Rain and runners headline Canada Day in Amherstburg

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By Joel Charron and Ron Giofu


Canada Day featured a lot of runners, new citizens and a whole lot of rain.

While Canada’s 146th birthday was celebrated in the first part of the day, heavy rain put a damper on afternoon and evening festivities including the fireworks, which were cancelled.

According to the town’s Facebook page, which announced the cancellation of the fireworks late Monday afternoon, “We’re are so sorry, but we have heard word from the fire department that the fireworks have been cancelled. No rain date.”

Visitor information centre manager Jen Ibrahim said there will be no rain date because “the event is executed with so many volunteers, that it would be difficult to turn this around quickly.”

Ibrahim said she and manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota will look into the possibility of having fireworks at another event.

“We are so disappointed, but what can you do?” she stated.

Rain started coming down heavily shortly before 1 p.m. and continued throughout most of the afternoon and evening, forcing organizers to cancel activities as the day went on.

The festivities that were held prior to the sky opening up started with the Canada D’Eh 5K run, an even organized by local resident Chris Uszynski.

When Uszynski started organizing a Canada Day 5K run, he envisioned hundreds of runners decked out in red and white, proudly displaying the maple leaf.

When race day finally came around, Uszynski wasn’t disappointed.

“This is great,” said Uszynski. “This is what this day is all about. This run is a great way to kick off a great day for not only Amherstburg but Canada as well.”

Over 650 runners took part in the Canada D’Eh 5K run this past Monday in front of Fort Malden National Historic Site.

The day kicked off with dozens of pint-sized patriotic runners, participating in the kid’s dash, and then turning it over to the feature 5k run. Proceeds of the run will be donated to the River Lights Winter Festival.

Uszysnki said he was very pleased with the amount of runners the race attracted and pointed out that the race sold-out the Friday before the race.

“I thought we would sell out a little before that but a sold-out race is a sold-out race. I’m definitely not going to complain,” he said.

Uszynski added the race was built around family fun and showing your patriotism.

“When it comes to showing how patriotic we are, Canadians are usually pretty laid back, compared to the Americans,” he said. “We just wanted to poke a little fun at ourselves and show how patriotic we can be.”

He said 25 per cent of the runners are from out of town. Runners came from the Chatham, Toronto, Cincinnati, even as far as Singapore.

Uszysnki mentioned this race could easily become an annual event.

“It’s a great day for the family,” he said. “You and the kids and take part in the race then you can pop by Fort Malden and check out all the great events they have going on.”

Cory Simard took home the men’s 5K title and Blaire Kniaziew-Gervais crossed the line first in the women’s division.

Ten other runners were also given bottles of maple syrup for best dressed.

“It was a good course, really flat,” said Simard. “It’s a great race. It’s Canada Day, so many runners showing their patriotism, it’s just fantastic. It would be awesome if we could do this more than one time a year.”

Kniaziew-Gervais, who ran with her husband Matt while pushing their son Karson in a stroller said it was nice for Amherstburg to host a Canada Day run once again.

“We are happy to have the Canada Day run back,” she said. “It’s been a long time since they had this race. It’s a ton of fun. Chris does such a good job making it all about family and fun. You don’t have to be the fastest, you just have to come out and get involved.”

Events then went inside Fort Malden, including a citizenship ceremony in the morning.

“On this day, Canadians from coast to coast are celebrating what we have in this country and what it means to be Canadian,” Judge Norman Vachon told the new Canadians and their families.

Vachon told them to “celebrate the pride we all feel as Canadians” and to take responsibility for themselves and obey the law. He said they are part of the best country in the world and encouraged the new citizens to get involved, help their communities and be good environmental stewards.

Mayor Wayne Hurst encouraged people to take an interest in both country and community. He said people need to take the time to appreciate what it means to be a Canadian.

“I think it’s important to understand all of the freedoms we Canadians enjoy,” said Hurst.

Essex MP Jeff Watson said Canadians enjoy democracy, the rule of law, Canadian values and freedoms. He noted his mother immigrated to Canada from Croatia in 1970 when she was four months pregnant with him.

Watson encouraged Canadians to enjoy the day and to keep getting involved.

“You work hard, you live well and you contribute to the community around you,” said Watson.

The names of the new town mascots were also revealed, as the seagulls are now known as “Sully and Gully.”

“When choosing these mascots, there were several considerations taken into account including the cost and availability of the costume (this was a production item and not custom made therefore we were able to get a very cost effective price), that it was identifiable and unique, and that it was appropriate to the era and theme of our upcoming events,” said Ibrahim. “Currently, we are preparing ourselves for a regional tall ship festival which is known throughout the world as a top quality draw for many who love sailing, historical ships, history in general or maritime themes. Both of the tall ships docking in at our port are 1812-specific and relevant to the maritime history that is a part of King’s Navy Yard Park as a former shipbuilding yard of that period. The purpose of these mascots is to bring awareness to our community and these activities in association with waterfront festivals.”


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