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Residents in Ogden, Lynnwood building community with coronavirus birthday parades

In Saturday’s version of the Ogden – Lynnwood birthday parade, a 91-year-old birthday boy request the low-rider cars to come bouncing by his home.

So, they did.

His was just one of 18 birthdays celebrated along the southeast Calgary route this past weekend. It was something long-time resident Brian Zappey brought to the neighbourhood in the first week of April.

With a virtual ban on birthday celebrations due to COVID-19, Zappey and his cohort wanted to brighten the lives of area residents.

Zappey, who’s lived in the area since 2001, saw the idea posted by a friend in Cranbook, B.C. He scooped a couple photos, posted the himself and before he knew it, he had nearly 100 people in the Ogden and Lynnwood communities asking him when it would be brought to their neighbourhood.

“I had to find somebody to make a webpage… I found somebody to do a map and then basically, we’ve just been flying by the seat of our pants and everything’s worked out,” Zappey said.

This weekend’s route was the longest yet – and they’ve been doing it every Saturday since April 4.

This weekend’s route through Ogden and Lynnwood. FACEBOOK

It just started with kids’ birthdays, Zappey said. Then they took requests for the parade to drive by residents in isolation. Then, due to popular demand, they included everyone in the area they knew who had birthdays.

After today, the residents of Ogden-Lynnwood will have celebrated 44 birthdays together.

Emotional response from area residents

Two weeks ago, when the parade entourage rolled down Ogden Road SE, Zappey noticed a woman at an area strip mall jumping up and down, waving and dancing.

“I did a double take and I looked over and she was standing there crying,” he said.

Shortly after, another woman stood, isolated, in the window of her home wiping away tears as the parade went by.  Yet another resident, captive in their own home was in her front window, hands clasped together like she was praying.

“She was blowing kisses and you could read her lips, ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’” said Zappey.

“It kinda brings a tear to your eye, you know?”

That’s been the response to this point. Zappey said they get a wonderful feeling when they go out. That feeling is washing over the area residents.

They want to be a part of it. When it started, they had 20 participants; low rider cars, a 40 foot bus, they’ve had a Calgary Fire Department fire truck, go carts and more. This weekend, they had 37 entrants.

“The more we go, the more it increases,” Zappey said.

Families in the area line the route with balloons, signs and flags, welcoming the paraders.

An overhead view of the Ogden and Lynnwood birthday parade. KELLI CARON KALUPAR / FACEBOOK

Rekindling the community’s spirit

Zappey knows that Calgary is just starting to unwind from the grip of coronavirus. Things will gradually get back to a new normal.

He said their group, which includes the hardworking Kelli Caron-Kalupar and Mandy Pratt, have talked about what happens when the coronavirus fades away.

“You’ll probably see the numbers drop off a little bit because they’ll be allowed parties and stuff,” Zappey said.

“But, we still have people that said that their kids’ birthday is months away from now, if you’re still doing it. We gotta wait and see, but my answer is yes, for now.”

The whole weekend birthday party parade has brought the community closer together, Zappey said. It’s rekindled the community spirit in the area.

When they see the looks on people’s faces, it makes it all worthwhile.

“Just joy and happiness,” he said.

“It’s actually a wonderful feeling when you go.”