Fortress of Louis­bourg to host out­door party on Sun­day

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF news@cb­post.com

The Fortress of Louis­bourg is es­sen­tially frozen in time. Now you can ac­tu­ally skate on it.

The 18th cen­tury French strong­hold will host an out­door skat­ing party — weather per­mit­ting — Sun­day from 1-3 p.m.

It’s a kick­off to a year of ma­jor mile­stones as the fortress cel­e­brates Canada’s 150th birth­day, as well as the cen­ten­nial of na­tional his­toric sites, said vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence man­ager Ed­die Kennedy.

He said it’s a unique chance to skate in the gar­den out­side the King’s Bas­tion then take a walk through the for­ti­fied town, which is ad­mis­sion-free for all of 2017.

“It will be a pretty cool ex­pe­ri­ence to skate around with that as a back­drop and then to be able to take your skates off and walk down for a visit through the town at the same time,” said Kennedy, not­ing that Louis­bourg res­i­dents ac­tu­ally did go ice skat­ing 300 years ago.

“We dug into it a bit and there is a di­rect link to Louis­bourg,” he said. “In our arche­o­log­i­cal col­lec­tion, we ac­tu­ally have found the rem­nants of 18th cen­tury skates, as well as doc­u­mented in peo­ple’s in­ven­to­ries they ac­tu­ally owned skates in the 18th cen­tury,” he said.

“They were ba­si­cally just a metal blade that was at­tached to a piece of wood that was roughly in the shape of what a shoe would be, and they would have leather straps that you would then strap onto what­ever you were wear­ing for footwear.”

While the mil­i­tary in New France, which in­cluded Louis­bourg, used skates to tra­verse icy ter­rain, they were also owned by women and chil­dren. In fact, it was so com­mon that in the 1740s one town in the colony ac­tu­ally passed a law for­bid­ding kids from skat­ing the streets.

“In Que­bec, as an ex­am­ple, one of the senior of­fi­cials at the time ac­tu­ally passed an or­di­nance to for­bid chil­dren from skat­ing the streets of Que­bec as it had be­come a pub­lic safety con­cern,” said Kennedy. “So we know they were us­ing them for prac­ti­cal pur­poses as well as for recre­ational pur­poses.”

Of course, Sun­day’s skat­ing party will be much safer — and cosier — than back in the 18th cen­tury.

Kennedy said they’ll have a heated warm-up area where peo­ple can lace up their skates, an open-pit fire, marsh­mal­lows and hot choco­late. As well, skates from their col­lec­tion will be on dis­play and staff will be on hand to an­swer ques­tions.

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