Our County Correspondents
the first place, has long faded away. Plus, as we Baby Boomers shuffle off to the dust heap and Generations X, Y and Z are in the ascendancy, the notion of “war” is an increasingly tough sell… especially as a destination for a family outing.
That’s why I am proposing the event be rebranded as “Life in 1812.” Yes, there would still be a strong part to play for military reenactors. Military matters were the backdrop of life in Upper Canada in the early 1800s. But this refocus would also allow for other, nonmilitary re-enactors to join the party… assuming, of course, such individuals exist.
I also wonder if there is a lesson to be learned from the 1812 preview that was organized for local grade 7 and 8 students on the Friday before this year’s Re-enact- ment Weekend. All day, volunteer re-enactors guided the school kids through of a series of clearly defined “living history stations” that offered hands-on activities and presentations on various aspects of everyday life in Upper Canada, circa 1812. I envision extending this model to the main event and offering visitors the same type of re-enactor-led guided tours or, if they prefer, selfguided tours.
I know that the competition for the public’s free time and disposable cash is tough (and getting fiercer every year). Nevertheless, by repackaging the tremendous historical knowledge that military and civilian re-enactors have to offer, in a way that appeals more to today’s families, we may be able to ensure that this unique ‘living history’ spectacle is with us for many more years to come.
As I mentioned above, there are a growing number of weekend activities competing for our attention. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that my family did take time away from the 1812 site to visit Beau’s Brewery’s Oktoberfest celebrations in Vankleek Hill. As a teetotaler, I found the appeal of an event devoted almost exclusively to the consumption (and elimination) of beer, a mite tedious. Nevertheless, I appreciated the masterful way that Beau’s planned and executed the complex event. It was truly a logistical symphony.
The one sour note, from a down-home perspective, was the second-class treatment afforded Glengarry’s Quirky Carrot restaurant. For those of you who have never attended Oktoberfest at the VKH fairgrounds, a large block of space is allotted to well-known restaurants offering oompahthemed foods… from soft pretzels and schnitzel to bratwurst and chicken-fried hotdogs (I agree this last one is a bit of a stretch, but it was delicious). It should be pointed out that aside from Dunn’s Smoked Meat (another stretch) from Hawkesbury, the majority of the primary food vendors were restaurateurs from Ottawa and points west.
Even though the Carrot’s owner, Julia Graham, had applied for booth space back in January, she was not allowed to join the big guys in the main food court. Instead, she was relegated to an experimental backwater, with no access to power and forbidden to prepare hot food. Julia and her team made the best of it, offering a delicious selection of gourmet sandwiches and baked goods. But they were obviously fighting an uphill battle. By the time visitors found her tiny booth in the outfield, they were, I suspect, full to bursting. I’m not even sure Beau’s provided her with a sign, like they did for the other vendors.
One reason I heard for this treatment was that Beau’s has “forgotten its roots.” This was supported by anecdotal evidence that calls from local organizations from Dunvegan to Alexandria were no longer being returned. Others defended Beau’s saying, if there was an anti-local bias, it was justified; locals and the municipality had given the company grief when they proposed bringing Oktoberfest to the Hill. The only flaw with this argument is that, according to my sources, this isn’t the case. Every year but the very first, the Township has erected Oktoberfest signs on the lampposts in town, installed fountains along the town's Main Street and helped in many other ways.
So, rather than “forgetting its roots,” I think Beau’s is focusing on its primary market, as any good business does. And these craft beer aficionados reside, in huge numbers, in Quebec, Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto. It’s really a question of smart marketing, the by-product of which is employment for residents of Glengarry and PrescottRussell. This, of course, is of little consolation to The Quirky Carrot’s owner, Julia Graham, who I still believe was treated unfairly. (What is the Dunvegan connection here, if any? Julia is married to Scott Graham who was born and raised in our fair hamlet.)
If you’re wondering what all those cars are doing at the DRA Hall on Wednesday nights, it’s Rosemary Chatterson and her “Music & Mayhem” cast rehearsing for Dunvegan’s annual Food Bank Christmas Concert.
Why so soon? Because, only 65 days from today the curtains go up on a brand new show. Given the tremendous success of last year’s production, the troupe will be putting on three performances. There will be two evening shows starting at 7:30 p.m. — Friday, Dec. 2 and Friday, Dec. 9. And a matinee performance on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. The idea behind the matinee is that a daytime performance may be easier for seniors and families to attend.
Last year, seating was available on a first-come, first-served basis. This resulted in us having to turn away a number of people at the door because the Hall was full. To avoid a repeat, concert organizers will sell advance tickets this year. As soon as I have more information as to when and where they will go on sale, I’ll post it here. Fingers crossed that the scalpers don’t grab them and hold Glengarry ransom.
Since we’re already down the “winter” rabbit hole, I’d like to make an appeal for help with the Dunvegan Winter Carnival at the beginning of February. As loyal carnival goers know, one of the highlights of Dunvegan’s winter celebration are horse-drawn sleigh rides. In the early years, the late John Dashney and his team ferried Dunveganites through the snowy woods. However, more recently, this task has fallen to the Wensink twins, Sam and Jake and their gentle steeds: Sarah and Limerick. However, as with all good things, the days of Sam and Jake guiding our sleigh have drawn to a close. The two young lads have finally realized their dream of becoming OPP officers. As soon as the two brothers complete their time at the Police Academy, they will be assigned to posts far from Dunvegan.
This leaves a giant hole to fill. For years, the two siblings helped make Carnival Day special for young and old alike. Their engaging smiles and friendly manner made one and all feel welcome. And they were always willing to go that extra mile to make sure our guests left happy. If one more trip around the trail is what it took, they gladly hollered “Giddy-up.”
So now I need to find a replacement team and sleigh. And this is where I’m asking for YOUR help. If you can think of someone who might be willing to provide sleigh rides at the Dunvegan Carnival, please have them contact me or call me with their name and number. February will be here sooner than you think and I really need to solve this problem.
If you’re reading this column on Wednesday — and have dreamed of being a writer — then you may still be able to attend the free introductory workshop on Creative Writing being held at 7 p.m. tonight in Vankleek Hill’s Arbor Gallery, 36 Home Avenue. Given by Dunvegan author, playwright and short story writer Bonnie Laing, the workshop is intended for those just starting to write, as well as those currently writing who may need help honing their skills.
If enough people are interested, Bonnie will also conduct a tenweek course on Creative Writing starting October 5. If you miss the workshop, but are still interested in learning more about the course, give Bonnie a call at 613-525-1455.