Following months of hard, diligent work restoring and preparing the site, the Valley Drive-In has completed its renovations in time for a May 17 opening.
After the worst flooding in recent history damaged large portions of the landscape and the projection room, the organization was able to bounce back and is now ready for business.
Frigid, winter temperatures mixed with lots of snow in early January caused the ground on the site to freeze. One extreme was followed by another, with abnormally warm temperatures and heavy rain surprising the Valley. The rainwater was unable to drain through the frozen ground and started to pool in low-lying areas.
The first large flood came on Jan. 21, which created a massive pool of water that people began to dub “Lake Drive-In” on social media. Fast forward to Feb. 17, when another heavy rainfall hit the Valley and began to do more damage. Luckily, none of the electrical equipment took any damage, but there still would be plenty of work to do if the Lions wanted to stay on schedule.
The water continued to collect at the drive-in until it seeped into the projection and canteen rooms, damaging the foundation of the building and all their furnishings.
“The flooding ruined the entire canteen," said Kirk Longmire of the Coldbrook and District Lions Club.
"The whole interior of the building needed to be torn out from wall-to-wall and we had to replace basically everything. All the cabinetries, all the electrical, we redid the plumbing - just a total rebuild in order to get everything back up to par.”
Incidents like this were taken into account when the designs for the new site were being developed. Although Longmire says this was the worst flooding he had seen in the 20 years that the Lions have been on the lot, the Lions wanted to be prepared. Making sure the renovated property would allow for better drainage and be able to resist water damage better than before was a key priority.
Teams of all sorts were called in to begin the repairs. Contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, and carpenters were all brought in to help get their plan back on track. Large equipment, such as dozers, front-end loaders, and excavators, dug away and levelled the property out while many hands constructed the new interior.
“How all the water got there and why it didn’t drain away was the big issue, and now that has all been addressed," Longmire said.
Renovations at this scale aren't cheap. Dozens of different people all put in countless hours of work restoring the drive-in, Longmire said.
While the property is owned by the County of Kings, the Coldbrook and District Lions Club - which runs the facility - received tons of support in its efforts to restore the only drive-in left on mainland Nova Scotia. As well, the drive-in received tons of help from Howard Little Excavating in immediate response to the floods.
Longmire credits the local municipality for putting forth the effort to ensure the survival of the drive-in.
“This is definitely something we would not have undertaken on own accord," he said. "Operationally, the only thing that will change will be the canteen room, since all the equipment is new to the staff. To the public, the experience we provide will stay the same. The aesthetics of the property have improved with everything being brand-new, but once it gets dark and the movie goes up on the screen, there won’t be a difference.”
The dedication and teamwork that went into getting the drive-in back on its feet proves just how important this place is to its community, Longmire added. With the only other drive-in in Nova Scotia located in Sydney, the Lions Club and the Kings County fought tooth-and-nail to preserve this vital piece of Nova Scotian history.
If you go: The drive-in season kicks off May 17-19, with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu showing first, followed by Shazam! Stick around late on Sunday night, May 19, for a spooky bonus feature: The Curse of La Llorona.