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How to attend sunrise and sunset ceremonies at Calgary’s Field of Crosses amid COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Learn more about the 2020 sunrise and sunset ceremonies at Field of Crosses' Learn more about the 2020 sunrise and sunset ceremonies at Field of Crosses
The sunrise and sunset ceremonies at Calgary’s Field of Crosses will function differently in 2020 due to COVID-19. Sarah Offin has details. – Nov 2, 2020

Sunrise and sunset ceremonies at Calgary’s Field of Crosses Memorial Project will function differently this year due to COVID-19.

The ceremonies are held twice a day from Nov. 1 until Nov. 10.

Officials with the Field of Crosses say that while the public is still invited to visit the display at any time, only those who are specifically invited will be allowed access to a restricted area around the Cenotaph during the sunrise and sunset ceremonies, so as to maintain physical distancing in that area.

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“With COVID-19 this year, we’re really, really trying to stick to the Alberta Health Services guidelines,” said Field of Crosses spokesperson Kent Griffiths. “So what we’re doing is, we’re restricting the attendance during our ceremonies.”

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“You’re still free to walk through the crosses when the ceremonies are not taking place, or during the ceremonies — just not near the Cenotaph.”

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The Field of Crosses, located on Memorial Drive between 3 Street N.W. and Centre Street, is an annual display of 3,500 white crosses, each representing a southern Alberta soldier killed in action.

It was first conceived by Calgary businessman Murray McCann after seeing a similar display in Menlo, Ga. McCann took the idea to his friend (and former head of the Calgary Poppy Fund) George Bittman and the project was born.

Now, the crosses serve as a visual reminder of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

“I think why it’s so popular is because one day it’s an open field, and the next day you drive by and there’s a cemetery there — and it’s shocking,” Griffiths said. “It makes them wonder what it’s all about.”

Night of Lights ceremony on Nov. 10

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Field of Crosses will be host to a special ceremony to honour the fallen called the Night of Lights.

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“We put a candle at each and every one of the 3,500 crosses that are here,” Griffiths said. “It’s a special event.”

The candles burn overnight from Nov. 10 until sunrise on Nov. 11.

To keep numbers down and ensure safety, the Field of Crosses will be closed from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Nov. 10, or until all the candles are in place. Only pre-designated volunteers will be allowed on-site to help with the setup of the candles.

“We are going to post a sentry with a pole at the Cenotaph from sunset until sunrise the next morning as a vigil remembering our fallen,” Griffiths said.

Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 11

There will not be a sunrise or sunset ceremony at the Field of Crosses on Remembrance Day, and the 2020 Remembrance Day ceremony will be held virtually due to COVID-19.

Those who wish to watch the ceremony can do so by tuning into Global Calgary from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on Nov. 11, or by watching live online at GlobalNews.ca/Calgary.

Only those taking part in the ceremony will be allowed in the park, which will be closed to the public from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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When the Field of Crosses opens at 2 p.m., it will be limited to 100 people at any given time.

According to officials, Alberta Health Services is asking people not to congregate off-site, and that onlookers do not congregate along Memorial Drive opposite the Field of Crosses.

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