For about 45 minutes last night, I sat on the front step and counted cars as they passed our house on Hwy. 97 just north of Osoyoos.
I stopped counting at 1,500.
The steady stream gave proof to the number of Okanagan Valley visitors who had earlier in the day made their way to Osoyoos for Cherry Fiesta and the Canada Day fireworks.
I have no idea how many other folks come from the Boundary or Similkameen — or popped across the line from Oroville.
Our family was lucky to escape early. We watched the fireworks from the cheap seats — bringing the grandchildren to a vantage point near A&W — and made a quick exit as the fireworks drew to a close.
From what I’m hearing, others were not as fortunate.
“This is the highest volume of traffic I have seen in my eight years here,” reported Sgt. Jason Bayda, the RCMP’s detachment commander in Osoyoos. “(But there were) no major issues due to the traffic other than extreme waits.”
It seemed every possible parking spot in the community — and many spaces set aside for other purposes — was filled. From one end to the other, the community was a sea of metal, fibreglass and chrome.
Even side streets in residential neighbourhoods well removed from Gyro Park — ground zero for last night’s fireworks — were plugged.
“Traffic at a stand still at the arena,” wrote Damien Hannah in a Facebook post. “Never seen it like this.”
“Insanity on our streets,” echoed Jen Shiels.
“Traffic was crazy,” added Eileen Hopkins. “Gridlock all the way past the Petro Canada!”
Osoyoos Lake, too, was a shimmering bowl of twinkling lights last night as many boaters took to the water for a unique viewing perspective. How all those craft got off the water before the wee hours of the morning, I have no idea.
The temporary swelling of the community’s population yesterday was a perfect Canada Day storm.
The Osoyoos community’s volunteer effort to deliver arguably Canada’s best fireworks effort is becoming more well-known and appreciated. That, coupled with the Canada 150 event and a Kelowna decision to postpone that city’s own fireworks until August brought out-of-towners to the community in droves.
They came for the parade. They celebrated all afternoon. And they hunkered down early for dusk and an extended wait for that vaunted fireworks display.
Resort and hotel operators reported having booked and filled everything but their linen closets; campgrounds were stuffed. Pleas online begged for private parking spaces for RVs.
And still the people kept coming.
“From about 7 p.m. last night on it was a steady stream of cars coming into Osoyoos,” contributed Gaye Horn. “I can well imagine that there was no place anywhere to park or sit after ten o clock and they were still coming.”
Not surprisingly, it take a while for the community to clear.
Mayor Sue McKortoff took on extra duty last night, staying behind after Gyro Park emptied to help clean up.
“I was at Gyro and stayed for half an hour packing garbage with our Festivals gang,” she said. “I still ended up in a line going south. Anarchist firemen were still directing traffic.
“I have never see crowds like today, in the parade or tonight for the amazing fireworks.”
Kudos to all involved — especially the volunteers who made sure everyone was safe. You can bet they were the last ones home last night.
Cherry Fiesta organizers must be wondering: was yesterday an aberration or a harbinger of future festivals to come?
Here’s hoping somebody was counting. It would be great to get even a ballpark number for just how big our little community was last night.
One thing’s for sure, if Osoyoos wasn’t on the map before, it is now.
And we’ve got the fireworks to prove it.