History Day in Kagawong 2019 focusses locally

Before (above) and after (below) photographs show the resort at Harbour Isand in its heyday in the 1950s-60s and the sorry state to which it has fallen since the resort was a playground for the elite.

KAGAWONG—History Day in Kagawong has established itself over the years as a great opportunity to explore many of the interesting bits of the history and events of Manitoulin Island and this year a lot of the focus is particularly local.

There are three streams in this year’s lineup that will enthral both history buffs and the casual interest observer, noted Old Mill Heritage Centre Curator Rick Nelson.

The first is a perennial Island favourite, ‘Shipwrecks of Georgian Bay.’ Two of the foremost experts on the subject, Cris Kohl and his partner Joan Forsberg, authors of several books on shipwrecks and exploring Island waters beneath the waves will be on hand. Recently freed from an embargo on the documentary about the search for the legendary Griffin, the first European-rigged vessel to ply the Great Lakes, Mr. Kohl will be spilling the behind the scenes details (and gossip) on the filming.

The second stream will focus on the history and current restoration of the once-and-future high end resort Harbour Island. The resort was the playground of the rich and famous during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, noted Mr. Nelson. “Rob Chandler will talk his long term plans to restore the resort to its former glory,” he said. “I will be showing how it looked when it was a happening place in the 50s and 60s.”

Harbour Island has been deteriorating over a very long time and it will take some time to bring it back into shape, but Mr. Chandler is determined to make that happen. 

The third stream will focus on the museum itself, as this is the 10th anniversary of the Old Mill Heritage Centre and it has come a long way in the past decade. This will really be a community celebration, said Mr. Nelson. “This museum would not be where it is today without the hard work and dedication of the Billings museum committee,” said Mr. Nelson. “I am just the front man, the real work gets done behind the scenes by those fine folks. We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that it is also the people in the community who have provided the artifacts and memorabilia for the museum that helps us create our exhibits.”

As has become tradition, History Day will come in two equal segments on August 8: a matinee starting at 3:30 pm and an evening session at 7:30 pm. Both will take place at the Park Centre in Kagawong. “We have seating for about 100 and the seats usually fill up pretty good,” said Mr. Nelson.