It’s difficult to say just how many people will visit Corner Brook for Come Home Year this week.
Rest assured though, local businesses and organizations are doing everything they can to prepare for a proper greeting.
Robert Murphy, an executive member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13, is getting ready for 10 busy days chock-full of official Come Home Year events and private functions, booked in conjunction with the celebration.
It will start off with a bang as the Legion is hosting a sold-out Kitchen Party dance Friday night, July 19, featuring live music by the Humber Road Greasers, that's bound to go into the wee hours of Saturday morning. A few short hours later, the Legion will be opening its doors bright and early for breakfast at 7:30 a.m.
“After the kitchen party, it will be three in the morning before everyone is gone,” said Murphy. “Then we have to get that hall ready for breakfast at seven. We will be flat out and we are trying to get every Legionnaire we can to come out and help.”
The Legion will be holding four breakfast functions throughout the week. Murphy said the organization is fortunate to have a slid group of dedicated in-house volunteers to draw on because there are other events still trying to recruit volunteer help.
The tricky part of it all is figuring out how many people to expect. The Legion knows its venue is sold out for Friday night’s dance, but has no idea how many will show up for breakfast.
“It’s all hit or miss because we might get 100 people for breakfast or we might get 20," he said.
To get ready, the Legion has a large order of food on hand, including two boxes of eggs, six huge bags of pancake mix and loads of sausage, bologna and other supplies.
“That will probably do us for two breakfasts and then we’ll have to order more,” Murphy said.
The Legion also ordered twice as much alcohol as it normally does – just to get the party started – and anticipates having to restock before Come Home Year ends.
He compared preparations for Come Home Year to the Legion’s involvement in the annual Corner Brook Winter Carnival, which is also a 10-day event filled with activities of all kinds.
“Carnival is probably a little bit busier, but this is right in line, so we have done this sort of thing before and we’re ready,” he said.
Businesses in town are trying to gauge how to prepare too. Colemans grocery store is sponsoring a community party at Margaret Bowater Park on July 24 and will be involved in the Blame it on Broadway event July 26.
The store is not only bringing in 2019 Florida Watermelon Queen Avianna Liuzzo for the occasion, but hopes to have an entire truckload of watermelon delivered straight from the fields of Georgia to accommodate the sampling and watermelon-eating contests the company has planned.
Colemans will be ramping up its deli offerings during Come Home Year, too, in anticipation of the influx of people in the area.
“We’re trying to anticipate how many people will be around, but it’s kind of hard to predict,” said Judy Bennett, Colemans’ public relations director. “I do think we need to be realistic about it, but we’re going to be ready for whoever shows up.”
Keith Golding, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, said the business community is expecting several thousand people to be visiting, so there should be plenty of opportunities for the local economy to benefit.
“I think it’s critical for every business to dust off their front step, put out the ‘open for business’ placard and welcome the people who are coming back to visit and are looking forward to seeing how Corner Brook has changed,” he said. “The business community seems to be very embracing of it and I hope they’ve put in the proper measures to make sure their businesses are ready.”
The Corner Brook Come Home Year has the potential to not just be an economic boon for the area this year. Goulding noted its impact could last for years to come.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to showcase local businesses, entrepreneurs and the local tourism market to people who may not have been home for a few years,” he said. “It might entice people to come back again and spend more time in the province and the Corner Brook area in future years.”
While making a profit may be the goal for some businesses and organizations, Murphy said the Legion would be happy enough just to break even.
“Most importantly, we just want to put our best foot forward and do a good job for the Come Home Year committee,” said Murphy. “You can feel the excitement building and building. And it will be here and gone before you know it.”