Canada Day Was Picture Perfect

By John Swartz

The weather gods relented and the sun was out and temperatures up with not a threatening cloud in the sky on Canada Day. It seemed to be cathartic, drawing thousands to Couchiching Beach Park, not only to celebrate the foundation day of the country, but just to be able to be out and not get soaked or blown sideways.

It was also a return to the traditional home of Canada Day Celebrations in Couchiching Beach Park.

“It’s great. We’ve got a lot of people in the park, the weather couldn’t be better,” said organizing committee fundraising and entertainment chair, Derick Lehmann.

“Last year we weren’t at the park because of all the construction. We still had a nice day over at the rec center and fireworks at Tudhope, but we’re back at the park.”

The parade on newly renamed Lightfoot Drive was notable in that there were fewer places to park, and parking was on the street, narrowing the roadway and making the park side of the street more attractive to parade watchers (which gave the impression more people were out to see the parade).

There were more vendors lined up on Terry Fox Circle than previous years, and more food vendors (and several criss-crossing lines of people lined up for grub) arranged around the edge of the field Sam Champlain used to watch over.

The beer garden was moved to the hill at the Aqua Theatre, which gave a prime viewing spot to enjoy the entertainment and fireworks. Surprisingly, the committee found a relatively level spot for the fenced in area of the beer garden.

The Rotary train had a long line of impatient kids waiting for the next trip. Parking near the noon hour was pushed back along Bay Street to beyond North Street and every side street westward to North were clogged with parked cars, This is a new side effect of the reconstructed Lightfoot Drive which greatly reduced parking closer to the park. At least many people got some exercise in before enjoying the day.

Visitors from Brazil, Fernanda Weaver and 7 year-old daughter Laura (dad is from Orillia) being served Canada Day Cake by Derick Lehmann.

The midway rides were fewer than previous years, but the essentials were present and event organizers made up for it with what appeared to be more activity stations for kids.

“It’s been a little small, but we knew that. It’s been a little difficult finding a midway company since COVID. There’s rides for the kids, free inflatables between 11 and 4,” said Lehmann.

The cake supplied by Mariposa Market came in 30 parts this year instead of one giant cake, that didn’t stop anyone from lining up a half hour before serving time or enjoying it.

During the 1 p.m. opening ceremony, committee chair Brian Hare dedicated this year’s event to past committee chair and 15-year volunteer, the late Ken McLaughlin.

The organizing committee was struggling post-pandemic for bodies and energy, but some newly recruited members and their effort and new ideas galvanized just about every aspect of the day.

2024 Canada Day Parade

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(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: It just wouldn’t be a Canada Day parade without the Orillia Shrine Club’s mini cars.


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