Late last week, the Southeast Manitoulin Lions Club’s feature Manitowaning Summerfest event was cancelled then reinstated.
The event is the club’s Sunday afternoon smashup derby where decorated and modified cars run into one another (at low speeds and in strictly controlled circumstances and, as often as not, operating in reverse gear) until only one vehicle is left to be driven off the field, dented but victorious.
The event is great good fun and attracts both participants and spectators from all over Manitoulin Island and beyond and it has been a mainstay of the weekend for more than 30 years.
Somehow, last week and due to the club’s insurers’ concerns about recently-built structures in the centre area of the Manitowaning Racetrack where the event takes place, the Lions made the decision to cancel the event.
Fans, using social media, immediately expressed their displeasure with the decision, many of them faulting the municipality for its insensitivity to the importance of this event to the overall financial success of the Summerfest Weekend. Mostly, though, people looking forward to seeing the 2015 edition of the annual spectacle were just annoyed that it had been cancelled.
Then there was the vandalism (by yellow paint) of the municipality’s new welded iron leaping deer sculpture, something that may or may not have been related to the cancellation of the car crash spectacle, but of course many people used social media to link the events but not to justify the vandalism.
And then, on Friday, the smashup derby was reinstated and on Sunday the cars crashed as usual and a large crowd got their money’s worth.
Who knows how all of these events came together for a happy ending (except, of course, for the vandalized sculpture but this may well have been a totally random act).
The main thing is that, in the end, common sense prevailed and the Southeast Manitoulin Lions Club was able to present their usual fun-filled weekend complete and as advertised.
Hopefully, the criticism levied at Assiginack council and staff via social media last week has dissipated in light of the event running as usual on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon.
Hopefully, there are no hard feelings on anyone’s part.
Service clubs like the five Lions Clubs we have on Manitoulin, the two branches of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Gore Bay Rotary Club all exist to make some money that can, in turn, be reinvested in community projects and activities in the very same communities where the money was raised. These fundraising events almost always serve the parallel and equally important function of providing the club’s community with a major community weekend event.
Often, if not usually, the festivals become the host community’s main festival event and so achieve the status of major social significance as they provide a venue where people can come out just to have a good time. These events often also serve an important “homecoming” function and that, in fact, is the actual name of the Central Manitoulin Lions Club’s summer festival around Canada Day each year in Mindemoya: Homecoming Weekend.
The Southeast Manitoulin Lions Club event last weekend was also just such an activity and it came off, despite a couple of hiccups, as planned.
That is the main thing.
Our communities on Manitoulin are too small, and life is too short, to hold grudges and assign blame. We should be thankful for what we did have and refrain from dwelling on what we almost didn’t have.