Monday Morning Musings

Posted on August 13, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Walking trail. Montague, P.E.I.

 

“What’s the buzz;tell me what’s a happening,

What’s the buzz; tell me what’s a happening.”

What’s The Buzz? Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

Is there a more bucolic setting anywhere else in Canada that can match P.E.I.?

My brother and I took a short trip to “the Island” last week to catch a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. This musical rock opera debuted on Broadway in 1971 and has been performed on some stage somewhere in the world for forty-seven years. I heard that there was an excellent local staging of the show a few years back here in Antigonish. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the live feed from southern India!

Starting with the ferry ride from Caribou to Wood Islands, one is forced to slow down. Once you reach the rich, red soil of the island, you are greeted with rolling hills and 80 kpm speed limits. It must be quite a (pleasant) shock to the system for visitors from large cities who white knuckle commute through 16 lanes of traffic traveling at 13okm and hour, when not stuck in gridlock. The only time you encounter any kind of a lineup in P.E.I. is at a Cow’s ice cream stand.

Our mini vacation started with a visit with old friends at Rollo Bay. For the first time ever, I traveled on the number 4 highway which is the coastal route heading across the eastern end of the island. The scenery is quite stunning with the ocean off to one’s right with fields of potato and corn at every turn in the road.

Knowing that we were a bit early to be arriving at our friends, we stopped in Montague. There’s a walking trail, an old rail bed, just as you cross the bridge near the mouth to the harbour. We meandered along the trail. After the recent heat wave, it was quite delicious walking through the trees with a lovely warm breeze blowing in our faces. We were hatless but the wind didn’t have any effect on my recent haircut!

We had a wonderful visit in Rollo Bay, one of many beautiful vistas dotting the island. Thanks to Irene and Colin for the hospitality.

On our trip into Charlottetown, we noticed black, menacing clouds in the distance. Upon our arrival near suppertime, we witnessed a stretch of road severely flooded. We checked into the Great George Hotel and were greeted by possibly the most friendly desk staff person imaginable. It is very obvious that Islanders understand the importance of hospitality and client service as tourism is extremely important to their economy.

Did I mention cookies? The Great George is pricey but on one’s birthday, one can indulge themselves. The desk clerk welcomed us to free cocktails in the lobby area and mentioned that there was an endless supply of fresh baked cookies on a table not far from where we were standing. On our way to our room, we sampled the cookies as we felt it would be rude to offend our hosts by not trying a few. We visited this table a few times during our short stay.

Our accommodations were first class. I had negotiated a preferred rate when booking the apartment style room, mentioning that we were both seniors. I also slipped in the fact that it was my birthday, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the reservations clerk. On the living room table, there was a box of truffles and in the fridge, there were four bottles of locally brewed craft beer. Only after we had hastily consumed the chocolates did my brother notice a card from the “associate concierge” wishing me a happy birthday. Very classy indeed.

We meandered a block away to dine at the Gahan House only to find out that a vicious hail storm had knocked out power to much of the downtown core an hour earlier, putting in jeopardy our dinner plans and the distinct possibility that Superstar might be cancelled.  We ended up at Peake’s Quay on the waterfront along with nearly every other tourist in Charlottetown, being one of the few restaurants with power. Considering the size of the crowd (100 tables x 4 per table), the service what quite remarkable and all delivered with a smile. Noticing an opportunity to milk the birthday thing, my brother mentioned this to our waiter which produced the desired effect. We shared a low calorie (fat chance) dessert, compliments of the management.

We were very relieved to learn that “the show would go on”, and made our way to Confederation Centre. I will not bore you with a lengthy song by song review of the rock opera. This is a must see if you’re a baby boomer. It was a world class performance. Lee Siegel, who plays Judas, is simply off the charts with his powerful voice. All the singers were exceptionally good and the orchestra was more than up to the task. Actually, they were fabulous.

Exiting the building, we stood with dozens of others and watched a screening of the history of Canada emblazoned on the wall of the Confederation Centre.

It was short trip but everything about it was first class. Great friends, great food, wonderful hospitality and one exceptional musical.

By the way, thanks for all the birthday wishes. None of us needs reminding that we’re getting older but connecting with friends near and far once a year is rather fun.

Have a great week.

