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COVID crimps poppy sales

COVID-19 is changing the everyday rituals of our lives, but some traditions – such as wearing a poppy – are too important to lose, says a Red Deer business owner.
Tracy Carter, owner at Twenty Twenty Salon and Spa, pictured with her grandfather and veterans Lee Scott (left) and John Chesney (right). Her salon has poppies available with a donation. Contributed photo

COVID-19 is changing the everyday rituals of our lives, but some traditions – such as wearing a poppy – are too important to lose, says a Red Deer business owner.

Tracy Carter, owner of Twenty Twenty Salon and Spa, said the conversation about having a poppy tray at the newly opened venture started when a customer walked in wearing one.

Carter, along with the salon staff, began discussing the lack of poppies in the community due to the ongoing pandemic.

“I didn’t even think they were available this year, because you don’t see them around,” said the salon owner.

The staff then called the Red Deer Legion to pick up a poppy tray.

Now, everyone who comes into the business expresses the same sentiment.

“People have been coming in and telling us, ‘I’ve been looking for one,’ and ‘finally, someone’s got one,’” Carter said.

The responses from patrons, she said, have been positive: “‘Oh, it’s so nice to see,’ and ‘I didn’t know they were doing them this year,’ and ‘you don’t see them around businesses like you used to.’”

Mitch Day, the owner of the Music Centre, agreed, adding people get excited when they see the poppy tray at his downtown Red Deer business. He chalks that up to the scarcity of poppies this year.

The Red Deer Legion said keeping community safety in mind, it decided to not conducts its usual poppy blitz this year.

Without the campaign, the Legion won’t be able to raise the roughly $90,000 it collects annually. But the surplus from previous years is available if there’s a need in the community.

Businesses that are interested in providing poppies to the public can still contact the organization.

Carter knows poppies can be considered risky, with the red symbols of remembrance being a high-touch object. That’s why precautions such as regular disinfecting and not allowing people to reach into the tray are in effect.

The Red Deer mom understands the need to flatten the curve, especially with increasing numbers of COVID cases in the province.

“COVID’s taken a lot of things lately, understandably so, but there’s just things that are too important in the grand scheme of things, and I think there’s always a way to make it work,” she said.

According to comments on the Advocate’s Facebook page, poppies are available at some Red Deer and central Alberta stores, including IGA in Penhold, Independent Grocer in Clearview and Bespoke Hair Artisans.

Crystal Jendrasheske, a Facebook user, said poppies are available at Chillabong’s Bar and Grill in the city.

Aurea Chambers-Craig, another Facebook user, said, “It is sad to not see them at more places in town.”

Elaine Forsberg Katterhagen said Tasty Bakery also has poppies.

“There sure doesn’t seem to be many places this year that have them,” she added.

Carter said the poppy is a universal symbol of remembering, a tradition close to her heart with two grandfathers – John Chesney and Lee Scott – in the Second World War.

“As those generations die off, it’s way more important for us now to teach our kids and grandkids to not forget what people did,” the 43-year-old woman said.

Chesney started off in the army teaching new recruits to drive jeeps in Germany, said Carter.

“He had actually lied on his birth certificate. He was a month shy of his 18th birthday and he didn’t know how to drive a standard, so he had to learn to teach them.

“Having to do what they had to do to protect their country, it just gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, and that’s why Remembrance Day and talking about it with my kids and watching documentaries and looking at pictures and poppies is so near and dear to my heart.”

Both Carter and Day say the people who’ve been coming in for poppies have been generous with their donations.

“There’s more paper money going in than coins. I think people are just grateful when they do see them and want to help as much as they can, even during these tough times,” Carter said.

“Normally, when you see 20 people, maybe one person did not have it on. And this year, honestly, it’s one out of 20 have it on,” Carter said.

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