An Open Alberta For Business convoy and rally packed the parking lot outside the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday afternoon.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere despite the -20 C cold, with rallyers waving signs and cheering as a long procession of vehicles, many of them flying Canadian flags and honking their horns, came in off the highway.
Twin convoys from Edmonton and Calgary were encouraged on Facebook to meet in Red Deer to send a message to the government to lift health restrictions and fully re-open the economy.
Bridget Frostad came all the way from Airdrie to attend the rally with her sister, Victoria, who lives in Red Deer. The pair hung a Canadian flag upside down — a signal of distress — on the rear window of their car as a message.
“I am willing to do pretty much anything to fight for our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that are unquestionable,” said Bridget when asked why she made the trip.
“I think people really need to wake up and get off their couches and start to realize what’s going because I don’t think this is really going to end if we don’t stand up,” she said of the health restrictions and business closures.
“It’s just going to keep going and going. (Premier Jason Kenney) will let it go a little bit, it’ll sort of return to normal, then there will be something new.
“Because it’s not really about our health. It’s about the great reset — which is real unfortunately. That’s just rebranded communism and I’m not real excited about that.”
Victoria said she was motivated by the same issues as her sister.
“It’s freedom, and our economy and the people who live here. It’s just unreal what is happening.
It’s about being a free Canadian with rights.
“They are being taken away right now. Really, I just don’t want to stand for it. I think everybody should stand up for it.
“I’m really surprised how many sheep there are here, how many people are following all of the rules 100 per cent, with no questions asked.
“I feel it’s turning into a bad place and we chose to live in Canada because it’s a good place, you know?”
Brenda Day was handing out signs saying “Let Them Play” to vehicles as they entered.
“We just want business open and let’s get on with life. We need to get things going again,” said Day, who lives in the Sundre area and has attended many rallies.
“That’s the bottom line. The children need to play sports. The businesses need to get back to making money and feed their families.”
“Actually, I wasn’t expecting quite this many, but this is awesome,” said organizer Glen Carritt. “It just goes to show that people in Alberta have had enough.
“We’re ready to get on with life, to move forward and get these businesses open, get the gyms open, get the kids back to playing sports, get the churches open and let’s just get moving forward.
“The numbers just don’t justify the lockdowns.”
The province is taking a phased approach to re-opening, based on hospitalizations. Step 1, which saw restaurants open for in-person dining and gyms allow one-on-one personal training, started on Feb. 8. Step 2 is expected to start three weeks after Step 1, when hospitalizations are below 450 and declining.