Celebration Day

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I remember, way back in 2007, when we celebrated Kemptville’s 150 year anniversary, there was a long list of events and projects put together to mark the occasion. Legacy projects, Doug Brunton becoming Sir James Kempt for a whole year. Some of the projects took years to come to fruition, and Anniversary Park at the Ferguson Forest Centre was finally opened officially in 2013. Some things are worth taking time and trouble over, and the Kemptville 150 Committee did a great job on marking the occasion in memorable ways. At the end of 2007, just over five years ago, we celebrated Kemptville’s 150th anniversary. As part of that event, a Time Capsule was organised and the North Grenville Historical Society provided a photographic record of sections of Kemptville: all of Clothier Street, east and west, and County Road 43 from the 416 to Somerville Road, among others. The idea was that, when the capsule is opened in fifty years, people then will be amazed at the changes since 2007. I think that, if we were to open that capsule today, we would be just as amazed.

You would imagine, therefore, that celebrating Canada’s 150th would be just as big a deal in North Grenville as Kemptville’s birthday was. But it seems something is not quite right there. A Canada 150 Committee has been put together to plan the year’s events, and the schedule so far is – Canada Day. The municipal web site notes that: “Again this year, the community will have the opportunity to celebrate with family, friends and neighbours in one of two locations – Riverside Park (Kemptville) and Maplewood Park (Oxford Mills). The Municipality of North Grenville will host a community fireworks display at dusk in Riverside Park”.

Does this seem familiar? Is it not the very same thing we do every year? Members of the Canada 150 Committee certainly think so, and they are unhappy with the way things are going. No vision, no desire to try something new, something other than Canada Day, seems to be the issue here. There is a feeling that municipal staff are not allowing the community enough input into planning the year’s events, and that council really need to get involved and show some leadership here. Councillor Frank Onasanya has experienced some serious health issues over the Christmas holidays and may not be in a position to provide that leadership for a while.

The people on the committee want to do more, they want to canvass ideas from all over the community, but feel there is some resistance to anything novel. This is a serious matter. Canada’s 150th has to be a display of what is best about us and the country we are celebrating. There are potential conflicts already in view and a solid and united Committee is needed to handle them. For example: will Oxford Mills be holding their traditional Canada Day activities in 2017? For some, it is not even an issue. For others, it is a sign of disunity. It is something that can be easily managed, given some vision and imagination. But if there is a full day of events in Riverside Park, will that conflict with the Oxford Mills festivities?

Surely, the obvious thing is to maximise public control of planning, and encourage new and fresh ideas? This is the community that has seen Dandelion Festivals, VegStock, Hey Days, Doors Open and Kemptville Live creating memorable and exciting events for the residents of the entire region. There are reports from other Canada Day committees, particularly the one in 2012, which put forward ideas and recommendations about how to make the day more inclusive, efficient and attractive. It seems these recommendations have not been implemented.

But, even if all of this is settled to everyone’s satisfaction, that is only one day, albeit the main day, of the Canada 150th year. Can we not find new legacy projects to undertake, other events during the year to focus on as part of the birthday party? There are a number of organisations marking important anniversaries this year, and they could be added in to the mix. There are individuals and groups planning their own ways of marking the year. Let’s get everyone together and share ideas, organise ourselves so we don’t overlap or duplicate, and come up with a year-long party to properly celebrate the sesquicentennial year of Canada.

As always, there is a wealth of talent, expertise and energy available in the community and it is not up to the municipality to carry the entire burden of planning and scheduling. We are quite capable of doing things for ourselves too. The North Grenville Archives has wonderful collections recording the celebrations of Kemptville’s 100th, and 150th birthdays, Ontario’s centenary in 1991, and so many other great occasions. Let’s make sure that there will be an even better collection of memories by the end of this year.

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