Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Levee tradition continues in Niagara

A few years ago I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to attend a New Year's Levee here in Niagara, usually held on New Year's Day, of course.  I have not missed this annual event since, as it is a perfect way to welcome in the New Year.  This year we had not one but two on the same day, and one more to go next weekend.

There was a time in St. Catharines when the Mayor and Council held a levee separate from the traditional military levee held at the Lake Street Armouries with the Lincoln & Welland Regiment.  But a few years back they decided to combine the two events into one, and it proved to be a popular decision.  That's probably about the time I started to attend, in fact.  So every New Year's Day from 11 to 1, people gather at the Armoury to welcome in the New Year, talk, snack, and imbibe if so inclined.  There is the now legendary drink I believe is referred to as Bull's Milk which is a rather potent brew, I'm told, offered to a select few in the know as it were.  But for most of us, the punch bowl is the place to be for some liquid refreshment to start the year.

I have never attended one of these events and not run into several people I know either personally or professionally or both.  It is certainly encouraging to see so many people come out after a rather late night the night before welcoming in the New Year.  It is just one of those feel-good events you shouldn't miss.

This year, however, there was stiff competition from 1 to 4 in the afternoon at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where Ontario's Lt. Governor, David Onley, hosted a levee to kick off the 1812 Bicentennial events in Ontario.  The coming couple of years will be full of special events to commemorate the many historic events that occurred between Canada and the United States from 1812 to 1814; this will prove to be one of the major commemorations anywhere and a lot of it originally happened right here in Niagara, of course.

So Mr. Onley decided it was a good time to move the traditional levee he would hold on New Year's Day out of Toronto to where the famous battle began, and it too proved to be a tremendously successful event.
We arrived about 2:30 and the old fort was packed with people on a windy, wet day.  There was mud - oh there was mud! - but everyone managed to get around the grounds with little trouble.  The estimates beforehand were for 500 to 1,000 people attending, but the final tally was at least twice that, so obviously people around Niagara are in the mood to recognize the Bicentennial in the coming years.

We missed the reception line for meeting the Lt. Governor altogether, unfortunately, and by the time we made it to the tent where the speeches were to take place, all the food was gone and although there was wine, there were no more wine glasses!  So we had to participate with the various toasts with something resembling an "air glass."  No matter; it was a wonderful day and a nice kick off to the year 2012.

I had the pleasure of talking to the Lt. Governor by phone this week and he was astounded by the turnout and thrilled with the enthusiasm shown by all who attended; no doubt he will be back in Niagara several times more in the coming years as the commemorations continue.  He is a delight to talk to and I hope some day to actually, finally, meet him in person.  But for now, the celebrations are underway and everyone seems ready to participate.

There is another levee planned for the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls next Saturday from 10 am to 12 noon, I'm told, also tied into the Bicentennial celebrations.  The Mayor and Council in Niagara Falls will be in attendance along with other dignitaries, and everyone is invited to attend.  I hope to make it out on Saturday myself and finally see this new facility everyone in Niagara has been talking about.  It will be just one of many such celebrations coming up throughout Niagara, so keep an eye out for others along the way.

Let's make this special year even more so by taking part in as many events as possible; many are free to attend, and why shouldn't we celebrate our glorious past right here in Niagara!

January 7th, 2012.

1 comment:

TorontoCameraman said...

You may be interested in embedding this HD video of the New Year's Levee at Fort George. It' the kick-off to the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebrations.

Simply copy and paste the embed code to your own page. The video will appear on your own web site. Enjoy.