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Canada Day celebrations in coolest spot when weather’s hot

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Thousands took to the streets of Wellington for two fun-filled days celebrating Canada’s 151st birthday.

Known as the coolest spot when the weather’s hot, Wellington was the place to be over the Canada Day long weekend.

While the festivities were cool, the weather was not, as sizzling summer temperatures descended upon the region sending the mercury to 30 degrees—approaching 40 degrees with the humidity.

With the County experiencing its first heat wave of the summer, and Environment Canada issuing a heat warning, a cooling lake breeze did keep things bearable.

The Shadows entertaining revelers at Saturday Night’s street dance in front of the park

Following a barbecue chicken dinner at the Wellington Royal Canadian Legion, party goers on Canada Day Eve enjoyed a closed Main Street as they danced the night away to the tunes of The Shadows. The 50s, 60s and 70s rock and roll band’s repertoire included many classics from the era including music from The Monkees, Roy Orbison and Elvis. Contingency plans to move the street dance indoors to the Essroc Arena in the event of rain were not needed.

Fireworks at dusk Saturday night over Lake Ontario

Party goers didn’t have to go far at dusk to watch a spectacular 15-minute display of fireworks set off from the lighthouse pier at Wellington Rotary beach. The dazzling display could be viewed from Wellington Park, the beach or anywhere along Wellington’s lake front. Put together by the Wellington Volunteer Firefighters, and with donations collected during the year through the boot drive, the fireworks are always a much-anticipated favourite.

“The Wellington Volunteer Fire Department logs countless hours putting together a spectacular fireworks display,” said Corey Engelsdorfer, Chair of the Wellington Recreation Committee. “I stopped into the fire hall last week and Chris Morris was busy wrapping every wire in tin foil, making sure everything goes off without a hitch. It’s really amazing what this group of volunteers does for the community.”

The Canada Day weekend in Wellington was put together by the recently formed new Wellington Recreation Committee (WRC) who have dubbed the day ‘County Canada Day’.

When the WRC disbanded last fall, its future, along with the many events it organizes throughout the year in the village, were in jeopardy.

“After the Wellington Recreation Committee disbanded last fall, we had published a couple of stories in The Times calling for volunteers to step forward to fill the vacant seats on the committee, but no one came forward,” said Engelsdorfer.

“Chris Loane and I decided we should reach out to some friends and local business owners. We have put a fun group together to enable us to continue the traditions in Wellington we have come to know and love.”

Canada Day in Wellington began with a pancake breakfast in the Town Hall and the annual parade got under way shortly after 10.30 a.m.

The parade began with Royal Canadian Legion members and included many of the usual suspects and a few new ones: Wellington District Lions Dragon Boat Club, Napanee and District Caledonia Pipe Band, Wellington Elks Lodge, St. Andrews Anglican Church, Wellington Rotary, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Search and Rescue, a contingent of classic cars and more.

New this year was a bicycle decorating contest where participants were encouraged to ride their decorated bikes in the parade. A best decorated bicycle winner was chosen later in the day where the lucky recipient took home a new bike.

Wellington Dukes greeted fans along the parade route

Wellington United Church in the parade and hosted a strawberry social

While festivities mostly followed the usual format for Canada Day this year, there were a few subtle changes to the programming. Opening ceremonies were kept brief and included the singing of O Canada and a few words from the Reverend Steve Spicer and Wellington Councillor Jim Dunlop.

“Welcome to Canada Day,” said Rev. Spicer. “We gather on this absolutely beautiful spot to celebrate the birthday of our great nation in this absolutely beautiful part of the country. Today as we gather, we are just going to celebrate by giving thanks to the blessing of living in this place. And for those who are visiting, welcome here and welcome to the celebration today.”

A strawberry social at the Wellington United Church, lunch on the lawn at the Anglican Church and Rotary ribs plus a host of street vendors offering everything from Syrian fare to Jamie Kennedy’s famous fries to hot dogs kept everyone sustained.

WRC volunteer Kelley Derrett offering complimentary Canada Day birthday cake.

Vendors were kept out of the park this year leaving it free for watching the musical acts and enjoying the Kids’ Zone.
Regular farmers’ market vendors, Canada Day vendors and food vendors congregated on the lawns of CML Snider School as well as along Main Street.

The Friends of Wellington Library also held a book and card sale both days which once again proved a popular hangout for book lovers.

Whether it was grabbing a piece of complimentary birthday cake or taking a selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – even if it was just a cardboard cut-out – there was something for everyone on this celebratory weekend.

New this year was the day’s street closure that included a portion of Main Street initiated to keep things a little safer for all. Visitors were encouraged to park at the nearby Essroc Arena and take the accessible free shuttle to the park.

“We decided that we should seek a street closure for July 1, mostly for safety reasons; the event has almost outgrown the village,” said Engelsdorfer.

Live entertainment in the park continued through the day beginning with Andy Forgie and followed by Norris and Jones, Jeremy Kelly, Annelise Noronha and Marshland.

“We have a great list of local talent in the park including a very talented young singer, Siobhan Bodrug, who is just 13 years old,” said Engelsdorfer. “It’s going to be a great day of music.

The Kids’ Zone proved a popular spot with youngsters of all ages

“We had planned to have bouncy castles again this year, but ran into a bit of a snag with liability and insurance. We have gone back to a “grass roots” type of festival. Bringing back some old-time kid’s games: grain sack races, mini golf and some water-based activities to keep the kids cool throughout the day,” he said.

Three-year-old Jessy mastering wacky golf was visiting from Quebec

There was plenty to keep the children entertained in the Kids’ Zone including dizzy races, wacky golf, giant bubble blowing, bean bag toss, jumbo bowling, elephant walking and the very popular water guns.

“We want to thank the community for the support,” said Engelsdorfer. “Past WRC members have been great also, lending a hand and passing on their valuable knowledge when needed. It amazes me how much this village gives back, from donations to residents coming forward as volunteers. We couldn’t make these events happen without their help.”

Tune in to Tuesday for Canada Day fun held in Picton!

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