Hundreds of New Brunswickers came out to celebrate the province’s public holiday Monday — the first major public event without any restrictions due to the COVID-19 and one of the largest events since the pandemic began 17 months ago.
The event was in Fredericton in partnership with the Province of New Brunswick and St. Mary’s First Nations. It began at the old burial grounds in the First Nations community.
Maggie Paul, an Indigenous elder in the community, led the opening ceremony, followed by several performances and traditional dances in which everyone who attended joined.
“I think it is very refreshing to see our neighbours coming out, our friends and of course, our leaders all coming together to a celebration which of course is going green in this COVID-19 experience that we all experienced,” said St. Mary’s First Nations Chief Allan Polchies.
Next was New Brunswick Day on the green.
Vendors, artists and bagpipers alike showcased along the St. John River for hours of entertainment.
Global News spoke to several people who called it an exciting day for the province. Others waved to the camera.
One woman who spoke to Global News said, “It’s certainly nice to see people celebrating New Brunswick Day because it’s been a crazy year.”
Another, Janet Creadie, who represented the Lebanese community through some events, said she was happy to be out without needing to wear a mask — but she said you can keep one on you just in case.
In a tweet Monday, Premier Blaine Higgs said, “This is a New Brunswick Day like no other. It’s your day. A time to embrace and celebrate that we have entered a new phase, and it’s all thanks to you.”
Under a cloud of COVID-19
Although it was a day of celebration, New Brunswick remains under a cloud of COVID-19.
On Sunday, the province announced 18 new cases of the virus, which could have occurred before the lifting of restrictions. It has listed at least 20 public exposures in the past three days.
No one is in hospital, and 67.9 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
On July 29, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, says she’s comfortable with New Brunswick’s decision based on the current epidemiology.
She says she does expect case numbers to rise, though, because COVID-19 remains a global pandemic and “the risks will still be there.”
— with files from Global News’ Callum Smith