Canada Day in Tillsonburg

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Tillsonburg celebrated Canada's 150th birthday Saturday in a big way.

"It's been wonderful," said Reg Hayward, a member of the Tillsonburg Historical Society Pioneers, who played the role of George Tillson Saturday afternoon at Annandale National Historic Site.

"Of course, everybody is so excited to meet the Queen. She is a remarkable lady - I even had an audience with her. It was amazing, simply amazing.

"And of course, seeing the town the way it is now..." said Tillson. "People are so curious when they hear me talk about when it all got started. It's been wonderful."

Although dark clouds had passed by hours earlier, Tillsonburg missed any mid-morning rain.

"No rain," he laughed. "Won't allow it."

"Actually I was a little nervous earlier this morning," said Jami Stephenson, chair of Tillsonburg's Canada 150 Committee, who with members of the committee and Canada 150 Community Leaders and helped lead the Optimist Club People's Parade at 11:30 a.m. from corner of Bridge and Rolph Street to the cenotaph on Broadway, in time for a photo op with Tillsonburg's 12x24-foot Canada 150 flag. "We had some dark clouds - the forecast wasn't great. But once we got to Station Arts, the pancakes were cooking, and the red-and-white crowd started coming out in droves.

"A lot of people signing the flag, a lot of enthusiasm," said Stephenson. "We've had a huge turnout and I hope we keep on with this momentum. It's really exciting. It's been a great Canada Day, an awesome year."

The Canada 150 Committee held events throughout the year leading up to July 1st, while the town's Canada Day Committee focused on Saturday events, starting with the Pancake Breakfast, Kinette Club Kids Zone and Optimist Club Decoration Centre at the Station Arts Centre.

"Today was a great day," said Deb Beard, general manager of the Station Arts Centre. "We had a lot of people out for the breakfast. We had wonderful volunteers, Town Council was out serving (pancakes and sausages), we had the Farmers Market, Optimists were here decorating for the rolling parade, we had the Kinettes with face painting and games for the kids. And Nancy Boutin was here entertaining as well - she did great.

"The Canada 150 Committee was here - people met (Olympian) Evan Van Moerkerke and had the opportunity to sign the flag. We had the Horticultural Society here selling tickets for the upcoming Garden Tour.

"Last year, with all the rain, we served 350 people. Our best year has been 600 - we well surpassed that (more than 700). People were lined up around the corner to the church most of the morning. And the volunteers stayed on top of it - everybody did a great job. We even had to order more sausages. And coffee. It was incredible.

"We had a lot of people checking out exhibits, and we handed on the information for them to go on to Annandale House, the cenotaph, and what's going on at Memorial Park this afternoon, the Heritage Games, and this evening's fireworks."

Lake Lisgar Model Ship Regatta took place at Lake Lisgar, and ANHS opened its doors at 10 a.m. for a free admission open house.

At noon, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 153 held a special commemorative flag ceremony at the cenotaph, and the ANHS Fun Fair kicked off on the front lawn, featuring a special visit from Queen Victoria and Sir John A. MacDonald, and games and crafts for the children.

Tillsonburg Cruisers planned a classic car show Saturday afternoon at Memorial Park with a Lions Club Canada Day Barbecue and Heritage Family Picnic Games on site, leading up to a Back to the 50s concert.

Capping off the July 1st celebration, the Town of Tillsonburg presented a spectacular 21-minute fireworks display at Memorial Park, with the Tillsonburg firefighters handling the show.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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