KILLARNEY – Excitement in the community of Killarney was building throughout 2019 and early 2020 as plans were underway for a host of celebratory events for the occasion of that community’s 200th anniversary—only to have most of those plans temporarily dashed by the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, her Excellency the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, lieutenant governor of Canada, stopped in to help take some of the sting out of the celebration postponements, holding a couple of vice-regal receptions her visit to the community.
“It was quite a turnaround,” said Gary J. Michalak, executive director of Café Heritage and the organizer of the Killarney celebrations. “She really loved the trip,” he said of the lieutenant governor’s remarks at the event.
Ms. Dowdeswell arrived around 12:30 in the afternoon where she was received by Killarney Mayor Nancy Wirtz and Holden Rhodes, owner of Killarney Mountain Lodge and spent 20 minutes in conversation before heading over to a reception and civic luncheon at the Veteran’s Hall where she was met by an enthusiastic, but physically distanced crowd.
“Of course she had to sample our famous fish and chips,” said Mr. Michalak.
The lieutenant governor met with four elementary students, Emily Critch, Lily Nuziale, Tegan Tyson and Cruz Tyson, who were participating in crazy hair day. The students gifted the vice-regal representative with gifts of flowers and maple syrup.
“She was impressed and moved with that,” said Mr. Michalak, as she was with a presentation on the history of Killarney. The lieutenant governor toured Church Street and businesses in the downtown, including Pitfields. “Mr. Pitfield is 84 and still going strong,” he said.
The tour was conducted via a six-person golf cart, just big enough for the lieutenant governor and her police escort and entourage. “She is pretty agile herself for 76 years of age,” said Mr. Michalak.
Young artist Morgan presented her with one of his paintings, a particularly poignant meeting as the lieutenant governor is very engaged in music and art.
A 45-minute tour to Indian Head, the rock formation that forms the logo for Killarney 200 and then a tour of Canada House, the new resort that has been turning heads in Killarney for a couple of years now was a hit with the lieutenant governor.
“It is an incredible facility,” shared Mr. Michalak, “a true Canadian icon that is right up there with the best, and it was built by local masons.”
The evening saw a vice regal reception in the Ranch Room of Canada House where the lieutenant governor provided a royal welcome.
Artist Mike Ranta, a winner of a governor general’s award who travelled across Canada with his dog and canoe in period dress as a coureur de bois (voyaguer), “Not once, but twice,” said Mr. Michalak, presented his 20-ton paddle art installation.
Singer-songwriter Andrew Lowe, a Killarney fixture, sang songs about the region and the evening was capped off with a fireworks display. “It’s a prelude to what will happen next year,” assured Mr. Michalak.
The 200th anniversary celebrations are now postponed to July, starting July 3 and going through to July 11.
“We will be having a top 50 pike derby, last year we got monster pike,” said Mr. Michalak. “There will be a Killarney Amazing Race with a $2,000 first prize, with a whole variety of different kinds of challenges.”
The official opening of the events will take place Thursday, July 8 2021 with a Mother Nature’s Playground theme and a celebration of Indigenous spirit. Both Crystal Shawanda and Mimi O’Bonsawin will be performing and Friday will move to country with a number of Sudbury bands and Saturday will rock with an unforgettable host of tribute bands.
Stay tuned for more information in 2021, when the world will hopefully be closer to being back to normal.