Before I get started on today's entry, let me first apologise for how long this page is probably taking to load. There's a tonne of pics I have to show from the various stages of the day, but I don't have the time to put together a special gallery so I’m just going to put them inline below.
If you hadn't already worked it out by now, today, July 1st is Canada Day. A quick history lesson before we move on so you know what the day is all about.
On June 20, 1868, a proclamation signed by the Governor General, Lord Monck, called upon all Her Majesty's loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada on July 1st.
The July 1 holiday was established by statute in 1879, under the name Dominion Day.
There is no record of organized ceremonies after this first anniversary, except for the 50th anniversary of Confederation in 1917, at which time the new Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, under construction, was dedicated as a memorial to the Fathers of Confederation and to the valour of Canadians fighting in the First World War in Europe.
The next celebration was held in 1927 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. It was highlighted by the laying of the cornerstone by the Governor General of the Confederation Building on Wellington Street and the inauguration of the Carillon in the Peace Tower.
Since 1958, the government has arranged for an annual observance of Canada's national day with the Secretary of State of Canada in charge of the coordination. The format provided for a Trooping the Colours ceremony on the lawn of Parliament Hill in the afternoon, a sunset ceremony in the evening followed by a mass band concert and fireworks display.
Another highlight was Canada's Centennial in 1967 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended the celebrations with Parliament Hill again being the backdrop for a large scale official ceremony.
The format changed in 1968 with the addition of multicultural and professional concerts held on Parliament Hill including a nationally televised show. Up until 1975, the focus of the celebrations, under the name "Festival Canada", was held in the National Capital Region during the whole month of July and involved numerous cultural, artistic and sport activities, as well as municipalities and voluntary organizations. The celebration was cancelled in 1976 but was reactivated in 1977.
A new formula was developed in 1980 whereby the National Committee (the federal government organization charged with planning Canada's Birthday celebrations) stressed and sponsored the development of local celebrations all across Canada. "Seed money" was distributed to promote popular and amateur activities organized by volunteer groups in hundreds of local communities. The same approach was also followed for the 1981 celebrations with the addition of fireworks displays in 15 major cities across the nation.
On October 27, 1982, July 1st which was known as "Dominion Day" became "Canada Day".
Since 1985, Canada Day Committees are established in each province and territory to plan, organize and coordinate the Canada Day celebrations locally. Grants are provided by the Department to those committees.
~ Source: www.pch.gc.ca
See, my Blog is educational as well as semi-entertational. With all the uniquely Canadian events planned for the inner city and Parliament Hill areas, I was almost jumping out of my skin to get out and start snapping away. I was totally blown away by the lackadaisical attitude of a lot of my hostel roomies - most of which were more excited about the England vs Portugal World Cup soccer game. I mean yeah, ok so it was a big game, but it's only soccer people. It's a bloody boring yawn of a sport and it's Canada Day and you're in the capital of this great country - get your bloody priorities right!
Needless to say I left them without a second thought and headed towards the center of town snapping away madly as I went.
Making my way up to the great lawn on Parliament Hill, I used a little muscle to make my way to the front of the crowd and managed to get a semi-decent vantage point for the colourful (and by that I mean decidedly RED) first change of the guard for the season. All I can say is thank God for my telephoto lens.
The parade of marching guards wearing those feathery black hats in the heat (I don't envy them one bit), was followed by what is traditionally the highlight of the days festivities – the world famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride. For almost a good half hour, dozens of beautifully groomed black horses and their equally flawlessly presented riders rode around the great lawn in various formations, the highlight of which was the "Charge" which I was beautifully positioned for.
As the last horse trotted off the lawn, my thoughts turned to attempting to make my way through the huge crowd that had amassed in the beautiful sun and make my way back down to Rideau Street where I was told there would be a whole lot more activity going on.
