Forever Dog

From 2018 to 2022, Banff hired a pyrotechnics company for the town’s Canada Day celebrations. 

The Bow Valley Naturalists, a natural history and conservation group in the Bow Valley, welcomed the decision to use pyrotechnics instead of fireworks.

Pyrotechnics are different from fireworks in a few ways. 

Unlike loud fireworks, pyrotechnics are much quieter because there is no secondary explosion. 

Pyrotechnics displays are also held at a lower altitude, reducing sound travel distance. 

But pyrotechnics displays are as flashy as fireworks and can still be distressing to animals. 

The displays also produce smoke and litter at crowd level that can harm wildlife. 

“It is not recommended that low-level pyrotechnics be considered for the event due to human and environmental health effects…,” said Amanda Arbuckle, manager of Recreation Services for Banff.

Fire Danger

Fireworks and pyrotechnics displays can also start fires, especially in July when temperatures are hotter. 

“It’s July 1, and by then, there’ll typically be fire bans throughout the province, and I know that it’s only getting hotter and drier,” said Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.

Last year, Banff cancelled its Canada Day pyrotechnics display after Parks Canada requested an impact assessment.

The town’s latest announcement is the final nail in the coffin for Banff’s night-time Canada Day displays. 

2020 New Year's Eve pyrotechnics display in Canmore | Crag & Canyon
2020 New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics display in Canmore | Crag & Canyon

More Cuts to the Celebration?

On Canada Day, Banff hosts nighttime performances in Central Park, including a traditional, vehicle-driven Canada Day parade complete with floats,  marching bands, Indigenous performers, and street entertainers. 

But this year, the town Council also voted on whether to cut the Canada Day nighttime performances funding. 

The budget cuts would shave off just over $30,000 from Banff’s $66 million operating budget.

However, most of the Council quickly shot down the idea of cutting night-time performances.

Mayor DiManno supported cancelling the town’s Canada Day pyrotechnics displays, but she feels differently about removing the nighttime performances, where some of her fond childhood memories of Canada Day were made. 

“Having that celebration at night is a really nice space for folks that they can come with their families, and kids can dance around on the lawn,” said Mayor DiManno

If sacrificing fireworks and pyrotechnics displays on Canada Day protects our wildlife and reduces the risk of wildfires, it’s a small price to pay.

But people still want to celebrate, and concentrating on evening festivities in Central Park seems like a good compromise. 

2023 Canada Day Wheeler Parade in Banff | Jungmin Ham | Rocky Mountain Outlook
2023 Canada Day “Wheeler Parade” in Banff | Jungmin Ham | Rocky Mountain Outlook

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