Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event on June 7-8 will be allowed singing, live music and amplified sound until midnight, not 1 a.m. as organizers had requested.
In what Coun. Bonnie Henderson called a “nice compromise,” council on Monday granted the exemption but moved up the cut-off time one hour in an attempt to appease those residents who strongly object to the noise level of the fundraiser.
Event co-chair Dan Smith told councillors organizers were willing to work with the community and council to address the noise concerns, many of which were also voiced loudly last year when organizers moved the popular event to the grounds at Stratford Central flats from Upper Queen’s Park.
In addition to cancer survivors, friends and family walking through the night, the event, which typically draws between 500-600 participants, includes live entertainment and a luminary ceremony.
There’s a wake-up call at 6 a.m. to celebrate the event’s fundraising total as well.
While he acknowledged that noise and music are “a function of what we do,” Smith said the event is about much more than “non-stop music,” as some people have suggested.
“It’s about celebrating those inflicted with this terrible disease, about celebrating the survivors, those that we’ve lost,” he added.
The cancer society sent out notices to 141 homes, advising residents of the proposed noise exemption. Five people wrote back with complaints, including Gail Caukwell, who addressed councillors on Monday before their decision.
She said Relay for Life could be held without the noise exemption, and could still have live music and ceremonies, but “at a less intrusive volume.”
She said last year she was forced to attend the event without ever leaving her home due to the noise “that invaded every room of my house.”
“Living in a residential area I have expectations of my community allowing me to meet my benefit needs of relaxation and sleeping in the evening and at night,” she added.
Caukwell described the organizers of the event as being “uncompromising” in their plans.
Smith, meanwhile, said organizers were open to suggestions without “dramatically changing the event.”
He indicated they hope to have the night’s programming completed no later than 11:30 p.m., adding two musical acts have been dropped to help keep to schedule. Organizers were asking for a 1 a.m. deadline in case of any unexpected delays.
For the first time last year, organizers used a transmitter to broadcast announcements to participants with portable radios. Asked whether the use of radios could be expanded to reduce noise levels, Smith said it was possible, though it might be “logistically challenging” given the number of people who attend.
As for moving the fundraiser to another location, Smith said there are limited options in the city, and noted the event takes in less money its first year at a new venue, as it did last year.
In supporting the noise exemption, Coun. Keith Culliton said anyone who's been affected by cancer knows how important this event is, and suggested one day out of 365 with noise is acceptable.
When challenged by Caukwell as to what’s an acceptable level of noise, Culliton replied, “My wife had seven kids and I know what it’s like to be awake all night.”