Fort Erie was ablaze with activities on Saturday as the town commemorated the horrific burnings that took place on both sides of the river during the War of 1812.
Large bonfires were lit at the Jarvis St. coal docks in Fort Erie and at Squaw Island in Buffalo, N.Y., to mark the 200th anniversary of the “Burning of Niagara.”
“Nearly 200 years ago, everything on both sides of the border was burnt to the ground and everyone was left homeless,” said organizer John Sek from the Fort Erie 1812 Bicentennial Committee and the Second Lincoln Artillery.
“So, we decided to commemorate the burning as well as raise awareness of the fact that, today, there are still people who are homeless.”
Members of the public were encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or gently-used unwanted clothing to the event.
The Flames Over Niagara event kicked of Friday night with 12 people braving the cold and spending the night in an 1812 encampment.
Residents were invited to stop by the camp and donate cash, cans or coats to the cause.
“People were coming out all night, right up until around 3 a.m.,” Sec said.
Donations will benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Community Outreach Program (COPE) and the Salvation Army.
Participants included Karen Audet, operations manager of the Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce, fire chief Larry Coplen and town clerk Carolyn Kett.
“Everybody lasted the night,” Sec joked.
“But I think the happiest thing they heard on Saturday was when I told them they could go home.”
In Niagara-on-the-Lake on Saturday, there was an outdoor sound and light show projected onto downtown buildings to simulate flames.
There was also the premier broadcast of a film that documents the burning of what is now known as “the prettiest town in Canada,” followed by fireworks.
The event continues Tuesday with a proclamation and unveiling of a flag at the Niagara-on-the-Lake courthouse followed by a torchlit procession through the cemetery at St. Mark’s Church.
Flames Over Niagara was organized by 1812 military re-enactment groups and historical groups on both sides of the border. It is the only bi-national coordinated event to be held during the commemorative period.