Given the (hopefully) unique and never-to-be-repeated nature of this Canada Day, 2020, we will be celebrating together apart, and the main focus of the day this year will be a 12-hour marathon on local radio station, JuiceFM. As you will have read in this and other issues of the Times, this year’s celebrations have been organised by the Kemptville District Community Association [KDCA] and the Oxford Mills Community Association [OMCA], in conjunction with the Times and JuiceFM, along with the Municipality of North Grenville.

Aside from the competitions hosted in the Times, JuiceFM will take centre stage on July 1, as a way to reach the whole community at one time. Chris Walker of JuiceFM will be hosting the day’s programming, and the station has also sponsored the children’s colouring competition, which appeared in last week’s newspaper. I asked Chris how the radio station got involved in the Canada Day’s events:

“When this all started, and my first meeting with the KDCA was coming up, Wendy Embleton of the Association suggested that it might be great if I had a few ideas. I came up with a list of 19 different options that we could do during the day, from a radio perspective. As well as the usual local music, interviews with politicians like the Mayor, the MP, and the MPP, the usual things you’d get on Canada Day, except funneled through the radio station. I thought that, now we can use social media, there are other options for us as well. We can produce the visual art, we can do the Canada Day thing. If we have contests, we can run that. And the whole Board were happy to get kids involved.”

I pointed out that JuiceFM usually had a music format that didn’t include longer interviews and shows, and Chris indicated that a lot of thought had gone into the format for Canada Day:

“At the time, there was an idea of doing a request show; but now that we’ve got a solid – and I mean a solid – 12 hours of programming, I didn’t think we could make the request show work. So, instead, we’ve gone with more local music than we had originally planned.”

It was important, Chris felt, to go the extra mile (or hours) to honour the extra work being done by essential workers in the community: Most music shows on the station are 4-5 hours long, but “I wanted to go the full 12 hours in solidarity with all the first responders and everybody that’s been working through covid-19. If these people are putting their lives on the line for us, if they’re putting in the work so that we all stay safe, the least we can do is put in 12 hours to, hopefully, entertain people on what’s going to be a mid-week day off. That’s where the idea of the full 12 hours came from.”

The station will be featuring 100% Canadian music from 6am until 12pm, and will be live on air from 9am until 9pm. In between, there’s going to be some 4 or 5 minute interviews with the usual suspects: Mayor Peckford, Steve Clark, M.P.P., and Michael Barrett, M.P.. There’s going to be interviews with local bands and local musicians, as well as local musicians making it to air. “We have something musical set up for almost every half an hour in the second half of the day. I’ve spent ten years in radio, this is my fifth community I’ve lived in, and there’s no place like North Grenville. It’s a beautiful community, filled with beautiful people who are always willing to throw their hats into the ring and do a bit of extra work for the betterment of the community.”

For Chris, as for all of those involved in organising the Canada Day celebrations this year, there is genuine pleasure and fun in being able to bring this alternative celebration to the community. Chris puts it very well: “It’s a genuine honour and a privilege to wake up and, hopefully, educate and entertain this community, and to be able to work directly with the community in this way for Canada Day just makes it so much more special. It’s going to be something that radio hasn’t seen in a very long time, and I am very happy indeed to be a part of it.”

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