The year that was 2020

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By Nick Seebruch
The year that was 2020

2021 is just around the corner, but before it is here, I want to take a minute to look back on the year that was.
For the past 12 months, I’ve heard 2020 cursed again and again as a year that has been terrible for everyone.

This year has been challenging for sure. Everyone worldwide has had to endure the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has forced on our society and economy.

There were very few occasions this year where I would write a story that didn’t mention COVID-19 at some point. What I want to highlight the successes that we have seen in our region over the past year, despite the adversity of the pandemic.

Of course, the pandemic was nearly all-encompassing, but there were a few non-COVID-19 related stories as well.

Patios pop-up

After the end of the initial COVID-19 lockdown, as restaurants re-opened, business owners, municipal governments and patrons themselves worked to find new ways to support this hard-hit industry.

A major step taken by Cornwall City Council was allowing restaurants along Pitt St. in the downtown to add patio spaces in their on-street parking spaces, with Schnitzels European Flavours, Truffles, Spinners and more taking advantage of this opportunity.

Having these extra outdoor seating spots really added something to the downtown, and not just in a business sense, but an aesthetic one as well.

These pop-up patios are just one of the changes from the pandemic that was a change for the better, and one that I believe will become permanent once COVID-19 is behind us as well.

Talking diversity

One of the stories that developed in parallel, but unconnected to, the pandemic was the Black Lives Matter protests that swept much of North America following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd was a black man who died in police custody after an officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on is neck for more than eight minutes.

Cornwall too had a solidarity protest. It was probably the largest protest I have ever seen in the city.

This event opened up discussions on diversity and equity in the city with the Cornwall march organizers, Bethany Brown and Annissa Mohammed, two young black women, sharing their experiences with prejudice and racism.
At the same time, the Cornwall Police Service was already proactively taking steps to start to become more diverse and inclusive, launching their Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity initiative.

Tourism evolves

Along with masks, staying close to home was a theme throughout this year. For me, during the course of a summer I would usually make a few recreational trips to Montreal, Ottawa, even Toronto, but not this year. Even if trips were made to other cities, there likely wasn’t much to do as many events were cancelled.

The same was true for Cornwall and the surrounding area of SD&G. This meant that tourism had to change and refocus.

Instead of trying to attract tourists to the region, tourism instead evolved to market to local residents who were now sticking around for the summer.

One of the few events that took place this summer that turned out to be a big success was the Art Walk.

The Cornwall Art Walk has been a staple summer event for a few years now, but the one that took place in late August was unlike any other I’ve seen.

Pitt St. was a buzz of activity, especially from Second. St. down to Water St.

The pop-up patios mentioned above were full of residents enjoying the weather, the local food, the local art, and catching up with friends they had been isolated from for months.

This Christmas season we saw another first for tourism in the region with the Holiday Sparkle Christmas drive-thru experience opening at Gray’s Creek in South Glengarry.

This was the first time such an event was held at Gray’s Creek. It was organized very quickly with various local agencies and groups pitching in to decorate parts of the driving path through the conservation area.

Pop-up shops

The pandemic accelerated a lot of ideas, especially when it relates to the economy. More businesses began to offer curbside service, more restaurants added patios to their establishments, and Cornwall introduced pop-up shops.

The pop-up shops were seacans beautifully painted by local artists that entrepreneurs could rent to sell their wares.

Located in front of the Cornwall Square, the pop-up shops proved popular being booked solid on all available days from the time they were introduced in the spring, right through to October.

To me, the events mentioned above characterized 2020 as a year of perseverance and change. Where there any that I left out? Email me a Letter to the Editor at

Quote: All you take with you, is that which you give away. – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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