Canada Day Celebrations ~ The Great Waterway
(Village of Bath & Fort Wellington, Prescott)
Festival Nomad Correspondent, Judi "Scoop" McWilliams
Canada Day Celebrations ~ Village of Bath

Bath, is approximately 20 minutes from Kingston and Prince Edward County (Picton via the Glenora Ferry), 15 minutes from Napanee and 10 minutes from the neighbouring community of Amherstview. Bath is a quaint, historical village on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. There is a fresh, Summer Market every Sunday from mid-June to late October and Bath's Canada Day Parade draws thousands of people to the village on July 1st every year! Today we were going to see for ourselves!

As we approached the area the traffic slowed, then stopped. A police vehicle was directing vehicles around the entire town to the other side, or if they choose, up to the 401 highway. We were concerned we were now going to miss the Canada Day parade. Patiently we waited our turn for directions and then followed the other cars. Much to our surprise and delight, we found ourselves on the “other side” of town and volunteers welcomed us to park in a large farmer’s field. We could hear music coming towards us and crowds cheering. The Festival Nomad challenged me to run up the hill to see if I could get a few photos before we “missed” everything. I ran; he caught up just in time to see the first Grand Marshall and fire trucks ringing their bells to start the parade! Wow, we made it in time!

The view was great and our photos will show what a great effort the Village of Bath put forth for their parade. Red and white lined the street on sides, people cheering, and flags waving. It was exciting.

A free shuttle bus welcomed visitors to travel to the downtown core after the Parade for the day’s activities. We decided to walk. This allowed us to see many historical homes, catch the community spirit and take time to soak it all in. The day grew to a hot 32 degrees or more but the breeze from the lake provided much needed relief after our long walk. Many houses were decorated with Canadian themes and many had family and friend gatherings with activities, food, BBQ’s and music in their own historic homes. I overheard a small child ask their father if they could go play in the yard, it was difficult for the father to help the little kid understand that was a family home and party.

As we walked by, a Bath Artisans Art Show & Sale was taking place at St. John’s Hall. Many visitors stopped in. We walked down to the lake and came across the Fairfield-Gutzeit House. Today a Tall Ship was docked for visitors to explore. I have included some history at the end of our Ontario Visited Article for your convenience. Hope you enjoy. The Museum was “free” for visitors on this special Canada Day, with donations being welcomed.

Families had gathered along the park and beach area. Picnics all around. The Village of Bath had many activities for children, from pony rides and a petting zoo, to face painting, free horse drawn wagon rides, Bath Fire Fighter’s Foam and more. After taking some time to rest in the shade on a bench, it was time to visit the main area of Centennial Park. Booths lined the park with vendors selling their hand made crafts, antique items, artists, food booths galore. There was plenty to do, to eat, to purchase, to see, to enjoy. “Whiskey River” was performing on stage entertaining the crowds. I can’t tell you how many folks were there, a lot, everyone, especially families all dressed proudly in red and white! We were about to walk on, when O’Canada was being sung on stage and the announcement of the Parade and House Decorating Awards were going to be given out. Everyone in the park and outside the park took their hats off, stood at attention and sang along. The crowds cheered once more. We started our journey back to our car in the field far away. This time, we decided to take advantage of the “free shuttle bus”. We did not realize just how far we had walked and how far away we were. The icing on the cake this Canada Day was to stop along the Loyalist Parkway at a park by the water shore to enjoy a packed picnic. Perhaps the extra icing on the cake was the Festival Nomad rushing just a bit and we were fortunate to catch the Glenora Ferry just in time. No sooner had we turned the car off, the back of the boat gate closed and we were on our way to Picton. The fresh air, bright sun and excitement of the day made arriving home welcoming. Now there was time until dark to watch the Cobourg Waterfront Festival Canada Day fireworks from the comfort of our patio chairs. Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day Celebrations ~ Fort Wellington, Prescott

Today we felt very Canadian and very patriotic as we discovered Fort Wellington National Historic Site for the first time. Nestled in the hillside of Prescott on the shores of the St. Lawrence River is the Fort. It is small in size compared to some of the larger National Historic Sites we have visited over the years, but, it might well be one of Upper Canada’s best preserved British Military forts. The Fort was strategically built during the War of 1812 in Prescott to defend the vital St. Lawrence River route from American attach. The Fort was rebuilt in response to the Rebellions of 1837 through 1838 using components from the first structure.

Parks Canada protects and presents the cultural heritage and integrity of Fort Wellington on behalf of all Canadians. We are fortunate it is open to the public, offering unique and authentic stories by facilitating real and inspiring visitor experiences. Costumed historical interpreters engage visitors through interpretive talks, presentations and period demonstrations such as cooking over an open fire, rifle and cannon firings, period crafts and games. Special events take place throughout the year and education programs entertain school age children from the area and as far away as Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston.

