War bicentennial commemorations to last until 2014
Don’t let the name fool you, the War of 1812 lasted more than just one year.
In fact, the battle between the United States and the British forces and their allies lasted 32 months, from June 1812 through February 1815. Commemorations across Niagara are planned to take place through this year and into the next.
“Our cannons are still loaded for 2013 and will be until the end of 2014,” said Brian Merrett, CEO of the Legacy Council. “Bringing history alive for people on both sides of the peaceful border that is a result of the conflict 200 years ago.”
Last Thursday, organizers from across the Niagara descended on regional headquarters for the Niagara 1812 Legacy Council’s launch of the Signature War of 1812 Events planned for 2013. From Grimsby to Fort Erie and various points in between, there will be plenty of events taking place throughout the year – many of which will be held on the exact 200 year anniversary of the historical event its commemorating.
Things kick off May 25-26 with the Battle of Fort George, set to take place at Fort George Historic Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Organized by Parks Canada with the help of the Friends of Fort George and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the two-day event marks the 200th anniversary of the battle. There will be large reenactments happening on The Commons, just outside the fort. The reenactments are so large, explained organizer Peter Martin, they had to be broken into two – taking place at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In the evening on Saturday, there will be an event inside the fort to commemorate the bombardment of the fort, 200 years to the day. In 2013 however, the US bombardment that left the fort in a burnt ruin will be recreated using artillery, pyro, sound and lights, as well as a big fireworks display as the finale. Throughout the weekend, activities and demonstrations will occur inside the fort with music, muskets, cannons and more. Regular admission rates apply for all events inside the fort. On Monday, there will be a special ceremony held on the actual battlefield site to pay tribute to those who died in battle. Following the battle, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town will be under occupation by American soldiers, commemorating the period of time when the town really was under occupation. Star spangled banners will hang from the light posts along Queen Street and US soldiers (aka Parks Canada staff) will patrol the streets, approaching people to inform them of the occupation. The occupation will run from May 27 to Dec. 10.
In June, the excitement moves to Grimsby for the Engagement at the Forty.
“This is when Grimsby’s history comes alive,” said Craig Tallman, presenting at the launch.
Taking place June 8 at the Grimsby Peace Garden at Heritage Park, the event will mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle at Fort Mile Creek. Two tall ships will be on hand for the small re-enactment featuring soldiers on land and in the ships. There will be activities for children in the park as well as food vendors, live music and more.
Later in the month, the focus will turn to Queenston and one of the war’s most famous heroine. The Laura Secord Commemorative Walk will take place June 22 and registration is now open for those wishing to take part. The 32-kilometre trek from the Laura Secord Homestead in Queenston to DeCew House in Thorold has been divided into five stages for those who wish to participate in only a portion of the walk. Other events planned for the weekend include the launch of Laura Secord coins and stamps, production of Laura Secord, the opera by Music Niagara and a gathering of Laura Secord descendents. Canadian broadcaster Valerie Pringle is the walk’s honorary chair and Canadians across the country are being encouraged to “Walk into history with Laura.”
On June 24, commemorations for the Battle of Beaverdams will take place in Thorold. Held at the park bearing the battle’s name, the event will be a family friendly affair. Speaking to the event, Tony Vandermaas said the Ontario Guild of Town Criers will bold its annual competition at the event.
Over the Canada Day weekend, tall ships will return to Niagara for a visit to St. Catharines’ Port Dalhousie harbour. In total, three ships will be visiting: The Lynx, The Pride of Baltimore II and the Unicorn. The ships’ visit will coincide with the Lions Club Carnival, set to take place at Lakeside Park. Tickets will be sold to climb aboard the ship, with proceeds going to benefit the United Way.
In August, all attention will shift to Fort Erie to commemorate the 199th anniversary of the Siege of Fort Erie, one of the largest annual re-enactments in North America. Taking place Aug. 10-11, it marks the only major War of 1812 event to take place in August.
The final signature event to occur in 2013 will be the Niagara on Fire event, commemorating the burning of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Held Dec. 6-7, there will be a video reflecting upon the history of the event and a demonstration using lights and sounds to represent the flames that destroyed the town so many years ago. It will take place during Niagara-on-the-Lake’s annual candlelight stroll weekend.
More information about the various events is available online at www.discover1812.com.