Little did I know security had been stepped up big time in preparation for the arrival of the day's dignitaries on Parliament Hill – stepped up to the degree that nobody was being allowed off the lawn at all. I thought I had security's measure (which is a somewhat scary thought in itself) as I slipped down a side section around the front of one of the Parliamentary buildings, but I once again found myself blocked. As fortune would have it, taking the route I had, I ended up in probably the very best position you could be for the arrival of Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean.
Incidentally, I have to make mention of the overwhelming presence of snipers on the rooftops all around us. It was crazy. At any one time I reckon I could have been in the crosshairs of anywhere up to 10 different rifles.
After all the excitement it seemed like a good idea to head back to the hostel to recharge my batteries, sort through my images and delete the garbage to make room for the afternoon, rehydrate, cool down and even slip in a quick nap. I headed back via Rideau Street and the strip was indeed alive with colour and activity in the form of street performers, face painters and more.
There were literally hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets and on Parliament Hill and I got a real buzz out of the amount of national pride that had permeated the air – it all felt pretty special I have to tell you.
Back at the hostel I got most of the things done that I was hoping to including the battery charging, the nap and even a bonus chat on the phone with Elley! It's literally only a week now till I get to spend some time with her in Toronto, so touching base with her was great.
Heading back out I did another loop of the Rideau Street and Parliament Hill areas where the crowds had dispersed somewhat, probably in a bid to beat the afternoon heat and, like me, recharge before the evening’s planned festivities. I was quite chuffed that I got the opportunity to hand my camera over to a friendly fellow SLR user (they seem to be the only ones not scared off by the prospect of having to handle my camera) and get them to take a pic of me with some Mounties. You don't get much more Canadian pics than these (well maybe there could be a moose or two in the background, but you know what I mean).
By around 3pm I found myself at a bit of a loose end and wondering how to occupy the hours leading up to the concert and fireworks scheduled for the evening ahead, and then I remember Elodie. I found her number from last night and called her up to see where she and her friends were at. It turns out they weren’t all that far away – at a pub on Essex Street watching the France vs Brazil World Cup soccer game. It still took a few calls and texts back and forward to find them, but I got there in the end, met everyone and joined the scrum of people huddled around the projector screen showing the game. I can’t quite remember (probably due to low care factor) who the majority of people were getting behind, but I do remember France won 1-0 in the end yawn.
The plan post-game was for everyone to gradually drift across to Major's Hill Park to snag a patch of grass in readiness for the night's concert on the "Alternative Stage" and also the fireworks that followed. It was a beautiful balmy afternoon and we didn’t need much encouragement to whip out the frisbee and start tossing it around with reckless abandon. I only say that because the innocent game of "catch" got perhaps a little out of hand at one point when it seemed like we were picking off kids left, right and center. We drew blood out of one of them, and Matt tried drop-kicking another poor unsuspecting infant at one point, but don't worry, we had the situation in hand and we're sure everyone went home with a smile on their faces.
As the evening drew closer and the light faded, the park filled up and the clouds rolled in. It tried pretty hard to rain throughout the concert, but no spittles of liquid were going to put off some awesome performances by the likes of:
- La Volée d'Castors (a fantastic roots/celtic band from Quebec)
- Buck 65 (an indie hip hop crew from Nova Scotia) and...
- The headlining Blackie & The Rodeo Kings (a damn entertaining roots/acoustic trio from Ontario).
As promised, the whole night was capped off by a fantastic fireworks display for which we were in a prime position to view. Unfortunately the only way to effectively photograph fireworks is with a tripod set up which, in this case, I did not have... so no photos this time around - sorry. Just a few of the gang and one of Elodie licking me... errr... wha????
But here's the thing - although this seems like an entry of epic proportions already, the fun for the day didn't really even get off the ground until it came time to move on following the concert. Our "group" was split between the two concert venues of "Parliament Hill" (where I was earlier in the day) and "Major's Hill" where we were located, and somehow we had to coordinate a meet-up somewhere in order to work out where to go and what to do next. Zero mobile phone reception didn't exactly make the task easy either.
