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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Distinctly Canadian, distinctly Winnipeg

Posted: 06/29/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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July 1, 1871

Dominion Day was proclaimed as a celebration by Gov. Gen. Lord Monck in 1868. In 1870, the year Manitoba joined Confederation, celebrations in the province were almost non-existent, coming less than two months after the Manitoba Act received royal assent. But in 1871, According to Free Press columnist Christopher Dafoe, "things were much different."

"Elaborate preparations were made to celebrate what would really be Manitoba's first July 1st holiday. Dominion Day 1871 was a grand celebration."

"The Anniversary of the Dominion of Canada," a notice proclaimed, "will be celebrated in the Town of Winnipeg on Saturday, July 1st, 1871 by Horse Races, Trotting Matches, Running Matches, Foot Races, Standing Jumps, Running Jumps, High Leap, Sack and Blindfold Races, Climbing the Greasy Pole, Putting the Stone, Quoits, a Cricket Match, Football, Throwing the Sledge, etc.

"Firemen staged a torchlight parade in the evening and there was music all day."

July 1, 1879 (In Winnipeg)

Twelve years after Confederation, a statute established the July 1 holiday as Dominion Day.

"Though the day was reasonably fine, so much bad weather had preceded it that nearly all the arrangements which had been made for celebrating it were knocked on the head, and as a consequence the day was a remarkably quiet one. A good many pedestrians, in their holiday clothes, were to be seen on the streets taking an airing, and the band of Olgesby's Troubadours diffused a little music in the afternoon, but beyond this there was very little to distinguish the day from any other."

July 1, 1897 (In Winnipeg)

"The various excursions yesterday did not entirely depopulate the city, as was shown by the thousands who patronized the suburban resorts. Elm Park was thronged with light-hearted humanity all day, and the electric railway's six trains were taxed to their utmost to accommodate the crowd. Besides the permanent attractions of the park, special features had been secured for the occasion including the Jubilee band, a company of nimble acrobats and trapeze performers, the prefecting kinetoscope and as a fitting wind-up to the holiday, there was a grand display of fireworks from the factory of Prof. Hand of Hamilton."

July 1, 1917

In the middle of the First World War, Canada's 50th birthday was celebrated by dedicating the new Centre Block of Parliament (it was still under construction) as a memorial to the Fathers of Confederation and to the courage of Canadians fighting in Europe.

The holiday fell on a Sunday and was marked in Winnipeg by a devotional ceremony, with a speech by Lt.-Gov. Sir James Aikins, to 6,000 people at the auditorium of the Industrial Bureau.

"On the platform, under a canopy of Union Jacks and Canadian ensigns, sat representatives of the state, the church, the military, the city and province, the various denominations and creeds, the business and educational interests, and women's organizations of Manitoba. A massed choir of a hundred voices was seated on the second step of the platform together with the hands of the 100th Winnipeg Grenadier and the Salvation Army in full uniform. The color note of the decorations was the 'Red, White and Blue' of the Union Jack."

"The service opened with the singing of the introductory hymn, 'O Canada' by the choir."

July 1, 1927

Canada turned 60 with great fanfare in Ottawa, with the laying of the cornerstone of the Confederation Building and the inauguration of the Carillon in the Peace Tower.

"With dramatic scenes and outbursts of enthusiasm, vast throngs on Parliament Hill today participated in the celebrating of Canada's Diamond Jubilee. A moving and brilliant pageant, with music and oratory which... captured the imagination of the capital. It was a patriotic spectacle such as the capital had never witnessed before. Sixty thousands persons stood on the approaches to the Parliament Buildings to hear the words and music of the ceremonies."

In Winnipeg, the Free Press building downtown was decorated with giant Union Jacks for the occasion, which lasted three days over the weekend and included a national ceremony of thanksgiving, parades, military demonstrations and "throngs of people" in Assiniboine Park.

"Organizers of the patriotic pageant of progress that featured the celebration in Winnipeg of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation scored a tremendous triumph. The parade was the most magnificent that Winnipeg has ever seen. The great aim of the organizers was to get the progress that Winnipeg and Manitoba have made in the 60 years that have gone by since Confederation faithfully represented, and it was abundantly realized."

July 1, 1946

The first Dominion Day after the end of the Second World War.

"From the Maritimes to the Pacific, citizens by the thousands flocked to sports events, picnics or summer resorts for the great summer holiday."

In Winnipeg, 16,000 people watched the races at Polo Park, others watched a baseball game at the Osborne stadium, some watched a parade, and thousands boarded trains to hit the beach.

July 1, 1958

The first official annual observance of Canada Day is held on Parliament Hill, including a trooping of the colours ceremony, band concert and fireworks display. It drew an estimated 10,000 people.

July 1, 1967

Canada turns 100 and Queen Elizabeth came to help celebrate, drawing a crowd of 25,000, including a precocious six-year-old boy who ducked past RCMP guards to gain access to the platform where the Queen and Prince Phillip were sitting.

"Hi Queen" he reportedly said, waving a Canadian flag, while the RCMP 'tore their hair' out."

"I never felt so proud to be a Canadian as I do today," said one organizer of Montreal's celebrations, summarizing what seemed to be a general feeling from coast to coast on Dominion Day, July 1.

A basic nationwide menu of parades, parties, barbecues, street dances, gun salutes and fireworks was spiced with a local flavour here and there -- a gathering of Scottish clans in Nova Scotia, a moose-calling contest in Saskatchewan.

July 1, 1977

Dominion Day celebrations were reborn in Ottawa, after cost-cutting measures a year earlier cancelled most government-funded events. But the election of the separatist Parti Qu©b©cois in Quebec compelled Canada to shell out $3.5 million for the event.

"Approximately 50,000 attended Canada Day events in Ottawa, rivalling those held 10 years ago for the country's centennial, although the rain and lightning dampened the spirit of some of them, sending them scurrying for cover.

"Later the crowd cheered as a 145-foot Canadian flag was run up the Peace Tower."

July 1, 1982

Dominion Day officially became Canada Day, fireworks displays funded by the federal government continued in most major cities including Winnipeg.

"An estimated 72,000 people jammed Assiniboine Park for a massive fireworks display last night, snarling traffic in the area. It was almost three times the number who attended last year's display at the Legislative Building."

July 1, 1992

In the midst of threatened separation by Quebec, Canada Day was once again attended by Queen Elizabeth, drawing 50,000 spectators.

"Faced with continuing unity troubles, Canadians put on a generally atypical show of unabashed patriotism and frenzied flag-waving to celebrate the country's 125th birthday yesterday...

"The crowd turned Parliament's huge lawn into a sea of red and white as they waved Canadian flags, stuck them in pockets, hats and collars -- even braided flags into their hair and painted maple leaves on their cheeks."

July 2, 2002

Canada's 135th birthday was celebrated with hundreds of different public parties across the country and lots and lots of fireworks.

"By mid-afternoon, hundreds of people were at The Forks for Spiritfest, the city's largest Canada Day concert lineup, which began at 1 p.m. and featured Bachman Turner Overdrive. Meanwhile, people lined up at the flooded-out river walk for waterbus tours, gathered in front of Johnston Terminal, watching jugglers and artists and buying Canada Day paraphernalia."

-- compiled by Mia Rabson, from the Winnipeg Free Press archives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 D8

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