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Wellington pulls all stops for two-day celebration of nation’s birthday

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Wellington put on two days of spectacular fun and entertainment over the Canada Day long weekend as a few thousand people descended upon the lakeside village to enjoy Canada’s 152nd birthday.

With perfect weather and bearable temperatures, the annual parade was lively as it crawled down Main Street, from Belleville to Consecon streets.

Led by the Napanee and District Caledonian Pipe Band, members of the Royal Canadian Legion Wellington branch 160 followed. Among other participants were the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Search and Rescue, Wellington Lions Dragon Boat Club, Wellington on the Lake Residents’ Association, Ladies on the Rocks, Wellington Rotary and St. Andrews Anglican Church.

Canada day was jam-packed with highlights and activities, which included a flypast above Main Street by a Hercules CC-130 from 8 Wing Ops out of CFB Trenton. Volunteer firefighters brought their junior firefighters challenge to the lawn of CML Snider School, which also hosted a kids’ zone.

At the junior firefighters challenge, the little ones could get kitted out just like a real firefighter, and run the course, which included putting out an improvised house fire with the aid of a real hose, with help from a firefighter.

Wellington United Church held a Strawberry Social, the Anglican Church had lunch on the lawn and Rotary ribs were found in the park, along with food and other vendors, including the 4-H milkshake booth. The day opened with a pancake breakfast in the Town Hall, put on by the Wellington Heritage Museum.

Official ceremonies were short and sweet as Wellington Councillor Mike Harper made introductions following the singing of the national anthem and a brief prayer from Reverend Steve Spicer, of Wellington United Church.

“On this day, we simply say ‘thank you!’, said Spicer. “Thank you, enjoy the day and be well.”

MPP Neil Ellis described Wellington as a little town with a big heart.

“This parade today is probably the largest that has ever taken place in Wellington, and what an enthusiastic crowd,” said Ellis, who thanked the volunteers, saying, “without them, we wouldn’t have this great day”.

Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson’s presence was welcome as he made time for a brief appearance before dashing off to honour responsibilities at Picton’s event as well. Also present during the day were councillors Ernie Margetson, Bill McMahon, Kate MacNaughton and John Hirsch.

“To those who are visiting Prince Edward County, I offer a warm welcome,” said Ferguson. “You can probably understand by attending this gathering why we are so proud to call the County home.”

Ferguson wished everyone a happy Canada Day and thanked the recreation committee. “As usual, they did a magnificent job in organizing this event,” he said.

Birthday cake followed in the Town Hall.

Recreation committee member Chris Loane organized the music in the gazebo for the afternoon as crowds stuck around to enjoy the pleasant weather and festivities. Local band Norris and Jones, aka Trevor Norris and Stew Jones, entertained the crowd with some amazing sets.

At just 14 years of age, the powerful voice of Siobhan Bodrug filled the park as she belted out numerous tunes to finish up the afternoon portion of the musical entertainment.

Free horse-drawn carriage rides took folks on a loop around Wellington as drivers Lisa and Wade Terpstra made the ride an entertaining one of banter and history. So popular were the rides, they continued well into the afternoon to accommodate all those anxious to hop on the trolley, or to simply say hello to horses Benny and Jenny, or to get a photo with the chestnut beauties.

Put together by the Wellington Recreation Committee and a handful of helpers, the Canada Day event is the biggest of the committee’s four major annual events. It takes a significant number of volunteer hours and committed volunteers to pull-off Canada Day which involves many weeks of planning and execution.

A hot seller this year was the ‘Wellington Canada Day 2019’ tee shirts designed by the rec committee, where all proceeds go back for use within the community. The event also relies heavily on donations from the community, as local businesses, organizations, service clubs and individuals step up to contribute. As a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, the requirement to provide recreational and activity programming for local residents is an on-going one.

As usual in the Wellington, the celebrations started the day before, and the party started early with a chicken dinner barbecue at the Wellington Legion.

The free ever-popular street dance got young and old alike to their feet when Cue the Funk hit the Main Street outdoor stage. The nine-piece local funk band began the evening’s musical entertainment and delighted all with its upbeat, authentic funk music that promised a good time and did not disappoint.

The Shadows played next as the street continued to fill-up as people enjoyed the tunes, whether they remained seated or got to their feet to dance the night away.
And because everyone was having such a great time, the live music continued after the fireworks had ended.

“Our festivities kicked off with an old-fashioned street party,” said Corey Engelsdorfer, Wellington Recreation Committee chair. “Cue the Funk had folks out of their chairs dancing, and The Shadows put everyone in the mood for the spectacular fireworks show, put on by the volunteer firefighters.”

“Our street dance was probably our best attended street dance to date, and the fireworks by the fire department were spectacular and it’s a good way to cap off the street dance night. An incredible evening,” he said.

The Wellington volunteer firefighters put on a dazzling fireworks display at the beach which involves a significant number of preparation hours.

About eight of their members volunteer their time, said volunteer firefighter Maurice Miller, in charge of Wellington’s Canada Day fireworks. He estimates it takes up to a total of 80 hours where each firework has to be individually wired in what Miller describes as ‘a meticulous process’.

While the beach had to be closed to vehicular traffic for safety reasons, it remained open to foot traffic. However, many people stayed in the park to view the much-anticipated display that lit the night sky and went off with a bang, as colour and light reflected upon the calm water of Wellington Bay. Several small boats in the bay donned in colourful lights made the experience and the view from shore magical.

While the Wellington Recreation Committee donated $6,500 toward the fireworks this year, the volunteer firefighters must find about the same amount to cover the cost, which is done through boot drive donations at the festivities. Firefighters could be seen throughout the park and beach shaking the boots as they collected donations.

This year, the volunteer firefighters had the additional expense of having to purchase new control box units to be able to put on the show at an additional cost of $3,000. The units control the firing and timing of each firework, but old units had become unreliable and newer wireless technology meant having better control and therefore success.

Engelsdorfer said it was the biggest fireworks display Wellington has seen to date.

Raffle tickets sold at the street dance by the recreation committee helped boost the fireworks fund, as several local wineries and a brewery donated wine and gift certificates for a grand prize which was drawn just prior to the start of the fireworks display. It included a dozen bottles of local vino valued at $650.

“The community really came together to make this happen, especially our rec committee and the volunteers, and just the sense of community,” said Engelsdorfer. “People come out to our events and they share the passion and they share their patriotism which makes it a very good event,” he said.

“This community is amazing; the support from residents, businesses and volunteers is overwhelming. There is always someone stepping forward to lend a hand and these events couldn’t happen without them,” said Engelsdorfer.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the volunteer firefighters’ fireworks fund can contact Corey Engelsdorfer at corey@wellingtontimes.ca or at 613-243-8868. The Wellington Recreation Committee is still accepting cash donations to help offset Canada Day costs, and can supply a tax receipt for donations over $20.

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