Jeff Green | Sep 03, 2015
Attendance reaches target of 10,000
It took the efforts of a committee of volunteers, the Township of South Frontenac, Frontenac County staffers Alison Vandervelde and Anne Marie Young, co-ordinators Pam Morey and Dan Bell, and hundreds of volunteers on the grounds to produce a relaxed, happy, and engaged crowd at the Frontenac County weekend-long 150th Anniversary Celebration.
The long range planning that helped make that happen started with the upgrades that were done to Centennial Park to turn it into a mixed-use facility that is as suitable for a soccer tournament or a high school football game as it is for a fair or large exhibition. This involved clearing a swath of land for parking, paving walkways, upgrading the stage/picnic area, etc. All of this work was taken on by the township over the last 18 months, and was done with accessibility needs in mind thanks to the efforts of Neil Allan, who consults with the township and sits on the county accessibility committee as well.
The planning for the event itself has been underway for a couple of years, but it was over the last six or seven months that all of the detailed work was done, the musicians booked, the vendors sought and secured, etc.
By the time Friday (August 28) rolled around, tents were going up around the grounds; cordoned-off areas had been set up for kids who would be playing on the bouncy castles and for adults at the “saloon”; the re-enactors had set up their camp; and the dignitaries were gathered for the opening ceremonies.
Any illusion that the proceedings would be dry and formal were dispelled when Central Frontenac Town Crier Paddy O'Connor enlisted the audience’s participation in calling out “O-yeah”.
This was followed by the raising of the Canadian flag and Heather Bell singing O Canada.
The MC for the ceremony was Phil Leonard, former mayor of Portland and South Frontenac Townships and County Warden on several occasions as well. Leonard also sat on the 150th anniversary committee. He introduced a number of speakers, including: South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, MPs Scott Reid and Ted Hsu, MPPs Randy Hillier and Sophie Kiwala, North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, culminating in remarks by Dennis Doyle, the Mayor of Frontenac Islands and Warden of the County.
The speeches were, for the most part, brief, and in keeping with the tone that had been set early for the event, relatively irreverent. Among the other dignitaries at the event were a number of former wardens of Frontenac County, including 95-year-old Don Lee, Jack Moreland, Bill MacDonald, Bill Lake, Barbara Sproule, Phil Leonard, Ron Sleeth, Janet Gutowski, and Jim Vanden Hoek.
The ceremonies having been dispensed with, it was time to let loose, and the saloon was a destination for politicians - a fitting location considering that the county and townships used to hold their meetings in pubs in the 1800s.
Following the showing of a family movie, a fireworks spectacle ended the opening night of the festival.
Saturday was a busy, busy day. A parade started it off, and with the Frontenac Plowing Match underway across the road, thousands enjoyed the sunshine and a full schedule of events. Over 5,000 people streamed into the park throughout the day, enjoying free admission and entertainment from a host of musicians, a strongman competition, and a short skirmish by the Brockville Infantry Company of 1862.
On Saturday night, the Golden Links Hall hosted a Heritage Ball, where about half the audience was dressed in 1860s vintage clothing. This was a challenge because not only did the band Soul Survivors keep the R&B hits coming all night to keep the dance floor full, but the evening was more than a bit warm for wool suits and layered dresses.
Sunday, the final day of the event was a bit more low key than Saturday, although the park remained busy.
The Brockville Infantry, who had been camping on site throughout the weekend, finally had their chance to put on a full re-enactment. The Fenians, Irish descended former Americans who raided Canada in order to pressure England to pull out of Ireland, lost the battle to a squadron of Red Coats and the Brockville Infantry amid gun and cannon fire. The Fenian raids took place around the time that Frontenac County was founded, and they were the last time any attacks on Canada were launched from US soil.
About an hour after the re-enactment, the closing ceremonies got underway. As the public left, the vendors, food trucks, and volunteers began to clean up, leaving Harrowsmith Centennial Park in pristine condition, a fitting legacy project for the 150th anniversary.