Washabuck being awarded Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award.
Carmie MacLean is unabashedly proud of her home community of Washabuck.
Carmie and her husband Ben, who grew up down the road, had to move away to make a living but every summer came back home with their children.
Like many Cape Bretoners, when they retired, there was no question that they would move back to their beloved Washabuck overlooking the Bras d'Or Lake.
Washabuck is one of four communities being recognized for their civic and community spirit and will be awarded this year's Lieutenant Governor's Community Spirit Award.
The other winning communities are Mabou, Inverness County; River John, Pictou County; and Spryfield.
Washabuck will officially receive its award from Nova Scotia's Lieutenant Governor, John James Grant, during a special ceremony Aug. 5 at the Washabuck Community Centre.
Ben's hope is that work done this year to improve the road on the Iona side leading to Washabuck will continue and eventually include work on the infamous Gillis Point Road.
"Despite winning the community spirit award, to many, we are known as the community with the worst road in Atlantic Canada and we'd like that to change."
Even though the population of Washabuck hovers around 50 permanent residents, it oozes community spirit.
"There is a continuity of spirit, the tying together of old and young. Keeping people engaged so that the spirit remains, that's what we do," said Carmie. "The kids, both those who live here year round and visiting children help out with events. When we have the roadside cleanup each year, the kids do their part to help. For the people who live in Washabuck, the majority get involved in all our community activities."
She is quick to stress that without a church, schools or a fire department, the Washabuck Community Centre is the heart of the community.
The centre, which has had additions, is the original one-room schoolhouse which opened in 1949 and was closed in 1972.
Through the efforts of community members, the centre has evolved into a modern, wheelchair-accessible building with a fully equipped kitchen. Its uses include, but aren't limited to, weddings, anniversaries, card games, square dances, fundrais- ing dinners, darts and exercise programs. It has been used as a funeral parlor, for special holiday events and is the headquarters of the community's annual ALS Walk and the extremely popular "Along the shores of Washabuck Summer Festival."
Introduced in 2009, the festival won the WestJet Provincial Festival Award in 2012. Many former residents and extended family members co-ordinate their vacations to come home and enjoy the festival.
Many talented performers have roots in the community including the Barra MacNeils, and fiddler Carl MacKenzie.
Even through their numbers are few, the residents of Washabuck are an active bunch.
"We are so blessed because for most of the people who live in this community, there is a real sense of place," Carmie said. "You want to give that to your children, which is why, if you have events, it is so important to include the kids and nurture that sense of community."
Looking out the front window of their home, Ben adds that what they have compares to anywhere else in the world.
"Looking out there, you can see the lake and if you want to swim or go boating, it's there. Sure, we have to travel to get groceries and for things like doctors appointments, but it's a tradeoff because we live in a paradise."
Despite having to travel to work, Vince MacLean and his wife Charlotte, who were born and raised in Washabuck, moved back home in 1975.
On a clear day from the MacLean's living room window, you can see across the Bras d'Or Lake to Beinn Bhreagh, the home of world famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
MacLean, who penned the book, These Were My People Washabuck: An Ancedotal History, said Cape Bretoners come back because they love the island.
"It's the community, the talent, the music - what's not to love. Specifically, it's the Bras d'Or Lake and Celtic music, in addition to the people and the way of life."
Looking back, he said people raised large families and no one went hungry.
"There wasn't any money, but people got by through hard work. Communities like Washabuck are trying to maintain that sense of family, and even though the numbers are low, people pull together and it shows."
JULIE COLLINS/CAPE BRETON POST PHOTOS Ben and Carmie MacLean, who were born and raised in Washabuck, returned home to live after they retired and are active members of their community.
Summer student Jamie Ann MacNeil is busy making plans for the 2015 “Along the Shores of Washabuck Summer Festival," being held July 31 to August 9.
Holy Rosary Church, which no longer has regular services, is open for special occasions and maintained by the residents of Washabuck.