After standing around under the big spider sculpture thingy outside the museum for a while chatting, I headed back towards the center of town with the guys I was with. We miraculously met up with everyone else near the eye-sore that is the US Embassy. Actually the embassy reminded me a lot of the perhaps even uglier Mormon temple that sits atop the Kangaroo Point Cliffs back home in Brisbane.
The decision was made to head to a nearby house on Stewart Street for a house party held by someone Elodie knew. As it turned out, her acquaintance wasn't even there and all we found was some goofball who had decided that the gathering had become a "no pants party" and chose to run around the house naked from the waist down. Bizarre. Add to that some inebriated young lady who I met at the front door on our way into the house who instantly fell for my accent and proceeded to follow me around all "doe-eyed". I felt really bad actually... all I could do was laugh at the poor girl... well it was funny, what can I say.
While contemplating our next move, the heavens opened and the storm that had been threatening to move in all day finally arrived. I can honestly say in the whole time I've been in Canada so far, I've not yet seen a storm that equals the ferocity of the ones we get back home in Brisbane... until tonight. This one was a dead set doozy!
While I was out on the front porch gazing at the electricity streaking across the heavens, the rest of the gang had made the decision to head out to Aaron's parent's place in Mayo (a gorgeous lakeside cottage an hour or so out in the country across the Quebec border). Everyone split up in groups and I was instructed (I had no choice but to join them all - I wasn't exactly fighting the idea either) to split off with Brent, Catherine, Aaron and Matt. Together we had the final goal of finding Brent's car across a bridge in Quebec. First, however, we embarked on an epic rain-soaked foot tour of Ottawa-by-night through the Market and eventually across the Pont MacDonald-Cartier Bridge. As luck would have it, it was while we were crossing the bridge that the storm decided to be at it's most fierce. So fierce in fact, that at one point an almighty bolt of lightning struck one of the light posts across the road from us plunging the entire bridge into darkness. You can only imagine how loud the bang was - crazy stuff!
We eventually found the car, stripped down out of our soaked clothes, jumped in and headed off. It would have been hilarious if we'd been pulled over at any point - 4 blokes and one woman, all wearing nothing but their underwear, cruising out of town. We made a quick stop at Cat's apartment so she could change into some dry clothes - half her luck! I think her flatmate was somewhat surprised when she emerged from her room finding 4 fellas standing in her living room bare chested and dripping everywhere! Ha!
Back on the road, Brent did an amazing job driving us through the driving rain and fog all the way out to Mayo. Along the way we passed a nasty accident where one of the vehicles we passed was left door-less and pretty banged up. The driver was still slumped over the wheel and somewhat contorted suggesting that it must have happened only in the few minutes leading up to us passing through the same spot.
Having driven through a great deal of debris on the road we pulled up so Brent could check the tires. It seemed crazy to me that nobody was racing to the vehicle to check on the driver and passengers if there were any, so I started making my way up to the wreckage when an Ambulance came screaming past.
Eventually making it to the cottage in Mayo we found that everyone else had already arrived and were pretty much passed out on anything available that was soft enough to sleep on. After what we had gone through getting out there we weren't having any of that, so we woke them up ever so subtly, had a few drinks, danced to jazz and blues, dried as best as we could in front of the log fire and chatted till the wee hours.
Everyone I met today have been great. These guys are an amazing group of friends and I'm just so glad I made the decision to call Elodie and hook up with her and the rest of these guys earlier in the day. It certainly turned into a Canada Day that I'll never forget!
Links & Credits
- All images // Rob Masefield
- RCMP Musical Ride // rcmp-grc.gc.ca
- Rideau Street // wikipedia.org
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper // wikipedia.org
- Governor General Michaëlle Jean // michallejean.ca
- La Volée d'Castors // vdc.qc.ca
- Buck 65 // wikipedia.org
- Blackie & The Rodeo Kings // blackieandtherodeokings.com
- Mayo, Quebec // mayo.ca
- Pont MacDonald-Cartier Bridge // wikipedia.org