Petites to be fea­tured on Land and Sea

For­mer res­i­dents in­vited to share their sto­ries when film crew ar­rives mid-Septem­ber

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

PETITES, NL – The aban­doned out­port of Petites will be fea­tured in an up­com­ing episode of Land and Sea. Cranky Goat En­ter­tain­ment will be on lo­ca­tion in Petites film­ing a doc­u­men­tary episode be­gin­ning Sept. 16, and will spend the week chat­ting with lo­cals about the good old days.

“We are very hon­ored to be al­lowed to tell this story. I’m sure it’s go­ing to be a great piece,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Christo­pher Richard­son via email. “We see this as a ‘ per­fect storm’ kind of piece where the beauty of an area, his­tory, and in­ter­est­ing peo­ple all come to­gether to pro­vide a solid story that is per­fect for tele­vi­sion.”

Sto­ries about life in Petites are hard to come by since its for­mer res­i­dents have scat­tered.

One of the prov­ince’s more con­tro­ver­sial pro­grams, re­set­tle­ment has sounded the death knell of roughly 300 small com­mu­ni­ties and the re­lo­ca­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 30,000 New­found­lan­ders.

Back in 1946 Petites was home to 11 fam­i­lies and held a pop­u­la­tion of over 200. Within a decade that was down to less than 150, and even­tu­ally it was aban­doned al­most en­tirely in 2003.

One for­mer res­i­dent, Austin Ben­nett, vis­its there al­most daily and of­ten helps out with the church restora­tion ef­forts. Built around 1859 by a se­ries of un­known ar­chi­tects, the wooden Gothic Re­vival style Bethany United church in Petites is thought to be one of the old­est sur­viv­ing wooden churches in the prov­ince.

Although the church is likely to be men­tioned, it is not the in­tended fo­cus of the doc­u­men­tary. In­stead the show will fo­cus on the com­mu­nity it­self, hop­ing to at­tract for­mer res­i­dents to share their un­told or for­got­ten sto­ries of ev­ery­day life in Petites.

But the church own­ers are al­ready help­ing out, hav­ing reached out to for­mer res­i­dents via so­cial me­dia. And ap­par­ently they’re com­ing, some fly­ing in specif­i­cally for the film­ing.

“Usu­ally it’s just my hus­band and I out there work­ing,” says On­tario na­tive Ju­lia Breck­en­ridge, who along with her hus­band John pur­chased the build­ing af­ter the church de­clined to re­store it and there was no other way to get per­mis­sion.

Once re­pairs are com­plete the cou­ple in­tends to turn it over to some­one who will use it to build upon the south­west coast’s eco­tourism po­ten­tial.

“They want in­put from the peo­ple from Petites,” she said. “They don’t want us, re­ally, be­cause it’s a New­found­land pro­gram.”

Ju­lia is hop­ing some nearby for­mer res­i­dents will also want to come down that week.

“Three peo­ple are fly­ing in from On­tario,” con­firms Breck­en­ridge. “We’re hop­ing to get the lo­cal peo­ple from Petites, in the past, who live in Port aux Basques to come and visit too.”

And although peo­ple are al­ways wel­come to lend a hand with the church restora­tion ef­forts, Breck­en­ridge stresses that is not the point of her in­vi­ta­tion.

“It’s not to work,” she said. “It’s just to share their sto­ries. If they want to come and help — that’s won­der­ful.”

For­mer res­i­dents who want to come in and par­tic­i­pate may want to book ac­com­mo­da­tions in nearby Rose Blanche, although the lone Petites res­i­dent Austin Ben­nett has al­ready agreed to put up one cou­ple. Al­ter­na­tively, some of the more home­sick visi­tors may wish to chance the weather will co­op­er­ate and pitch a tent.

Plans are even tak­ing shape to give the film­ing a kind of cel­e­bra­tory air.

“There’s a lady in Rose Blanche whose daugh­ter is a chef and she con­tacted us and wants to come over and pre­pare a meal,” says Breck­en­ridge.

As for the church, Ju­lia and John will also be in town that week and the next to con­tinue their restora­tion ef­forts.

“We’re do­ing the foun­da­tion,” says Ju­lia, who hopes some will choose to lend a hand while they’re in the area. “We’ve got foun­da­tion posts. We’ve got gal­lons of paint. We’ve got paint scrap­ers. We’ve just col­lected ev­ery­thing so that if peo­ple come so that if they want to paint, scrape, dig – we’re there.”

Once the church restora­tion is com­pleted the Breck­en­ridges hope to pass it on to a wor­thy suc­ces­sor. Ju­lia thinks the raw beauty of the south­west coast along with the his­tor­i­cal legacy of the church are per­fect to help de­velop eco­tourism in the area.

“We own it be­cause the church would not do any of the ren­o­va­tions,” says Breck­en­ridge, who con­sid­ers her­self merely a care­taker. “This ren­o­va­tion is not for us per­son­ally. It is solely for the preser­va­tion of this her­itage site.”

As for the film crew, Cranky Goat is al­ready think­ing ahead to an­other pos­si­ble episode.

Says Richard­son, “We also see this a “part one” of the story; we’ll be com­ing back to fol­low up down the road. We’re just pray­ing for good weather on this visit!”

Those want­ing to keep up to date with de­tails on the up­com­ing film­ing can con­tact Ju­lia Breck­en­ridge through the church’s Face­book page: Petites Church New­found­land: Restora­tion.

J. R. ROY / SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

The aban­doned out­port of Petites, shown here from nearby Rose Blanche, will be fea­tured in an up­com­ing episode of Land and Sea.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF VI­O­LET CLARKE

Petites was re­set­tled in 2003, and has slowly be­come a hid­den gem for eco­tourists vis­it­ing the south­west coast.

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