Haines welcomes its first Canadian visitor since March 2020

The Haines community marching band plays “O Canada” to welcome the first visitor to town (Corinne Smith/KHNS)

The U.S. border has reopened to non-essential travel for Canadians for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In Haines, a Monday morning welcome party was thrown for the first Canadians to visit since March, 2020.

The Haines community marching band was at the ready to play “O Canada,” welcoming the first car — a black Dodge — pulling into the visitors center in downtown Haines.

It was the only car to arrive before noon. Bruce Funk of Whitehorse had a police escort from Haines Police Chief Heath Scott from the border crossing, about 40 miles north of Haines.

Funk had tears in his eyes as he shook hands with Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud.

“Welcome back to Haines,” Olerud said. “We’ve missed everybody in the Yukon, and being able to have you guys back here means a lot.”

Funk is a familiar face. He’s been visiting Haines for over 45 years.

“It’s been a long time,” he said with a laugh. “Ah, just happy to be back.”

He said he plans to check on property he owns, do some sport fishing and visit with friends in town. His last visit was in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit.

“Nothing better than to spend a few weeks down here,” Funk said.

Haines Mayor Doulgas Olerud (left) welcomes Bruce Funk (right) to town after 19 months (Corinne Smith/KHNS)

Haines Tourism Director Steven Auch had gift bags on hand for the first seven Canadian visitors. They included a gift certificate for breakfast at the Bamboo Room, coffee, salmon, and other items from local businesses, which have been off-limits since both countries instituted travel restrictions as a precaution against spreading COVID-19.

“It would’ve been nice to see a line of cars at the border at the opening and they call came, but you know, this is great,” Auch said. “Great to see someone that’s been coming here for awhile come back on the day of the opening, so we’re excited for that.”

Auch said that regardless, Haines is ready to welcome back Canadians after a 19 month break.

“We’ve waited patiently. I’m glad that it happened and glad that we’re, you know, glad to welcome our friends and family from Canada back to Haines,” he said.

Mayor Olerud echoed that excitement, saying it feels like a step toward normalcy.

“There’s been so many baby steps since the pandemic first hit. And then each one you get a little bit closer to normal, a little closer to normal. I think having that, where now we can go there, they can come here. Yes, it’s a little bit harder than it normally is, but we’re one step closer to that normal,” he said. “Having our Canadian neighbors be able to come back to Haines is a big step.”

Canadian visitors are required to show proof of vaccination and have a negative COVID-19 test for re-entry.

The reception wrapped up with coffee and snacks. Bruce Funk even got an invitation for dinner while he’s in town.

The Haines community marching band packed up but was ready for the next fanfare.

Canadians can get a COVID-19 test for re-entry from the Haines SEARHC clinic, which costs $145. It’s by appointment only on weekdays. In Skagway, tests are offered at the Dahl Memorial Clinic for $30 — also, by appointment.

Children under age 18 do not need proof of vaccination if traveling with a vaccinated adult but do need a negative COVID-19 test for re-entry.

KHNS - Haines

KHNS is our partner station in Haines. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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