HISTORY OF CANADA DAY IN BARRHAVEN
Original by C.W. (Gus) Este
Updated by Canada Day Barrhaven Inc.
This recount is certainly not a true historical documentation of the event. There are no accurate records, nor references with which to test the accuracy of the story told. It is truly an anecdotal recall, which relies upon the memory, or lack of same, by this writer. Its intent is to paint a picture of the growth of Canada Day in Barrhaven, in-line with the population explosion that Barrhaven has experienced as a community over three decades.
The Barrhaven Community Association (BCA) was formed in the late seventies. Two very involved members of the community, Paul Horne a local school teacher was the president and George Galbraith a local businessman served as the vice president. Some other key members were Jan Harder, Doug Collins, Tom O’Neil and Gus Este. The BCA was sustained by voluntary household membership fees of $10.00 per year. Its mandate was to be a liaison between the then Township of Nepean under Reeve Andrew Haydon, which shortly thereafter became the City of Nepean, under Mayor Ben Franklin. Another role was to create activities for youth in the community including sports, library services and social events for the entire (village) of Barrhaven. Some of the first events took place in the only school that was available at the time, Barrhaven Public. Others took place in Larkin House which was quite tiny and some held by the city at the Mowat Barn. Once the Walter Baker Centre and the Barrhaven Mall were built, the BCA and other groups became very active. Many dances conducted by the social chairman Vivien Voisey, were always sold out with capacity crowds in attendance.
All the while, limited Canada Day activities involved small fireworks displays in the area that was vacant above and beside the Walter Baker Centre, at the golf driving range which still exists at the intersection of Greenbank and Jockvale and later at Foxfield Park where the hilly slopes provided a natural amphitheatre. Local resident, Danny Ryan, setup and coordinated the fireworks display until they became too dangerous to the encroaching newly-built homes. During the fireworks BCA members circulated collection boxes for donations towards the display.
In the spring of 1980, Vice President of the BCA, George Galbraith, formed a Lions Club in the community. They began to hold Canada Day activities on the Barrhaven Mall parking lot. They included a parade of the Provincial and Canada flags, singing of our national anthem at 12 noon and free Canada Day birthday cake for all in attendance. In the mid eighties, the Lions ran a raffle draw from which they donated a little over $2500 to the BCA to allow the continuance of the local firework displays. For two years the fireworks move away from Barrhaven to the Nepean Sportplex on Woodroffe. They them moved to Clarke Field, our current location for a few years but were again discontinued because of risk to persons and property.
The modern Canada Day in Barrhaven was the baby of Ottawa Councilor Jan Harder. She became the driving force in integrating various persons and groups into the exciting program we have witnessed over the past decade. Additionally, she “put her money where her mouth is” using personal funds from her own pocket and her constituency budget into maintaining the program. She has coaxed some of the local enterprises into becoming involved as sponsors, most notably Mattamy Homes and other builders, local Community Associations, West Barrhaven Community Association, Barrhaven BIA, Barrhaven Lions, Branch 641 Barrhaven Legion and other local service clubs. She also was able to get City allowances to safely set off fireworks from the nearby snow dump. We now expect crowds exceeding 10,000 persons and multicultural activities are included to take place concurrently. This has allowed us to seek and receive substantial funding from Heritage Canada, which is a Government of Canada Agency. Those of us that were there at the beginning find it difficult to realize the magnitude of growth; it has been overwhelming and fantastic.
A few years ago, we entered into what I call “The Modern Era.” Councilor Jan Harder had taken on some significant tasks in her role of handling City of Ottawa’s administration and management and could no longer handle these types of local, extracurricular, activities. She sought someone to take over the chairmanship of the Canada Day in Barrhaven Committee. The people that volunteered were community activists, Darrell Bartraw and Victor Hanna who Co-Chair the event.
Under their new and dynamic leadership, Canada Day in Barrhaven has morphed into a smaller version of the Canada Day activities held on the “Hill” every July 1st. Co-Chairs Darrell and Victor have grown the membership of the committee, handing over key roles to many of the volunteers. This has allowed the Committee to transform itself. A most important aspect of the new regime was its ability to get significant sponsorships from organization, institutions and the business community. The major sponsor, Mattamy Homes had their title added to the committee’s name, thus it is now called the Mattamy Homes Canada Day in Barrhaven.
The Mattamy Homes Canada Day in Barrhaven Committee currently comprises a group of 11 members. Local businesses, community partners and grants from the City of Ottawa and Canadian Heritage contribute annually in excess of $100,000 to run the event with the fireworks display alone costing $15,000. It takes several months of the year to carry out the planning and since 2013, now includes several days of Homeniuk Midway with many carnival rides and games. Presently, we have three stages, Kidz Zone Stage, Multi-Cultural Stage and our Main Stage. In 2015 the event was incorporated as “Canada Day Barrhaven Inc.”, and has its own insurance.
Every year we keep growing with attendance upwards of 30,000 people and try to bring in something new to make our community Canada Day event outstanding. In 2016 we purchased 13 large flag poles and now proudly fly all provincial flag during the event in addition to our flag ceremony.
The modern event has continued to be family friendly, with a variety of food vendors, kiddie’s activities, multicultural shows, big bands on stage, an ATM is on site and the whole event is alcohol and smoking prohibited. You can take a shuttle bus from Ross’ Independent or Barrhaven Heart & Crown or come by bicycle and use our secure bike lock-up.
In 2019, due some issues with a few unruly youth, we were forced to surround our event with fencing and do bags checks at three gates, which worked out very well.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid pandemic we had to cancel events in 2020 and 2021.
Come out to finally celebrate our 40th Anniversary of Mattamy Homes Canada Day in Barrhaven with your family and friends, bring lawn chairs, pack a lunch or try our various food vendors and have a great full day celebrating our country’s Birthday!
New for 2022, our committee will be advertising outside of Ottawa to bring in visitors from far and away. As a result of our new fencing and gates, we now have a wonderful opportunity to do some random surveys of where people are from, where they are staying and what amenities they will be using while visiting our great city. Also new this year, we will have a number of new photo op locations on site including directional signs to various Canadian location, a giant eight-foot Muskoka chair with a Canadian Flag, a new giant Canadian Flag on stage and many more mascots. In our Kidz Zone we will have a puppet show and magician. Our free Seniors breakfast has been expanded to include a reasonably priced Family breakfast. We will also have lots of new acts on our Multi-Cultural Stage which will start earlier than previous years, at 9:30am. Also new for 2022, we will be having a large Indigenous Experience in our Kidz Zone gym area. In a real teepee near our main stage, our ceremony will open with an Elder giving us an Indigenous blessing and land acknowledgement followed by a demonstration of indigenous song and dance. Our long-time midway operator, Homeniuk Rides, has gone into retirement and we were very fortunate to get Robertson Amusements to come out to celebrate our event with us.