Canada Day Celebrations ~ Sarnia

Kevin Stuart

by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Kevin Stuart

National Pride...

It’s often said that we as Canadians just don’t show enough national pride and, aside from a few occasions, that may largely be the case. That’s what makes it even more heart warming to see those times when we do seem to swell "en masse" with patriotism such as on Canada Day. In fact, some of the most exciting Canada Day Celebrations take place in the towns that border the U.S. whose relentless sense of national pride is always evident. Perhaps that provides further motivation to these communities to wave the flag even more fervently on July 1. My family and I spent Canada Day 2011 in Sarnia, where a view of the state of Michigan is clear from just across the St. Clair River. The permanent population is around 75,000, but there were easily that many spread throughout the area where festivities took place. It’s a good thing the city’s transit system offered a shuttle service all day for just $1 a ride, since parking was essentially unavailable to all but the earliest of early birds.

The Parade...

The first official event was the parade, featuring a wide cross section of representation from businesses, service clubs, and other organizations. There were also musicians, dancers and other groups who helped stir up a lot of excitement amongst the spectators. Some of the more colourful highlights can be viewed below.

Canatara Park...

The parade concluded at Canatara Park, a multi-use area featuring nature trails, picnic spots and a sizeable beach area. Throughout the park one could stop at the many vendors’ tents, as well as the children’s play area, and classic car display. In addition, there were celebrations of our country’s cultural diversity. There were tents set up representing the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Chinese Canadian Association, Fiesta Filipiana Dance Ensemble, India Canada Association, Folk Dances of Somalia, Scottish Highland Dancers, and the Dances of East Turkestan. Nothing celebrates cultures quite like music and dance as these groups aptly demonstrated. We also witnessed a communal Maypole dance in the park.

In addition to the cultural component, entertainment abounded on stage with an aerial trampoline show, Beshano Bike trials and a comedy stuntman. He was there to either shock or make you laugh, often at the same time. The Lambton Concert Band also performed some favourites including a stirring rendition of O Canada.

Sarnia's Beach...

For anyone finding the hot sticky weather a bit much, the nearby beach offered a cool wet respite. While not as crowded as one might have expected, there were a fair number of folks enjoying the extensive area that stretches across the northern end of the park looking out on to Lake Huron.

Centennial Park...

While one area owned the daytime festivities, Centennial Park was the centre of evening celebrations beginning with a free concert by The Caverners (Beatles tribute band) on the Bayfest stage. It should be noted that the on following two weekends Sarnia would host the very popular Rogers Bayfest so this was a nice preview. Around the other side of the stage, facing Sarnia Bay, people were already gathering for the upcoming fireworks display which, unfortunately meant we couldn’t linger too long at the concert area. Naturally, we had our lawn chairs in tow to stake out a clear view of the show that lit up the recently darkened skies. It was a 20-minute spectacle of lights and sound over the bay. We tried to avoid slipping into the cliché oooh and aaah, in favour of cheers and applause that happened frequently throughout the show. They literally gave it their all for the finale and, believe it or not, the crowd was mostly quite orderly in filing out of the park after the show.

For us, after several years of celebrating Canada Day in the same place, this was a most enjoyable change of scene and the perfect kickoff to the summer vacation season.