This story is part of our partnership with Maryboro Lodge The Fenelon Falls Museum and was written by Glenn Walker.
A Day with Something Fun for Everyone
KAWARTHA LAKES-Where else can you go to dance to Barbie Girl, have your picture taken in a barrel headed over the falls, ride a unicorn, hold a snake, see what it’s like to be a firefighter, Be a Rockstar!, party in the street, enjoy a rockabilly concert in the park, play some mini hockey, try a nineteenth century biscuit, watch Supernova Fireworks light up the night sky … and have a lot of fun with your friends?
Fenelon Falls is a community that has always made the effort to have Canada Day be something special. “Since I was a kid, Canada Day was always my favourite day in town,” explains Ward 3 Councillor and Canada Day volunteer, Mike Perry. “From the games at the beach to huge ice cream cones and all the people having fun – and the fireworks at night, of course! – Canada Day in Fenelon was a highlight of the year for me. And, some 40 years later, it still is.”
Forty years ago, Fenelon Falls’ Canada Day was a different event than it is today. Wayne Hutchison has helped with the festivities since the early 1980s. “Back then, it seemed like everyone in town helped out in one way or another. Stan Carroll was heavily involved, as was Frank Baldacchin, while Carl Quaranto was very active through the Chamber of Commerce. It didn’t seem like the crowds were as big back then as they are today, but it was still a lot of fun.”
“The Ceremony was down at the beach park,” Wayne continues. “Starting in the afternoon, they would raise the flag, cut the cake, offer a few kids activities, then they would close the park at 6 to get ready for the fireworks. Back then, the fire department set off the fireworks from the piers at the beach park, firing out over the lake. Then around 1985, we talked to Bill Austin, who let us set them off from a barge out in the lake… but then we had to be careful to watch out for all the people out in the lake, who enjoyed the show their boats.”
“In the 1980s, Canada Day, was all about Canada,” Wayne observes. “Stan was a history teacher and he made sure of it. The politicians of the day would attend, and a lot of Canadian History would be shared. It was a big day for the Rotary Club, being their annual Hamburger Day. For many years they would sell burgers, hot dogs, fried onions and chips in the laneway beside the IGA (Red Apple), then later on beside Stokes on Trent. That was the Rotary Club’s major fundraiser, and it allowed the club to look after the ball diamond.” It has been many years since the Rotary Club has hosted a hamburger day, but they their fundraiser is still a big part of Canada Day—this year they will raffle off a bright yellow 1970 Plymouth Duster—using the proceeds to support just about every charity in town.
“What I love about Canada Day,” says Caroline Fenelius Carpenter “is how it’s all about being part of the community, and the whole country. When you sit back and look at all the families that enjoy coming to Fenelon Falls and appreciating what we have, it makes you appreciate it too. Now that I have the chance to be part of organizing the event, it’s pretty cool to be part of putting all of this together so other people can enjoy it. Families come year after year and it becomes part of their tradition.”
“There is a different excitement as you get older,” she adds. “It is more nostalgic. When you are young it is all about the cool new things. When you grow up, it’s nice to look back and remember what it was like when you were young. I’m excited about all the activities around the museum. I love seeing how it has grown and created all these simple family fun activities that everyone can enjoy. It’s always interesting to see what they come up with, and there is always new stuff.”
For a lot of visitors, the fireworks are the highlight of the event. “I love seeing all the colours,” Wayne explains. “It is wonderful to see the number of people that gather for them every year.” Chamber of Commerce President Shannon Roszell elaborates, “my favourite part has always been driving up in my boat and watching the fireworks light up over Cameron Lake. My family has been watching the show from the water since I was a baby, and it is one of my favourite experiences of the summer.”
There’s something really satisfying about exploring Fenelon Falls on Canada Day. “Every year I look forward to getting a frozen yogourt and walking around town,” Shannon recounts. “It’s delicious and the town is so friendly and beautiful. I love watching the boats as they go through the locks.” Enjoying frozen dairy products by the waterway is a Fenelon Falls tradition dating back generations. “Last year there were about 10,000 people in town to celebrate Canada Day, and our business owners love welcoming all the new faces to town.”
Canada Day is a very important day at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 238. “July 1 is more than our national holiday, it was also the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On that day in 1916, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was all but wiped out. In Newfoundland it is Memorial Day.” Each year, Belinda’s popular musical group, North Country Express, performs at the Legion. “I sing a song about a soldier from Newfoundland who was killed in that battle. … Those that gather at the Legion are more aware of Canada’s military history, more aware of the sacrifices that were made and what that means to the fabric of Canada, and the values that make us Canadian.”
“Canada Day is a day to celebrate, what is wonderful about Canada,” Belinda explains. “We have an amazing history and a lot of things to look forward to. It’s an important day to reflect on the Country, to acknowledge our growth, and the positive things that we can bring to the world. I hope, that by reflecting on these values, that we can work toward a future that is less fraught with conflict, more progressive and uplifting—that we can ensure that the memories of these conflicts serve to strengthen our country.”
For as long as anyone can remember, the Legion has played a huge role in Canada Day. For many years, Arlene Colman helped to organize activities for the village. “The event has become much less formal,” Belinda explains. “Back in the day, we would march in the colours at the beach park, and they would lead a service to kick off Canada Day at the park. The faces have changed, the older veterans have passed on.” For many years, the Legion hosted a steak dinner, this year their barbeque will feature chicken kabobs, hamburgers, sausage on a bun and salads. “And we are happy to share the Canada Day birthday cake with everyone who comes.”
This year, local residents have been busy dreaming up new ideas to make the celebration special. Mike says, “I am so happy to see all the great events that our local organizations and businesses have planned to help us all celebrate, as well as the Indigenous story poles at the Grove Theatre, so all aspects of Canada are included.”
One of the new events is the 90s dance party being put on by Feeding Fenelon at Lotus Indian Bistro. “We don’t have a night club or a place to dance in town, other than events at the Brewery or the Cow and Sow. So we put together glow sticks, neon décor and a playlist of pop dance hits from the 90s. It is an opportunity to get out and dance to the songs that we grew up with and can relate to, spending time with like minded people, who love to dance.” Over on Water Street, the Fenelon Falls Brewing Company is hosting an all-day street party. Brewer Russell Gibson explains, “I’m excited to see the town come alive and see so many families here from all over the province, it really helps drive home a sense of community, seeing so many people together.”
After having a few years where there were no large public festivities, having a great summer celebration like Canada Day is more special. Having everyone feel good about public parties “has been a long time coming,” Adam notes. “We have missed going to concerts, dance parties, and going out with friends and family. This celebration is a great way to enjoy that once again.”
Happy Canada Day everybody!
For more information, check out the schedule at: https://maryboro.ca/events/canada-day/
Maryboro Lodge, The Fenelon Falls Museum has been hit hard by the pandemic. If you want to make a donation to the museum, you can e-transfer to: [email protected] or mail a cheque to :
Maryboro Lodge Museum
50 Oak Street
Fenelon Falls, ON