As we arrived early in the day, we took the time to walk the outer fields, down around the lakefront and finally climbing up to the outer Fort wooden fences. I felt the cool breeze of the warm summer day, calm, serene, yet before me stood a massive Cannon pointed right at me. The silence became eerie as my imagination took over. It was time to find out what “safety” lay inside the Fort.

We began our visit at the Visitor Centre, where we saw exhibits and an orientation video. An amazing medallion was embedded in the floor at the entrance covered with perhaps Plexiglas allowing us to view.  The Barracks Store Gift Shop was fun to look around where they specialize in merchandise including local arts and crafts, souvenirs, historical publications, period games and clothing.

The staff and volunteers gave us a warm welcome, a map, schedule of events and activities for the day, offering all for “free” as the National Historic Site of Canada does on “Canada Day”.  It was going to be a busy day!  

The Prescott Heritage River Trail is a walking trail running along the St. Lawrence for the length of the Fort property. This scenic trail is enhanced with interpretive panels exploring the history of the property and the use of the river as a transshipment route. We followed the path to the historic site where interpretive staff dressed as soldiers and wives of soldiers were about to bring the site to life.

The interpreters were extremely informative, knowledgeable and very welcoming! They really added to our experience. They even took the time for a “shot”… (“Photo shot, not shoot”). I’m sure I met some of these fine young gentlemen at other re-enactment battles in the past. Their green coats were true to authentic as could be. A gunman welcomed us to view a riffle demonstration in about 15 minutes. We have enough time to walk the inside walls of the Fort. The views from the hilltop (on the “safe” side as the wall) were spectacular. The guard took the time to walk up the steep incline to remind us his demonstration was about to begin.

Several other visitors had gathered at this point and we all took a seat on wooden benches along the backside of the main building (in the cool shade). Two guards performed the demonstration telling us about the type of weapon, the ammunition, the battle that the soldiers would have encountered, and even a loud noise and smoke as the gun went off. The range of weapon used in this period of time differed from flint guns that the range would be only 50 feet or so. (I could be really incorrect here, but hopefully you will see the difference). Their gun demonstration today would have been a range of up to 300 yards with great accuracy.

After this demonstration we toured around the other buildings with actual artifacts of the period. A woman in period costume was extremely informative (not to mention she had a great sense of humor). She told us about her dress, in that it was just prior to the era, but, perhaps the lady would have used this for weekly chores and had a bit higher quality dress for church and outings. They only had two dresses (if they were lucky) and they had to make them last a very long time. A fire was burning with a large black kettle for cooking demonstration depicting the “camping” experiences and daily life back in the day. I won’t go on too much about our conversations, but, the interpreters really do a fantastic job engaging you into the conversation, growing your passion and appreciation for the efforts of those who came before us and fought for our freedom.

Inside the main building, the blockhouse, we were welcomed by another solider. In the far back corner the ammunition was kept in a dark, cool room with a very, very thick heavy door. I must have watched too many T.V. shows where the folks being attacked would have taken shelter in that kind of room … the last resort. But, I was miss-informed. Apparently this room had such a heavy door to keep out any “sparks” and keep the ammunition “save”. Any kind of spark could have ignited the entire stock, blowing the entire building (although thick stone) up. The soldiers and families slept on the floor above, and I could not have imagined resting comfortable with that scenario below.

On the middle floor another young interpreters told us about the families that slept in each room. The “rooms” were just two wooden slabs put together low on the floor, several wool blankets and some quilts, divided by wool curtains. Some soldiers had their wife and up to 4 children all sharing that “room”. A long table had many games such as cards, marbles, checkers and chalk boards where families could gather on the other side of the sleeping room.

The washroom facilities back in the day were in a small building outside. The officers had their own single “stall”. There were two “stalls” for women and children, and all the other soldiers had to us a single “stall” with just a tough with a railing that they had to hold themselves up until the finished their business. No seats as it were.

During the evenings, everyone was locked down (or up) in the main building. This became problematic when over 100 people had to use the “bucket” for their toilet needs during the night in the same sleeping quarters as everyone else. Every cough, whisper, laugh, cry could be heard. In our society today I hear people complaining about their neighbours often, can you imagine living in these times.

We were told desertion was a concern at the beginning of the war. Soldiers sometimes wished to flee to the United States (right across the waterway), or vice-versa. The interpreters shared with us that the soldiers deserting during this period of time was rare. They were provided the opportunity to have their wives and children stay with them. The children went to school in the nearby town of Prescott. As it seems we could never cope with such living accommodations today, we were told that this was high living and good living during this period of War. They had schooling, medical attention, living quarters, and a roof over their head.

Our photos have captured a lot of our day, but talking with the interpreters, experiencing the Fort yourself, sitting on the hill, just listening, is the greatest experience you can imagine. We were glad we took the time to stop into Fort Wellington!