Bowmanville’s Soper Creek Wildlife Rescue bombarded with death threats after cancelling Winter Festival for safety concerns

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Published December 15, 2021 at 3:02 pm

“It’s so sad that this is what the world has come to,” said Soper Creek Wildlife rescue leader Stefanie MacEwan after she was bombarded by death threats for cancelling a single evening of their annual Festival of Lights over the danger posed by brutal 89 km/h winds on Saturday.

The Festival of Lights, now in its second year, is a charity tour of Christmas Light displays on the paved track of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where participants drive by elaborate christmas light displays. The track features decked out tank, train cars, and Santa’s sleigh among many others.

Tickets cost a mere $20 dollars and all proceeds go to JumpStart Canada, The Super Sophia Project, and Rays of Sunshine Everywhere charities.

The event runs throughout this week from December 10 to 19 between 5 and 11 p.m. However, on December 11 the wind speed reached nearly 90 km/h, according to the Weather Network. Winds this high rank tenth in the 12 point Beaufort Wind Scale as Storm Winds, causing per the Government of Canada, “Trees uprooted. Considerable structural damage occurs.”

As a result of the dangers posed by the windstorm, Soper Creek cancelled five hours of a ten day event at the last minute. Soper Creek Leader Stefanie MacEwan, one of 30 wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario, announced the decision in a Facebook Live post at 3:41, about an hour and a half before the event was set to begin.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to close the festival for tonight,” she says, struggling to be heard over the roaring wind, “Although we were planning on still running it. All of our big displays are all safe and secure. There are some smaller items on our community  alley which we just can’t secure.”

About half way through the stream, while discussing honouring the tickets bought for Saturday, the wind kicked up, rendering MacEwan inaudible.

MacEwan returns to Facebook live at quarter after 7 p.m. that evening, visibly upset. She said she wanted to discuss “the reaction” Soper Creek received.

“I understand completely that it was last minute,” she said, “We tried to see if it was something that was going to work, but our team, a team of literally five people…We made the decision at three or 3:30 after having no power from 10 o’clock in the morning until we made that post.”

She describes numerous issues from “everything going crazy” at Motorsport Park to six felled trees on the enclosures and hospital at the Wildlife centre. “I can only do as much as I can, but tonight I have received so many death threats and accusations that we’re not holding an event, that we’re disgusting human beings.”

“We were imply making the best decision we thought for everybody,” she continued acknowledging not everyone could have heard of the closure before they left for the event, “but to get the negative response we did, to the extent we were getting death threats for shutting down a festival to protect people who support us, is beyond sad. I’m speechless.”

MacEwan said she stayed at the gate to tell late-comers that event was closed until her truck door nearly tore off and all the signage of the closure blew away.

Around 10 a.m. the next morning Soper Creek posted the aftermath. Thanks to the hard work of MacEwan’s volunteer’s the Festival was back on track by the following day, despite the extensive damage caused by the winds.

The event continues until next Sunday and tickets are still on sale online though many times are sold out already. Anyone affected by the cancellation can still use their tickets.

Uttering death threats is an indictable offence. Convictions carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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