Melanie King introduced Hay River to the idea of birthday parades, which celebrate people’s special days while maintaining social distancing in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Even difficult times like these can’t prevent families – or the whole community – from celebrating birthdays.

However, the celebrations are being done in a creative and more importantly safe way as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Melanie King has brought the idea of weekly birthday parades to Hay River, with the first on March 27 and another on April 3.

King said she came across the idea on Facebook when a friend shared a report, possibly from the United States, of children’s birthdays being celebrated through parades to maintain social distancing.

“And it was right before my son’s birthday, and I thought, ‘Oh, what a fantastic idea. I would love something like this for my son,'” said King.

So she shared the post and asked who would be interested in doing a drive-by birthday celebration for her son, and many of her friends jumped at the idea.

“Everybody was so excited about it, and I thought, ‘Hey, you know what, I know of a few other kids that are celebrating their birthdays, as well,'” she recalled. “Why don’t we include them and make a rounds of it?'”

In less than 24 hours the first parade was organized and featured about 30 vehicles, some decorated with signs and balloons.

“It far, far surpassed my expectations,” said King, who noted she couldn’t have done it without help from Jennifer Tweedie.

Of course, a person celebrating a birthday – either that day or recently – has to be home to receive the birthday wishes.

“Whoever requests the drive-by, it’s up to them to make sure that child or adult – we have done a couple of adults – are standing outside or waiting in their windows for the drive-by,” said King.

The first birthday parade on March 27 visited a half-dozen houses.

“Especially for a child, their birthday is the one day that is their day and where they’re celebrated and where they get to feel special,” said King, explaining that they can’t celebrate in the traditional way during the social distancing for COVID-19.

Her son Louis turned 13 on March 27.

“At first, I could tell he was a little bit embarrassed,” King said of her son’s reaction to the idea of a birthday parade, but he smiled when he actually saw the procession.

“It succeeded what I wanted him to feel on his birthday,” she said. “It’s to feel like he was appreciated for that day.”

Louis said the parade was really different.

“I really liked it,” he said.

Louis and his mother also joined the first parade to visit others, either celebrating their birthdays on the same day or in recent days.

“It was pretty funny to see their faces and like the shock,” he said.

On April 3, almost 40 vehicles joined the parade.

It first drove by the home of Kairyssa Jacobs, who turned 11 on March 30.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was like fun.”

King is hoping the birthday parades become weekly events.

“As long as we have to practise this social distance, I think it’s only fair that all kids get this opportunity when we can’t have birthday parties,” she said.

Plus, King noted that the parades give all participating families a chance to come together and to still feel like a community.

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