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February 1, 2017

 

EVENTS

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A crowd braves ice and frosty temperatures to gather around the annual Christmas Tree Bonfire in Centennial Park in Athens.  Photo: Sally Smid

 

Annual community bonfire lights up the night

 

By Sally Smid

Once again a line of cars and some walkers streamed to the Athens’ Centennial Park on a post holiday Saturday evening. A lack of snow and freezing temperatures did not seem to diminish excitement for the Athens’ Annual Community Bonfire on January 7.

This year the 33rd Bonfire, which again exemplifies our sturdy Canadian spirit, was considered to be one of the events celebrating Canada’s 150th year. It seems to be a way to embrace Canadian winter and celebrate the community.   Perhaps due to the number of households that now have artificial trees and fewer left over trees being donated by local vendors, the pile appeared smaller. In the end there was enough for an impressive inferno which was very welcome in the frigid temperatures, which may have been the reason for a smaller crowd.  The Athens Fire Department, Snowmobile Club and others were instrumental in preparing the bonfire and AFD was again on duty to ensure safety.  “On Wednesday I wondered if there were enough trees or volunteers to proceed,” said Fire Chief Charlie Smid. In the end many came on board to help in a variety of capacities.  This will help ensure that the famed tradition will continue.

The Township offered free skating at Centre ‘76 from 6 - 8 pm and there were also sleigh rides provided again by John and Josh Male and their Belgian horse team.  It was impressive to see how docile the team remained even when the line of torches went past them. 

Athens High School students helped earn volunteer hours by serving free hot chocolate at the Park’s canteen where donations were being accepted for Camp Buck’s Burn Camp for Kids. Many families especially look forward to this event and it has become a memorable tradition.  It is always a wonderful time to connect with neighbours and friends.  “Our grandchildren remind us throughout the year about returning to see the bonfire,” commented Jeannie Shaver-Tighe.

The lighting of the Bonfire is always the climax of the evening.  This year this was done with torches brought in by foot due to the lack of snow. 

Once again there were cheers from the crowd and smiles on faces as the bright flames leaped into the air at the yearly event. That response somehow seems to make all of the work and efforts of community volunteers worthwhile.

It appears to be quite clear that after the bonfire embers die, the warm family and community memories created will remain for years to come!

 

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Fire Hall Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus members (L-R); Joe Baptista, Will MacPhail, James Raffan and Gail Simmons performed together at a recent event in Seeley’s Bay celebrating Canada.  Photo: Sally Smid

 

 

Seeley’s Bay kicks off Canada’s 150th with storyfest

 

By Sally Smid

 

 “Canada 1-5-OMG” took place in Seeley’s Bay on January 15 in the Community Hall.  The event was billed as “a celebration of country and community through story and song” and it certainly did not disappoint! 

Residents Association Chair Dan Langham welcomed the audience of about 120, some dressed in a variety of heritage costumes.  He introduced the featured speaker Dr. James Raffan, noted educator, author, adventurer and more.  The program included stirring renditions of “Unofficial National Anthems” including “Something to Sing About” by the Fire Hall Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus which included James on guitar, his wife Gail Simmons and Will MacPhail as vocals and Mayor Joe Baptista on keyboard.  The audience sang along in praise of the beauty and uniqueness of Canada. Other “anthems” included Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds”, named Canada’s most essential song and “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers.  The group’s harmonies, enthusiasm, musical quality and humour were well received by an appreciative audience.

Raffan served as a professor of Outdoor Experiential Education at Queen’s  University for 18 years. He is a local resident, prolific author of many books, and a recipient of many national honours.

His presentation included lots of Canadian trivia including that it has the world’s largest shoreline and area of fresh water, highest tides, oldest rocks, richest dinosaur fields and longest inland waterway.

Raffan also mentioned Canadian inventions such as insulin, telephone, basketball and the zipper.

His description of the launch of the Seeley’s Bay Canada One canoe was very entertaining.  James served as a sterns man on the team that paddled the canoe up the Thames River in London, England as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

The versatile entertainer donned a mask and cape for his musical story, La Chaise Gallery, a French Canadian folk tale full of magic and drama.  The story involves a “flying canoe” full of lumberman and their misadventures on New Year’s Eve. The sound effects and visuals enhanced his excellent story telling abilities.

It was more than apparent that James has a real love for Canada and especially the North.  His passion for canoeing was most evident.  The photos and videography  included had tremendous impact in conveying the beauty and diversity of our country.  He also shared about a variety of upcoming events taking place to help celebrate Canada.  Refreshments were provided by the Seeley’s Bay Retirement Home and the spirited community atmosphere continued with organizers looking forward to the upcoming Frost Fest which includes a performance by Sean McCann, founding member of Great Big Sea on Saturday, February 4 at 7:30 pm in the Community Hall. 

Of course there will be lots of winter activities taking place that weekend and isn’t that what the Canadian spirit is really about? 

Seeley’s Bay knows how to celebrate the cold, ice and snow and embrace our northern identity!  Just as James Raffan concluded in his presentation, “Aren’t we lucky to live in this beautiful country?” truly something to celebrate in this 150th year!

 

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The Mural

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