Thorold to be bicentennial ground zero


  • Paul Forsyth
  • |
  • May 08, 2013
  • Thousands expected to pour into city for Battle of Beaverdams commemoration


    Thorold to be bicentennial ground zero. John Burtniak, chair of the Thorold War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee, speaks at the opening of the new DeCew House Heritage Park in June of last year. He told city council Tuesday night that thousands of people are expected to pour into Thorold for the weekend of June 22-24 to mark the bicentennial of the Battle of Beaverdams. File photo

    Thorold is set to become ground zero in Canada’s War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations, with thousands of people expected to pour into the city for the weekend of June 22-24.

    The weekend will mark, exactly, 200 years since Laura Secord famously make her treacherous journey all the way to Thorold’s DeCew House to warn of an impending invasion by American troops, and the crucial Battle of Beaverdams in which native warriors defeated their American interlopers.

    The big bash coming in June is the culmination of some three years of endless planning by Thorold’s War of 1812 bicentennial committee. At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, committee chair John Burtniak and events co-ordinator Tony Vandermaas gave city politicians an overview of the festivities planned for the weekend.

    Burtniak said the weekend will, in part, finally give native warriors their proper due by correcting the long-held view by many that the Battle of Beaverdams was a ‘British’ victory. He noted that after Secord struggled through 32 kilometres of rough terrain to warn British Lieut. James Fitzgibbon that hundreds of armed American soldiers were heading toward Thorold with mayhem on their minds, it was native warriors who laid in wait and then fought and defeated by invaders in the fields and beechwoods east of where the Welland Canal now is.

    “They did all the fighting and suffered casualties and received no credit,” he said.

    Part of the weekend’s festivities will involve unveiling a boulder placed where the former War of 1812 cairn that now sits in the Battle of Beaverdams Park used to be. That cairn was removed from its old location at old Thorold Stone Road and Davis Road in the 1970s when plans were in place to widen the canal, said Burtniak.

    The boulder will have plaques imbedded in it, including one that provides a “clear and telling description” of the role native warriors played in the battle, he said. “It was a pivotal victory for Canada.”

    DeCew Park, which was transformed into a new heritage park last June, will be a beehive of activities on Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23. There will be camps with battle re-enactors, a provincial town crier competition, performances by the Thorold Reed Band and Thorold Pipe Band and a welcoming ceremony on the Saturday. The big moment will come when upwards of 3,000 people taking part in a re-enactment of Secord’s walk from Queenston arrive at the park on Saturday, said Burtniak.

    Sunday’s events will kick off with a pancake breakfast, with festivities throughout the day. Hamburgers and hotdogs will also be served at the park by the Thorold Lions Club and Enbridge both days.

    Shuttle buses will run continuously throughout Saturday and Sunday, shuttling people to and from the downtown to regional headquarters and the DeCew House park. Vandermaas said the shuttles will make stops at places such as the Keefer Mansion, Welland Mills, Trinity United Church, the Thorold Museum and Beaverdams Church.

    The Battle of Beaverdams memorial site will be unveiled at 2 p.m. on the Monday.

    There will also be performances of the Battle of Beaverdams play ‘The Whirlwind’ at Trinity United Church on the Saturday and Sunday, and airing of the battle film ‘Uncommon Courage’ at the Thorold Public Library on the Saturday.

    Vandermaas said his committee is hoping people will volunteer to help out with such things as preparing food and handling parking. People willing to help can go to the website or call him at 905-680-7509.

    He said he’s also hoping Thorold residents embrace the once in a lifetime chance to celebrate the city’s crucial role in the only war ever fought on Canadian soil.

    “We hope to see all of Thorold at least at this,” he said.

    Burtniak said the celebration, culminating in the unveiling of the permanent battle site marker, will mean “leaving a lasting legacy for Thorold.

    “It is incumbent on us to remember and not forget those who served and suffered and died,” he said. “It’s a way for us to say thanks.”

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