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NSHLQ Come Home Year Celebration a Major Achievement – Then, Now & Forever!

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When communities come together for a common goal on the Great Northern Peninsula anything seems to be possible. I only have to think about the $100,000 Breath of Fresh Air Playground that was established in Cook’s Harbour-Wild Bight-Boat Harbour with three communities of about 200 people.

The Noddy Bay-Straitsview-Hay Cove-L’anse aux Meadows-Quirpon Come Home Year Celebration saw five communities all with a total population of less than 300 come together to make something unforgettable happen for residents, those with a connection to this special place and some to make their mark for the very first time. The last Come Home Year was in 1997, it was decided long overdue to host another and this time Quirpon would be added. This inclusion of Quirpon also invigorated interest to save their local hall to allow for events and activities to take place throughout the week.

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After months and months of planning by a dedicated group of youthful committee members, the day would finally arrive on July 27th and they were certainly ready. Leading up to the event, the Facebook page would keep everyone up to date. A full schedule was also advertised in the local newspaper, the Northern Pen. Not to mention a Twitter hashtag, showing their innovation and adaptation of technology. I was greatly impressed by their organization, what they offered registrants, how they partnered with all their key businesses and community groups to share in the success of this community celebration would bring. There is much strength here – then, now and forever!

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The Viking RV Park would be the primary site of activity throughout the week, with the official opening started after people registered at the fire hall. The crowds flocked, enjoying the weather and meeting those returning home as they fended off the flies. After the speeches, the cafe was cut, music was played by our multi-talented Calvin Blake, Adam Randell and Brandon White, mussels were steamed, faces painted and the mood set for a massive fireworks display.

The fireworks display was impressive, it seemed to go on and on and on. There were many awes and an astounding round of applause as the show concluded. A truly successful evening that could not have ended with a bigger bang. Cue the music!

The week would follow with fish frys, hikes, coffee shop visits, exercise programs, kids activities, duck races, memorial events, old-fashioned times, kitchen parties, row boat races, family days and so much more! This was no small feat for a small group of organizers, that should great leadership. So many others would step up and give time in a volunteer capacity to ensure all of these activities could happen. I’m amazed by the generosity and community spirit during these Come Home Year celebrations and always look forward to the next.

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A sampling of some of the activities:

I’m confident Skipper Hot’s band was rocking every night, that many screech-ins were had and the conversations lasted into the early morning hours and likely will continue until the planning of the next Come Home Year celebration begins. Be proud of your major achievement for making big things happen in small communities!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

River of Ponds rocked their 1st Come Home Year

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River of Ponds just northeast of Daniel’s Harbour gets its name from the river that flows from a number of ponds in the area extending from the foot of the Long Range Mountain to the ocean. River of Ponds is a fishing community with many lobster fishers, but also boasts incredible recreational salmon and trouting seasons.

The community’s first census marked 16 residents in the 1800’s to reach a high water mark of 341 prior to cod moratorium of 1992 to a population of 200 today. July 20th marked the commencement of the first ever Come Home Year celebration. A committee of volunteers planned a week of incredible events, a cook book and calendar was prepared and each family took pride in printing individualized banners showcasing the landscapes, portraits and their family namesake.

It was a real pleasure to join committee chair, Mayor, and MP officially open the celebration with hundreds of family and friends connected to River of Ponds. I was happy to join the families and parade around the picturesque community.

Nightfall would bring a fire on the beach and fireworks. Lots of great conversations were to be had, without a ripple on the water.

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Throughout the week there were bands, local talent, gospel concerts, cards, meals, baseball games and bouncy castles.

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River of Ponds Come Home Year provided many new memories, as old friends met and new ones were made. It clearly shows that big things are happening in small communities.

Be proud of all your accomplishments and keep “Living the Dream”!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Old-Fashioned Time in the School House Tonight

The Noddy Bay-Straitsview-Hay Cove-L’anse aux Meadows-Quirpon Come Home Year injected a lot of life into all five of these communities as the population likely tripled from a combined 250 to well over 700 throughout the week. The planning of Come Home Year led to a group of community-minded people in Quirpon (population of 70) to step up, fundraise to save their community hall, and save it they did. IMG_20150731_181916

A big card game was held on Tuesday night, but one of the most talked about events was the old-fashioned time at the former school house. For some it was returning to a place of their younger days when people from all over would flock to Quirpon for a meal, a dance and a chance to meet a pretty girl to share a kiss or two.

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Several hundred attended the event with 250 bowls of soup served. There were games, grabs and good conversations as the old school house was bursting at the seems. It was my first time and I was impressed by the set-up. I heard my grandmother and others talk about the old-fashioned times and how they would pay 10 cents for their meal and look forward to the music and square dancing. The games presented the opportunity to win a sack of potatoes pending the dart score, a log of bologna was up for grabs at the bean bang toss, and kids were trying their hand at balloon darts. For a coin, you could buy a wrapped up present called a “grab”. These were certainly popular and did not last long. There were raffles, line sales and guess cakes. There was some fun to be had by all. Especially when Quirpon local Wayne Bartlett stepped in and sang his song “Old Fashioned-Time in the School House tonight”. I got to talk with Bill and Mabel Bartlett, who told me there was fine crowd on, it may not be the biggest in the history but certainly the most people Quirpon has seen in years!

Community thrives when people get together and support a cause. Quirpon residents and those with a connection to this place should be proud of the initiative taken by the Save our Hall Committee. All your contributions and support is to be commended and celebrated. I hear the time last well past one and that maybe this may become an annual event. I certainly hope this continues!

Also, former Quirpon resident Marilyn (Bartlett) Earle who was part of the committee shared her talent by painting the old school house. If you would like a print that captures childhood memories for you or that connection to home, she has them for sale for $20. You can reach her at +1-709-623-2069.

