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Ambassadors of bygone era celebrate 30 years of gathering as friends

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
The ‘Gathering of Friends’ Rendezvous group celebrated family and friends with its ‘welcome weekend’ volunteers at the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village, marking 30 years of re-enactments.


The fun and the celebrations over the Victoria Day long weekend featured an informal dedication ceremony acknowledging the commitment of bringing the village to life for 30 years –with cake, as no anniversary celebration is complete without it.

 

Inside the welcome building a plaque was unveiled celebrating 30 years of friendship with the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village, from 1994 to 2024.

Joanne Killick-Hill and County Museums’ Janice Hubbs at the plaque unveiling.

Janice Hubbs, site curator with the County Museums spoke to the first event in 1994 and thanked her “re-enacting friends”, several of whom she noted had been coming for 30 years.

County mayor Steve Ferguson said he has been coming to the event for about five years, and said it’s always a learning opportunity.

“It’s a wonderful event and it enables the public to understand some of the roots of Prince Edward County and the experiences of some of our earliest settlers.”

He spoke to how he had travelled about 50 kilometres to get to the event which took him about 30 minutes to drive, “and I was thinking about what that would have meant back in the late-1700s, and how long that would have taken then”.

Ferguson said he was grateful for all the participation in the event and the commitment, and for those who had come so far “to show off what life was like back in those early days”.

“Thirty years is a long time to be doing it, and we hope it continues for years to come,” he said.

Beverly Sprague came as her grandmother Catherine Sprague just as she would have come to the County in 1812 when she and Samuel arrived.

The free event at the County Road 19 location in the centre of the village of Ameliasburgh was open to the public where the loyalist re-enactors were happy to interact with members of the public, some demonstrating a skill or displaying wares.

“When you visit them at their campsites, if the flap is open and tied, it means you are welcome,” reminded Hubbs.

As she addressed the small crowd of gathered re-enactors, she spoke to the meaning of thanks, acknowledging the effort, time and commitment it takes for them to travel from far and wide every year to partake in the event.

“You have to think about what you have to pack, what you have to wear, what you have to eat, what you have to sleep in or sleep on, and then you have to pack it and remember it all to put in your vehicle, arrive here, unpack it, put it together, set it up, keep it dry, keep it from spoiling – and sleep in the great outdoors,” said Hubbs.

She then spoke to the talent behind the group.

“This is special because these guys for 30 years have become ambassadors of a bygone era at a little heritage village in Ameliasburgh, and they are welcoming and greeting the visitors as they pass by, chatting and sharing passion and love of what they do.”

She continued, “But then the time comes back, because yet again, you have to re-pack everything, tear it down, put it away, and hope it’s dry, and drive in your modern vehicle in modern times to the reality back to our modern day.”

“Thank you to each one for your time and your talent for the last 30 years of friends who have become family at the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village,” an emotional Hubbs said.

What began with one building in 1968, ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Ameliasburgh Heritage Village has grown to a complex of museum buildings and displays. The main structure was built in 1868 as a Wesleyan Methodist Church where over the years, several additional buildings have been added to the site, including a log cabin, an operational blacksmith shop, a large stone building housing the Goldie Corliss 18-foot flywheel, a carpenter’s shop and a sugar house, dairy and beekeeping buildings, display barns and a general store.

More recently, ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Ameliasburgh Heritage Village has become home to the de Vries Natural Heritage Collection, a collection of almost 500 specimens of taxidermy, ranging from mammals, waterfowl and song birds, and fish too.

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