There’s a little village a couple of hours east of Peterborough that has a special affection for the Canadian Canoe Museum. In fact, even though some of the residents of this village have not yet made the journey to visit the Museum, many of them have a wee sense of ‘ownership’ nonetheless. That is because the residents of Seeley’s Bay proudly helped with the ‘sea trials’ of Canada One this year, before she went off to do us all proud on the Thames.
Well, more importantly, it is also because the Executive Director of the Museum (we call him Jim) lives here. So when Raffan called upon his fellow local citizens to help fix up the canoe, test drive her, and christen her, we were all ‘ready aye ready’. Heck, when we heard that CBC’s The National was sending a film crew to capture the test run, we even called out the local volunteer fire brigade, to make sure Raffan and crew could handle the fireboat sprays anticipated on the Thames.
Anyhow, all of you know about the wonderful journey of Canada One – the airlift from Trenton, the frustrated lorry driver, the lack of opportunity for the crew to practice, the pouring rain, but most of all, the immense pride of Canadians who watched that wonderful canoe in the Flotilla paddled by eight beautifully costumed voyageurs. But what you may not know is that the story did not end there for the people of Seeley’s Bay.
The village of Seeley’s Bay was starting to get a bit run down at the heels a few years back. Like many communities in Eastern Ontario the community felt the effect of closures of nearby manufacturing operations, and local businesses were challenged by competition from big box stores in the city. So, the residents decided to do something about this, and figure out how to make the best of their assets. The most notable advantages the community has to offer are its location on the Rideau Waterway and it is smack in the middle of the beautiful Frontenac Arch. Great scenery and great paddling AND a famous paddler to help raise some money are darn good assets. Thus began a series of “Storyfests” featuring Dr. James Raffan telling tales of his adventures and explorations around the globe.
And over the past couple of years Raffan raised a few thousand dollars for the local cause (one outcome is a great new paddling station in the village). Of course, the village needs a few hundred thousand dollars to achieve all of its goals, so the fundraising continues. So earlier this month a very special Diamond Jubilee Storyfest was held where Jim told the full story of Canada One’s voyage to England, everyone enjoyed a fancy high tea, and we all sang God Save the Queen with gusto.
The village volunteers made fancy tarts and petits fours. The bone china was borrowed from the United Church, silver samovars were borrowed from friends, and our simple country hall was transformed into a pretty fancy venue. Lots of people dressed up ‘fit for a Queen’ and the hats were spectacular. And as usual, the audience loved Jim’s stories and pictures.
However – and here is the point of this whole story – maybe the best part was that we auctioned off one of the authentic paddles that went to England, and as a result, $650.00 is on its way to the Museum from Seeley’s Bay. Local residents Dan and Cindy Simpson are now the lucky owners of a special and rare piece of Canadian memorabilia, and the bond between Seeley’s Bay and the Canoe Museum is now a little bit stronger for all of us.