Fortress of Louisbourg to host outdoor party on Sunday
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.