The Mounties are coming!

Gordon/Barrie Island hosts Musical Ride next Tuesday

GORDON/BARRIE ISLAND—The first of the 100th anniversary celebrations for the Manitoulin swing bridge is being hosted by the Gordon/Barrie Island Recreation Committee. The famed Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride will be trotting into the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport for a Tuesday, June 18 performance.

Those wanting to get up close and personal with the horses and riders don’t have to wait until performance day, however, as there will be a pre-show opportunity to drop by for a visit with the team on Monday, June 17 from 3 pm to 9 pm at the stables of Lyle Strain at 13339 Highway 540. “The officers will be available to answer questions and visitors are welcome to feed an apple or sugar cubes to the horses,” said organizer Laura Barfoot, Gordon/Barrie Island economic development officer on behalf of the committee. “People will be able to take pictures closer as well.”

The musical ride team will also be available on Tuesday from 3 pm to 9 pm, but since there will some 300 to 400 school students visiting that day as well, the Monday might be a little less hectic.

“We are really very excited to be able to bring the RMCP Musical Ride to Manitoulin,” said Ms. Barfoot. “But we have a lot happening that day as well.”

In addition to the musical ride itself, there will also be vendors selling food, local wares and RCMP souvenirs.

OPP Community Services Officer Al Boyd noted that there will be a significant police dog presence at the event. “We are working in conjunction with the township organizing committee in Gordon/Barrie Island and with the RCMP Musical Ride to have at least three canine units, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay, doing demonstrations at the event an hour before the show,” he said. “Plus the Ministry of Natural Resources canine unit and the Espanola police dog.” It is hoped that the canine demonstrations will include the bite suit outfit used in aggressive training, added Constable Boyd. “It is quite impressive.”

The RCMP musical ride website outlines the history of Canada’s iconic national image on the national stage. “Throughout the world, the image of the red-coated Mountie in a broad-brimmed Stetson hat is instinctively associated with Canada. However, there is more to the Mounties than just this romantic image. The stage was set in 1873 for a role that would intimately connect the Mounted Police and its members with the development of Canada as a great nation. From the beginning of its long history, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have served Canada and its people by establishing law and order in the frontier reaches of this vast nation. As the country grew in population and diversity and communities became more established, the Mounted Police adapted, ensuring the peace and security for its citizens.”

“Representing a colourful tradition and ceremony through the horse and the scarlet uniform, the RCMP created a spectacle known around the world as the Musical Ride. The Musical Ride provides Canadians, from coast to coast, with the opportunity to experience part of our heritage and national identity,” continues the history.

“The Musical Ride was developed from a desire by early members of the North-West Mounted Police to display their riding ability and entertain both themselves and the local community. Considering the original Mounted Police members had a British military background, it was inevitable that the series of figures they performed were traditional cavalry drill movements. These movements formed the basis of the Musical Ride.

“Although legend has it that the first Musical Ride was performed as early as 1876, the first officially recorded Musical Ride was performed in Regina under Inspector William George Matthews in 1887. Over the years the popularity of the Musical Ride has grown—today it is one of the most popular Canadian symbols around the world.”

“Today, in keeping with tradition, the Musical Ride is performed by a full troop of 32 riders and horses, plus the member in charge. The Musical Ride consists of the execution of a variety of intricate figures and cavalry drill choreographed to music. Demanding utmost control, timing and coordination, these movements are formed by individual horses and riders, in two’s, four’s and eight’s at the trot and at the canter. Months of training, practice and many kilometres/miles around the riding school make horse and rider one. The horses must not only appear in the Musical Ride, but on Parliament Hill, in parades, special events and have the ability to travel and adapt to different environments, not to mention, hours of petting and photo-taking that the horses must patiently endure.”

The performance is the beneficiary of a $3,000 Trillium Foundation grant, flowed through the Northeast Town as part of its Bridgefest Celebrations. “The money from NEMI was a big boost for us,” said Ms. Barfoot. “But there were also a number of other sponsors who came forward to help us out. Platinum sponsors were the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport, New North Fuels; the gold sponsor was Lyle Strain and bronze sponsors were the Bank of Montreal, Gore Bay Branch, Noble Lumber, the Town of Gore Bay and the Town of North-Eastern Manitoulin and the Islands.

Gates open at 4 pm, the Musical Ride pre-show begins at 6 pm on Tuesday, June 18 with the ride itself at 7 pm at the Gore Bay Manitoulin Airport west of Gore Bay on Highway 540. Visitors are encouraged to avoid issues with the limited onsite parking by taking advantage of free bus service to the site from downtown Gore Bay beginning at 4 pm.

Michael Erskine