Canada Day 2010:
Fancy Fireworks, Free Flags, Fish Fries and Fish Flies Too!

…by Laura Tutlies

Canada Day celebrations were booming throughout the East Beaches and the holiday mood extended into the weekend. Countless cottage subdivisions from Beaconia to Victoria Beach hosted community breakfasts and field days. Canadian flags, t-shirts, hats and chairs could be spotted everywhere. At least one large family reunion got underway on Saturday and a huge Fish Fry that evening fed the prolific descendants of the original Thomas and Webb family tree. And yes! Beginning their annual foray on July 1st the fish flies came to spend their short life on the streets, cottages, businesses and structures that line the East Beaches of Lake Winnipeg. It is Monday as I write and this morning the roads as I approached Grand Marais community were black with their dead little bodies. Many buildings I passed looked as if they had been given a speckled paint job over their solid blue, white, green or yellow walls.
At the Grand Marais Recreation Centre on July 1st, Canadian patriots and fun seekers were on hand for a spectacular display of continually changing explosions in the night sky. I hope the family nesting Ospreys that live above the Rec Centre had earplugs for the duration of the amazing light show created by five thousand dollars worth of fireworks. The show was sponsored by the Grand Beach & Area Development Corporation who, under the diligent direction of Ken Avery (with serious help from his cohorts), raised enough money over the winter so they could throw a big party for the East Beaches. They did. The G.B.A.D.C. did this mostly on their own but also with some help from a Community Festivals grant from Culture, Heritage and Tourism of Manitoba. The budget for the fireworks was kept in the black with raffles that have been running since last year when the plans for the party were being formed. Their efforts paid off with large crowds and a truly spectacular night show.
Highlights of the Canada Day celebration included a pancake breakfast hosted by the Grand Marais Recreation Association. The hungry masses kept the kitchen staff so busy that twice they nearly ran out of pancakes, a key item in a pancake breakfast. For the morning and through lunch, the G.M.R.A. and the Grand Marais & District Seniors filled the banquet hall with market tables. Those plus a few outdoor stalls attracted a good number of exhibitors who benefited from the opportunity to display their wares. This included one table that offered a raffle for a really spiffy Electric scooter. Fresh baking, books galore, health care items and unique craft items were scooped up by “holiday” shoppers. When the Flea Market ended, some folks stayed behind for an afternoon Cribbage Match with old friends and neighbours. Several former residents were spotted in the crowd and it is clear they made this an occasion to leave their city digs and renew acquaintances over a cup of coffee and a game board.
In the evening things really began to heat up, literally and figuratively. Though clouds had treated to spoil the fun as the day began, by late afternoon the sun was hot and strong. A clown on stilts welcomed everyone and was a super hit as he provided balloon art to the enchanted flock of children who followed his every move. There was no charge for the day and the organizers were very liberal with their gifts of Canada pins, stick-on tattoos, flags, and red maple leaf trinkets that blinked long and bright even when the sun disappeared. The silent auction table was none too shabby either, with a multitude of gifts that the G.B.A.D.C. purchased for the occasion.
The opening ceremonies began at 7:00 with O Canada sung in both French and English. The show played out in front of two or three hundred guests. They sat on their lawn chairs and picnic blankets basking in front of the open-air stage. The entertainment began with the talents of Dwight Klatt, Glenn Hewgill (on fiddle), Billy Wise and Mike Lauze. There were also some guest appearances from folks in the crowd including Earl Klatt, the self-proclaimed 'mayor of Grand Marais', who somehow manages to come up with a new version of an old song every time he gets on stage. Dignitaries included James Bezan MP for Selkirk-Interlake, Mayor Strang of the R.M. of St. Clements and both Ed Arnold & Alvin Yosyk, councillors from the R.M. of Alexander - each of whom brought well wishes from their political entities. Following speeches, everyone was invited to feast on the sumptuous Canada Cakes that were provided for the occasion.
With the absence of the sun, the audience for the night show mushroomed to at least 600 people (a conservative estimate). However, with the dusk came those pesky mosquitoes that had stayed nicely in check all day thanks to Sunset Spray Service. Someone commented that “they must have used the daytime spray” but the fact is that it was so humid by 8:00 p.m. that no man, woman, child or grandparent had much defence against these bloodthirsty monsters - the mosquitoes, not the Sunset Spray folks. What was amazing was that the majority of the day was nearly mosquito free in spite of the heat and the over abundance of water in the ditches. As soon as it was dark, the 'Fire Dancers' lit up the outdoor stage with hair scorching displays featuring hoops and ropes aflame. Three young women expertly danced, while balancing, twirling and teasing the flames into shapes that lighted the still peaceful night sky with primitive brilliance.
The main attraction of the event followed and judging by the reaction of the spectators, they were not disappointed. The light show was such as you would expect to see in a small American city on the 4th of July. There folks likely take sights like this for granted however, in this East Beaches community it was a show such as had not seen here before. Every color of the rainbow, many spherical shapes plus extended splashes of light flickered and glowed for a full 22 minutes or more. Then Mother Nature decided to argue her case for beauty with a powerful, natural version of the light show. Man used gunpowder - Nature used electricity in an effective manner. To further prove her case she doused the watchers with heavy hard rain, as they ran for their cars or other cover. No matter! We have seen the lighting and heard the thunder many times, but never have the fireworks in East Beaches been as awesome as they were on this Canada Day Celebration.

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