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This may be the first old-fashioned time in the school house in years, but let’s hope it is not the last.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Lots of Lumberjacks in Hawke’s Bay for Come Home Year!

The Town of Hawke’s Bay is known for it’s logging history and also local legends like fiddler Rufus Guinchard. 2015 brought many people home to the community with the planned “Come Home Year” celebration. Their theme was “We’re from the Bay and we like it that way!”

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It takes many long hours to organize and plan a week of activities and for that the committee is to be commended. There was much spirit around town with businesses and homes sporting banners, flags and decorations welcoming people back to the community. The old festival site of the Rufus Guinchard Music Festival was revitalized and put back to good use. I enjoyed the famous chicken and chips at C&P Take-out, which was a busy location, Maynard’s Torrent River Inn & Pizza Delight was filled like back in the 1980’s and new businesses like The Great Canadian Dollar Store would benefit from increased traffic. Top Ten Motors gas station pumps seemed always full and I enjoyed a conversation over coffee with a former classmate I had not seen in years. The impact of Come Home Year is far reaching for business, for residents and for the community!

I attended the Lumberjack Competition, which had Lumberjack’s of all ages. It also showcased the early years of logging and had some various saws on display. I had a great conversation with Mr. House, Con & Nova and Marlene Maynard as we talked about the town, the forest industry, the festivities and of course a little politics. It was nice to see youth tossing logs, sawing and also racing.

It was a fun filled afternoon in this lumbering town. Lots of spectators, a barbecue in support of the local fire department and so many children playing at the adjacent playground. The evening brought a gospel concert that would showcase many local and vocal talents from those away.

After a couple of hours of music, the perfect way to end an evening is watching the sunset across the Bay! IMG_20150730_205231 Hawke’s Bay Come Home Year was a big success, it showcased leaders and volunteers that continue to make big things happen in our small communities. I was even more encouraged when local councillors talked about the possibility of bringing back a weekend like the Rufus Guinchard Music Festival. There is so much potential to continue to add vibrancy, social and economic opportunity with the right people and the will to make it happen. I thoroughly enjoyed my time Hawke’s Bay and look forward to visiting again soon.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

St. Anthony Come Home Year Showcased Strength of Volunteers, Community Groups

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St. Anthony hosted its second Come Home Year celebration since 2012. Thousands of people that year registered and flocked to our largest community on the Great Northern Peninsula to celebrate that special place, “Home”. I enjoyed participating in the celebration immensely and meeting residents from all over the province. My colleague Dale Kirby came with his family to participate and engage in a number of meetings with groups and organizations. It was a remarkable nine days of celebration, where I even camped out several nights, as weather was beautiful!

A small group of volunteers worked tirelessly over a couple of years to plan and organize such an event. Some billed the second Come Home Year as “too soon” but I never feel it is “too soon” to come home. However, given the short time lapse from the last celebration, looking back now, it may have been better to plan a shorter four day event from a Thursday to Sunday. I’ve seen weekend Come Home Celebrations happen like this on the South Coast and similarly the Annual Garden Parties of Conche and Goose Cove see residents return home each year to take in a weekend of planned festivities.

Little over a week before the official start, an email circulated that Come Home Year 2015 was cancelled. Several hundreds of people were registered including myself, vacation plans made, bands were booked and many commitments made. Certainly no easy decision from this six person team. However, this decision led to many community organizations and local businesses stepping up with sponsorship and a willingness to see Come Home Year 2015 take off and take off it did!

The opening ceremonies was attended by hundreds of registered guests and more than 1500 toutons were served at the Legion that day as guests registered. It was a pleasure to bring greetings and encourage people to enjoy their week of activities and commended the committee and community sponsors for ensuring that big things can happen in our small communities.

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Community organizations like the Legion sponsored dances during the opening weekend, which provided a change on venue and ensured meals were available for the large crowds throughout the week. A condensed showing of concerts seemed to work well under the revised plan and some activities were spearheaded by the others like Monday’s Carnival of Fun and Tuesday’s Grenfell Heritage Day Celebration & Teddy Bear Picnic.

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Monday’s Carnival of Fun by the St. Anthony and Area Boys & Girls Club was Minion themed (for those of you who didn’t know, I love the Minions). It brought lots of kids out for a fun filled day to support a local organization that offers programming, social and various activities for our youth!

Partnerships work and the St. Anthony Come Home Year, originally partnered with the Grenfell Foundation and LG Health to host the Annual Grenfell Heritage Celebration was promoted as well by the committee. I volunteered at the door for the Teddy Bear Picnic, which saw more than 300 children visit and participate in all the fun. It was quite the afternoon and the most successful to date. Additionally, at night a number of people flocked to the floor of the Polar Centre to help further raise dollars for essential medical equipment by purchase tickets, buying food and listening to local talent of headliner Skipper Hot’s Band. It was great to also hear others share their talents like Calvin Blake, Adam Randell, Brandon White and Jade Gibbons. There may have been others and if I missed them I apologize.

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The concerts throughout the week were well attended, my mom and friends were so very excited to hear Johnny Reid – it was a major highlight for her and the close to 1,000 others watching that night. I’ve only heard rave reviews!

I would have loved to watch the lantern release on fishing point. I saw some photos and video on Facebook that showed it was quite the magical experience. As well, the craft fair showcased so much amazing talent of local artist and craft producers! I got many Christmas presents and enjoyed engaging with the artists.

A few volunteers truly engaged community, business and organizations to make great things happen. St. Anthony had a great schedule of events for everyone to enjoy with a balance enabling sufficient time for seeing family, friends and visiting the attractions and loving home. I want to thank you all for your hard work and memories you have given me and the people who call St. Anthony home! I encourage you all to keep making big things happen in our small communities!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

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