Christmas in Kagawong celebrates 25th anniversary

KAGAWONG—This weekend will mark an important anniversary milestone at Kagawong’s community hall, its Park Centre.

This centre has seen its share of important community markers (wedding anniversaries, the recent celebration of the career of Canada’s longest-serving politician, history days) but this weekend, beginning Friday night, the Park Centre will mark a quarter-century of an annual event whose history almost precisely coincides with the life of the venue itself: Christmas in the Park, now Christmas in Kagawong.

A quarter-century ago, the Park Centre was a new public space in Kagawong with two useful floors, a kitchen and was a location tailor-made for a signature event.

Dick and Koki Maloney had at that time recently moved permanently to the village from their native Ohio and, together with friends Keith and Louise McKean and others saw the possibilities at the Park Centre to establish a high-end Christmas fair that would be unique on Manitoulin. Mr. Maloney had then recently retired from a career as a graphic artist in the advertising department of a major US tire manufacturer.

This weekend marks the 25th consecutive Christmas in Kagawong show and it remains a signature event for Kagawong and its community hall. In fact, some of the touches the Maloneys and their friends included in the original event raised the bar across Manitoulin for seasonal events of this kind: lit candles burning inside white paper bags marking the outdoor paths to the door lent a magical ambience to the early events.

The original group organized Christmas in the Park for several years, handing it off to Vivian Rusk and some friends who kept it going until, organically, it came under the umbrella of the Billings Economic Development Committee (and saw a name change to Christmas in Kagawong), currently chaired by Sharon Alkenbrack and comprised of a mixture of community-minded citizens and elected officials.

The much-anticipated annual event is scheduled from this Friday, November 16 to Sunday, November 18.

Doors open at the Park Centre at 4 pm on Friday afternoon where vendors will have tables laden with fabulous gift ideas for that hard to shop for person on your list. Shopping until 8 pm.

Take a break from your retail therapy and head down to the main floor and enjoy a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings for $16. Members of EDC will serve from 5 to 7 pm.

Make sure you take time to take in Friends of the Billings Library’s 7th annual silent auction. Items are on display from 4 to 8 pm on Friday evening. There is sure to be something for everyone on your list. Or why not pick up a well-deserved gift for yourself. All proceeds from the auction go towards purchase of books for the library.

The doors re-open on Saturday morning at 10 am when the vendors will be set up and silent auction items remain on display for bids. 

St John’s Anglican Church is the place to pick up baking, check out craft tables and gift baskets for sale along with traditional Christmas cake and cider for a special warm up from 10 to 3 pm. Join them for carols from 11 am to 12 noon. Be sure to watch for their angel display and colouring sheets, decorations and a Christmas story for the children to take home.

Volunteers of the Museum Board will don aprons and serve hot dogs and chili from at 11 am until 2 pm. Saturday’s day of shopping winds down at 4 pm.

Sunday hours are from 10 am to 4 pm. Parents are invited to bring their youngsters to have their photo taken with Santa from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Ms. Alkenbrack stated that “all the money that EDC makes goes back into the community. For instance, Riverbend Stage was built with EDD funds from Christmas in Kagawong and the hydro that runs along the boardwalk was also paid by EDC as were the lights.”