Being a Snowbird in the Time of COVID

With COVID-19, will snowbirds still answer the call of warmer weather?

Now is the time when snowbirds flock south.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced that fully vaccinated Canadian travelers will be permitted to enter the United States via the land border for non-essential purposes effective November 8, 2021. When entering the United States for tourism purposes, travelers will be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, such as their provincial vaccine receipt or QR code.

Goodyear, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been confirmed by the Biden Administration that international visitors who received a full course of any WHO-approved vaccine such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca will be recognized as fully vaccinated. Further, the U.S. government will also recognize travelers who received mixed doses of any WHO-approved vaccines as fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Palm Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadian entering the United States at a land crossing will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. However, all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country are required to get tested for COVID-19 with a viral test no more than 3 days before their flight departs and must present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

Laughlin, Nevada is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a winter spent away from sunnier climates, many fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds are set to make the trip south this year. But with the Delta variant surging in different parts of North America, some snowbirds are weighing their options as to the best way forward especially with the U.S. land border reopening to Canadians on November 8.

Casa Grande, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey conducted in June by Snowbird Advisor found that 91 percent of snowbirds intend to travel south this winter and two-thirds of them plan to spend more than three months outside of Canada. (A similar survey conducted last November found that only 30 percent of snowbirds had definite travel plans last winter.)

This eagerness to travel to warmer climates in the winter is evident but there’s an element of the snowbird population that’s taking a “wait-and-see” approach as well as some who are planning for a more uncertain future.

Desert Hot Springs, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona and Florida are the ultimate destinations for Canadian Snowbirds. Arizona has become home to many snowbirds during the winter season. Canadians have contributed to Arizona’s economic growth with billions of dollars from tourism and snowbirds.

Related: Ultimate Collection of National Parks Perfect for Snowbirds

In 2020 there was a significant decrease from 1 million snowbirds to 200,000. Now that U.S. borders will open up to Canada in November, Arizona is hoping to see that rise again.

The Colorado River (Arizona/California) is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’re hoping and praying that they come back but it’s not a given. So we keep telling everyone in Arizona I hope you’re marketing to the Canadian tourists and snowbirds because they have choices,” said Glenn Williamson is the CEO and founder of Canada Arizona Business Council. 

As I ponder what it means to be a Canadian snowbird in the time of the COVID pandemic, my mind goes to Anne Murray and her famous song, Snowbird.

Venice, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the summer of 1970, Anne Murray released Gene MacLellan’s song, Bidin’ My Time. A DJ at a radio station in Cleveland flipped the single and played the B-side, another song by MacLellan called, Snowbird. The track quickly became popular with local listeners and eventually went on to become a surprise hit worldwide. The song sold over one million copies in the United States making Anne Murray the first Canadian female artist to receive a gold record in that country and establishing the careers of both Murray and MacLellan.

Phoenix, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in Springhill, Nova Scotia, the Anne Murray Centre had hoped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that remarkable accomplishment last year with a live event, but COVID put those plans on hold.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

With the pandemic still affecting travel and live events, the center decided to present an online celebration—50+ Years of Snowbird—on its Facebook page.

Palm Desert, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anne was a big fan of MacLellan’s songwriting and would end up covering more than half a dozen of his songs. In her book, All of Me, Murray said, “Gene was not only a hugely gifted songwriter but also one of the most naturally soulful singers I’ve ever heard. He was a sweet, shy man of uncommon humanity, with a wonderful sense of humor.”

Gene’s daughter, Catherine MacLellan, took part in this online event.

Tucson, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It’s a beautiful, broken-hearted love song,” said MacLellan. “It’s a really simple song that for some reason just keeps living on. No matter where I’ve been in the world, from Australia to the U.K. and Europe, people remember and love that song. It fascinates me. It took off in a way no one expected.”

The Alabama Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The song symbolizes the relationship between her father and Murray, she said, and it’s one she believes her late father was very proud of. She said he was pleased to see Murray receive international acclaim which helped open the lucrative international market to Canadian singers and songwriters.

Yuma, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Anne was really the first Canadian music superstar that made it big across the world,” said MacLellan who is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right having released seven full-length albums.

She has won multiple East Coast Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, and P.E.I. Music Awards as well as a Juno in 2015 for her album, The Raven’s Sun.

Indio, California is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017, Catherine released If It’s Alright With You, a tribute album to her father, and created a stage show by the same name. She also produced an award-winning documentary about him called The Song and the Sorrow.

She will be interviewed by author Charlie Rhindress who has written best-selling books about Rita MacNeil and Stompin’ Tom Connors and is currently working on a book about Nova Scotia’s most accomplished female singers, including Murray.

The Florida Gulf Coast is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I have spent most of my career telling Atlantic Canadian stories and celebrating people from the region, so I am thrilled to talk to Catherine about her father and Snowbird,” Rhindress said. “The year Snowbird swept the Juno Awards, Anne jokingly referred to herself, Gene, and her producer, Brian Ahern, as the Maritime Mafia. That song was instrumental in putting the east coast of Canada on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.”

Corpus Christi, Texas is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two will discuss the relationship between Anne and Gene as well as the history of Snowbird and some of Gene’s other songs which were covered by Anne including Put Your Hand in the Hand, The Call, and Bidin’ My Time. MacLellan will also discuss her father’s musical legacy and perform some of those songs which Murray recorded.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The Anne Murray Centre was not able to open in 2020 due to COVID-19 and had a shortened season this year. To stay connected with its supporters, the center has hosted a series of online events over the past year.

Orlando, Florida is a popular snowbird destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbird

Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean
The unborn grass lies waiting
For its coat to turn to green
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers
That will bloom again in spring
When I was young
My heart was young then, too
Anything that it would tell me
That’s the thing that I would do
But now I feel such emptiness within
For the thing that I want most in life’s
The thing that I can’t win
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
The breeze along the river seems to say
That he’ll only break my heart again
Should I decide to stay
So, little snowbird
Take me with you when you go
To that land of gentle breezes
Where the peaceful waters flow
Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
The one I love forever is untrue
And if I could you know that I would
Fly away with you
Yeah, if I could you know that I would
Fl-y-y-y-y away with you