A magical movie experience in Swift Current

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a dampener on many plans over the last two years. While our lives are ebbing towards normalcy, inch by inch, we still must keep the virus top-of-mind. In view of safety restrictions and our community’s well-being, we had to make a critical decision: should we postpone the annual Innovation Picnic in the Park? The answer, a well-considered and considerate, yes.

We sent official word: Considering the ongoing and uncertain COVID-19 situation, Innovation has made the decision to postpone this year’s annual Innovation Credit Union Picnic in the Park event until 2022. Our CEO, Dan Johnson announced, “Once again, we regret having to postpone the Picnic in the Park, but the health and safety of our members and communities remain our top priority.”

Just because our annual Picnic in the Park had to be postponed until next year, it did not mean we gave up on the idea of a community event. After all, we were proud title sponsors of the City of North Battleford’s ‘Send Off to Summer’ drive-in movie event. While we couldn’t have a picnic, was there another way for the community to gather, maintaining all social distancing and safety protocols? We needed an alternative event that was as family-friendly, fun, and accessible as a picnic. Our announcement about postponing the picnic was also an invitation to an alternative event. “With a longstanding tradition of being a proud ambassador of the communities we serve, we also know the importance of an affordable day of fun that an entire family can enjoy,” Innovation CEO, Dan Johnson continued. “That is why we are very proud and excited to host an alternative event.” A free drive-in movie!

On September 17, 2021, at the Kinetic Park in Swift Current, and in association with Fresh Air Cinema, the event was a great success. How did we ensure COVID-19 protocols were in place? We focused on three main areas: social distancing, mandatory masking, and accessible sanitization. Every vehicle that rolled into the drive-in venue was provided with a parking space to ensure social distancing spacing between each vehicle. Masking was recommended to attendees when stepping out of their vehicles and was required for indoor public spaces. In our commitment to make sure every single attendee and our staff were as safe as possible, we also made sure to make sanitization products available and accessible to everyone. We wanted to ensure that all families could enjoy the event with absolute confidence, and strictly adhered to all provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Of course, any kind of outdoor event is at the mercy of the weather, but luckily for us, the weather behaved, and we could proceed with our special drive-in movie event just as planned.

After covering all our bases when it came to safety, we investigated the other important aspect that could make or break the drive-in movie event: ensuring every member of the community could partake without hesitation. We are deeply aware of and recognize the challenges that all members, their families, and the community have faced in recent times. So, we wanted to create an experience where everyone could come together safely to create new memories.

That is one of the main reasons we made the drive-in movie event completely free for the entire community to attend. How many turned up? The drive-in movie event was attended by more than 300 people, with over a hundred vehicles. It was truly a wonderful evening of shared experiences for everyone to enjoy.

And enjoy they did! We picked a movie that would be fun for the whole family – an animated fantasy action-adventure film by Walt Disney, called Raya and the Last Dragon. An immersive experience, the movie depicted a fallen warrior-princess named Raya who needed to track down a legendary dragon named Sisu to fight against the evil forces that are threatening the kingdom of Kumandra. We won’t give any more spoilers, but suffice to say, the wonderful graphics and thrilling, heart-touching storyline had the entire audience enthralled. What more could we ask for from a drive-in movie event? Perhaps, a little something extra special before and during the event? Well, we had that covered too!

To drum up more excitement and engagement for the event, we organized three separate contests. The first was a Grand Prize Giveaway, with a family prize pack valued at $500. To participate, attendees had to scan a QR code and complete an online form. More than 115 people entered and the winner was Kim Busse! Congratulations, Kim!

The second was a pre-event contest run on Facebook to increase buzz about the drive-in movie event. The Facebook Giveaway promised winners a prize of goodies worth $250. We encouraged Innovation members to share the event posts, follow our Facebook page, and tag at least two friends in a comment on the event post. Our Facebook posts about the event received hundreds of likes, shares, and comments. Almost 450 people interacted with the post and participated in our Facebook Giveaway. It was wonderful to watch our online community spread the cheer we had so hoped this event would create. As Innovation Credit Union Senior VP Business Advice Mark Clements said, “We want to give back to a community that has been so strong in the face of this crisis and hope this free event demonstrates our admiration and appreciation for our community.”

We also ran another contest during the event itself. The prize? The most delicious snacks and $50 cash. Did we mention there were snacks? To add the finishing touches to the perfect movie-going experience, the Innovation staff volunteered to prepare and distribute popcorn to all the attendees! A family movie, social gathering with social distancing, and popcorn! That was movie night done right in our books. “The past year has been tough for all of us. We hope this event offers families and movie lovers alike an opportunity to enjoy a ‘normal’ activity that disappeared as we entered the pandemic,” says Mark Clements, Innovation Credit Union Senior VP Business Advice.

It was a gathering of hundreds of people to watch a fun family movie. But more than that, it was a gathering of a community sharing a common experience and making new memories. You don’t need to stretch your imagination too far to recognize the challenges that all members, their families, and the community have faced in recent times due to the pandemic. People across the world have faced similar, if not more, trying times in the past few years. While things may not immediately go back to the way they were, we can once again come together safely and share experiences. We may have to postpone events like Picnic in the Park, but we can offer safe and family-friendly alternatives. It is important to remember that for every tradition we put on pause, there are others to newly explore.

This drive-in movie event is one step in that optimistic direction, and one small way to uplift the spirits of the communities we serve.