BY HEATHER KRAWCHUK
On Thursday, April 18th, the Niagara 1812 Legacy Council held a press conference to announce its events for 2013. Event organizers from across Niagara were represented at the event and introduced programs and activities for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Many of these events will be held on the exact 200th anniversary of the actual event.
Opening remarks at the press conference were made by Brian Merrett, CEO of the Legacy Council. He then turned the microphone over to Gary Burroughs, who brought greetings from the Niagara region, Janice Thomson who spoke on behalf of the Niagara Parks Commission and Peter Martin who represented Parks Canada.
Janice Thomson stated, “There are so many wonderful events that we want to make sure people are aware of. The various war-related sites and events are available on the Niagara Park’s website.” This website is – http://www.niagaraparks.com/.
Peter Martin spoke about an event that will be held on May 25th and 26th for the Battle of Fort George. He called it a “pivotal battle” and stressed the importance of commemorating the event. Over eight hundred re-enactors will be at the event from all over North America and there will be demonstrations held throughout the weekend. The events will take place at Fort George and will be free for the public to watch.
Next, Rick Meloen talked about the Occupation of the Town, an event that will run from May 27th – December 10th in Niagara on the Lake. Meloen said that, “1813 was the worst year in the history of Niagara and for the Niagara region.” Events will include a variety of flags – some controversial – displayed on Queen Street to educate the public.
The Occupation of the Town will also feature students dressed up as U.S soldiers who will roam the town and the addition of guard houses set up on Queen Street. Meloen said that the aim is to, “Show residents what it is like to be occupied.” His talk was followed by the presentation of an American flag to his organization.
The Engagement at the Forty will be held on June 8th, which is the exact date and site as the actual event. Craig Tallman and Phil Conklin spoke about this event, that will feature a military and civilian component involving dancing, stories and music from that time and era. The timeline of history will be compressed in order to include all pertinent events. Boats will exchange fire and the aim will be to show that what happened in Grimsby during 1812 has a great deal of historical significance.
Jim Hill, Caroline McCormick and Tony Vandermaas spoke about event plans centering on the Laura Secord Walk and the Battle of Beaverdams, which will be held from June 21st – 24th. During this time, the Laura Secord museum will be open to the public, who will be encouraged to touch everything in the museum. “Without Laura Secord’s bold contribution, Canada as it is may not exist today,” said McCormick.
A thirty-two kilometer Laura Secord trail runs from the Laura Secord Homestead, through Twelve Mile Creek and finished off at Decew Falls in Thorold, which will be the location of another event. “We expect hundreds, if not thousands of people to join us” said McCormick.
Vandermaas called the Decew House a “living, breathing monument”. It is there where there will be a competition of town criers. In addition, there will be a showing of a film presented at the Thorold Public Library and a play that will be held at Trinity United Church. There will also be a memorial to recognize combatants on all sides.
All events seem extremely well-organized. The one in Thorold is no exception, as it will feature shuttles running from the Regional Headquarters to Decew throughout the weekend. More information about the event can be found at www.battleofbeaverdams.com.
Lesley Seabourne spoke about the 1812 Tall Ships visit that will occur in Port Dalhousie on June 29th and 30th. Three vessels will be on hand for spectators to board, view and speak to captains and crew for a nominal fee. Of the three ships, two are replicas of actual ships from the War of 1812 and are the Pride of Baltimore II and the Lynx, from California.
Also at the event will be The Unicorn, which did not participate in the War of 1812 but will serve to educate the public. Seabourne was especially proud of this particular ship as it features an all-female crew who call themselves, “Sisters Under Sail”.
Brian Merrett spoke about Niagara on Fire, an event that runs December 6th and 7th, whose aim is to commemorate, rather than celebrate. The main parts of the event will be held at the Market Square in Niagara on the Lake and will feature a sound and light show as well as a video about why the event occurred, what happened and the consequences. A trailer for the video can be viewed at – www.1812niagaraonthelake.ca.
Merrett said that the event intends to, “Give people a concept of what it was like to be thrown out of their homes with two hours’ notice in the middle of winter and then forced to watch as it was burned to the ground.” Huge lights will be placed in the downtown core to give the allusion that the town is on fire and there will also be a fireworks display.
John Armstrong spoke on behalf of Task Force 2014. He said that the “Legacy is the two hundred years of peace that came from this war.” He added that, plus the bi-national component, will be the focus for the task force in the coming months.
Many of the presenters were dressed in 1812-era attire and all showed an extreme passion and dedication to the aforementioned events. These events are sure to educate and awe spectators of all ages. Please visit the links listed above for more information and be sure to check back for coverage of the events.