A Com­mit­ment to Canada Day

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Hat­ley

Hat­ley’s Lester Drew has been a vol­un­teer or­ga­nizer of the Hat­ley Canada Day cel­e­bra­tion al­most ev­ery year since the late 1940’s when he was only eight or nine years old. “The Canada Day cel­e­bra­tion used to be run by the two churches in

town, the United and the Angli­can. Back then we had a big open din­ner right there on the Com­mons and danc­ing on the as­phalt,” com­mented Mr. Drew who has lived in Hat­ley all his life, ex­cept for three years when he worked on the for­mer Fair View Farm, in Len­noxville. Skat­ing rink boards were used as di­viders and ta­bles for that ‘restau­rant un­der the trees’ that charged thirty cents a plate.

“We had the pa­rade and then we’d have a pick-up ball game in the af­ter­noon. We didn’t have fire­works,” he added. When the fire­works tra­di­tion was even­tu­ally added to the cel­e­bra­tion, Lester and his brother Gary were the brave souls who set them off ev­ery year. “We fi­nally de­cided to get a lit­tle le­gal and an army cap­tain who had ex­pe­ri­ence with ex­plo­sives started do­ing it.” Be­fore he was twenty Mr. Drew had be­come the Chair of the Canada Day Com­mit­tee. “Back then it was a lot of fun for young peo­ple to be in­volved in their com­mu­nity.”

While Mr. Drew rem­i­nisced, we looked at the col­lec­tion of Hat­ley wood- en nick­els be­long­ing to the Canada Day com­mit­tee which is of­fi­cially known as the Hat­ley Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion. Al­though it was un­for­tu­nately nowhere near com­plete, it was still in­ter­est­ing. With a dif­fer­ent im­age printed on the coins each cel­e­bra­tion, some re­flected the day’s par­tic­u­lar theme, like “Sports on Pa­rade”, in 1989, or “The Four Sea­sons in Hat­ley”, in 1998, while oth­ers de­picted lo­cal his­toric events such as the 200 year an­niver­sary of the town of Hat­ley, in 1999.

Mak­ing sure the big pa­rade runs without a hitch is what Mr. Drew, along with Gary Drew and Homer Cote, has been work­ing on in the past few years. “You have to get there be­fore 8:00 to set up the pa­rade or you’d be walk­ing into a bees nest. Some floats want to come early be­cause they have to dress the floats here. They once dec­o­rated a big float on a semi-trailer in Stanstead and when it got here, not half of the float was left – it had blown off along the way!”

Asked if the pa­rade al­ways goes smoothly, Lester replied: “There’s never been a catas­tro­phe! Some­times peo­ple aren’t happy with their po­si­tion in the pa­rade. Homer, Gary and I run the pa­rade but half an hour be­fore the start I don’t have time to bounce ideas off the other guys; you just have to run with it.”

The con­fig­u­ra­tion of the town’s cen­ter some­times makes run­ning the pa­rade a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare for the pa­rade com­mit­tee. “We have a dou­ble whammy when it comes to the traf­fic. There are only two en­trances to get into the park­ing area be­side the Com­mons and there are five roads com­ing into the in­ter­sec­tion and the in­ter­sec­tion is the pa­rade square which you have to drive through to get parked. Peo­ple should re­ally park their car by 10:00 if they want to see the pa­rade,” Lester ex­plained.

The float judges also have their hands full dur­ing the pop­u­lar pa­rade. “We’re for­tu­nate to have some re­ally good judges. First they wan­der around check­ing the floats be­fore the pa­rade, then they watch the pa­rade and they have to de­cide the win­ners fast,” said Mr. Drew.

In speak­ing with Lester, who has seen the make-up of the Hat­ley com­mu­nity change over the years as many small towns have, it be­comes ap­par­ent that he has con­cerns about the fu­ture of both the event and the com­mu­nity where, once, ev­ery­one knew each other. “We still get a lot of vol­un­teers from the com­mu­nity to help on Canada Day and many vol­un­teers come from around the re­gion, as far away as Man­sonville, who have con­nec­tions here. But it’s hard to find new mem­bers to help with the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he ad­mit­ted.

Per­haps a re­flec­tion of our eco­nomic times, vol­un­teers who col­lect the do­na­tions at the en­trances on the roads re­port that peo­ple aren’t as gen­er­ous as they used to be. “Maybe to some peo­ple it’s not a big event but to me it’s a big event be­cause it’s Canada Day. I hope the pop­u­la­tion isn’t los­ing their in­ter­est in cel­e­brat­ing their her­itage.”

Asked if he was look­ing for­ward to the big day, Mr. Drew an­swered: “Oh yes. We turn our back­yard into a camp­ground for fam­ily and friends who park their mo­tor homes and set up tents; the yard is usu­ally full. Com­ing here for Canada Day is a tra­di­tion for so many friends and fam­ily. But I’m get­ting a lit­tle older now so by the time the pa­rade is done and the prizes are all given out, I can’t wait to get back into this chair!”

To help with the traf­fic flow to Hat­ley on Canada Day, vis­i­tors com­ing from an east­erly di­rec­tion should en­ter the town on the 208 trav­el­ling west, if pos­si­ble, be­cause it is the en­trance the least used. Driv­ers should also re­mem­ber that route 143 north of the in­ter­sec­tion with the 141 at Bur­rough’s Falls is closed due to bridge work, so they must take the 141 into Ayer’s Cliff and then the 208 east to Hat­ley.

Lester Drew, a Hat­ley Canada Day or­ga­nizer for decades, looks through a spe­cial book about the town. Hat­ley Canada Day wooden nick­els are be­side him on the ta­ble.

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