P.S. Overheard at the R.K. MacDonald last week as I was waddling down the hallway with my guitar. A few of the staff were walking behind me. “He has a nice swing on his back porch.”!

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on August 6, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 8 comments

Rachel Boardman. Toronto, Ontario. Silver medallist 50 metre freestyle swimming

(Photo with permisssion)

 

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Special Olympics oath.

The greatest show on earth.

And one of the hottest.

Being a Catholic town, we prayed for good weather last week. Our prayers were answered except we forgot to ask that the temperature not be in the 30s with a high humidex!

With all due respect to the Barnum and Bailey circus, the recently completed National Special Olympics summer games held in Antigonish was the greatest show ever seen in these parts. It was the first time that this competition was held in a small town.

I was a volunteer , one of 1200, and also a spectator at the games. I had a front row seat at many events but also had an opportunity to observe the work being done in the background by the organizing committee. I spent a lot of time at St.F.X. University where all but two of the events were being held. Never have I witnessed so much enthusiasm and excitement with athletes, coaches, family, spectators and volunteers, with thousands crisscrossing the campus at all hours of the day and night. It was also quite a spectacle walking down Main Street and seeing so many new and smiling faces.

Smiles.

I can’t ever recall seeing so many happy faces and this may be the most important legacy of the games and the ultimate lesson learned from sharing time with our special Olympic athletes. These wonderful competitors from coast to coast to coast bring a joy of life that is infectious. Everywhere I went, I saw laughter, friendship and good sportsmanship in abundance.

I spent a few evenings in the grandstands at Oland Stadium watching some races. I sat amongst athletes from many provinces and territories. I listened to their easy banter. Of course, they were cheering for fellow teammates but what is always impressive at these games is that every athlete is urged on by fellow competitors. Runners, who were struggling at the end of a race and far away from the leaders, were cheered as heartily as the winner. “Winning at all cost” is not part of the Special Olympics ethos.

Special Olympic athletes are the real deal. They stand for everything that is good and decent in a fractured world. The athletes are honest, loving and caring and God only knows that society needs folks like these to lead us in troubled times.

Families.

I had an opportunity to chat with several athletes and their families. The pride shown by parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews towards their participant was overt and unsanitized. The Special Olympics movement has done so much to remove the stigmatism for people with intellectual challenges.

Volunteers.

It is a given that most amateur events cannot take place without volunteers. At times, it felt like every citizen of the town and county of Antigonish (and others from outside the area) had a role to play in these games. I saw very young volunteers, including my 10 year old granddaughter, roll up their sleeves and make a contribution. They came from every walk of life and no task was too menial. When things needed to be done, they got done. We all know well about the ills of social media but for an event like this, it was an indispensable tool to get the word out when help was required. I have never been more proud of my hometown.

The organizing committee deserves our undying gratitude for the thousands of hours spent to put on a first class event. There are always challenges and unexpected and uncontrollable headwinds that affect the running of a competition of this scope and size. Not too many would have predicted a heat wave for the games. Most locals that I talked to can’t remember a hotter week. These remarkable athletes have faced adversity throughout their lives and they accepted the conditions without complaint, another teachable moment for all of us. The organizers made some mid- stream schedule changes to reflect the conditions.

Music and dancing.

I have never seen so many spontaneous outbursts of dancing whenever there was music in the air. It’s too bad that we couldn’t bottle this joy and spread it around the world.

And what will be the legacy of these games?

Too many times, communities focus on the economic spinoffs of a national competition like this. Make no mistake, that happened here and can be quantified. But from my vantage point the intangible spinoffs left by our Special Olympic athletes is much more important. Their athletic prowess was on full display but the biggest legacies they leave our small town are hope, courage, and joy. They represent what is best in mankind.

To the athletes , their families and friends marking the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement in Canada, thank you for coming to our town. We’ll turn the thermostat down on your next visit!

Please come back again.

The Special Olympics torch has been extinguished but the memories will be an eternal flame.

 

 

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on July 30, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

B.C. House on the campus of St.F.X.

It’s time to put out the welcome mat and show Canada that we are the best small town in the country.

Tomorrow evening, the National Special Olympics kick off with a dazzling ceremony at the Keating Millennium Centre. Some 1400 athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers will descend upon Antigonish and we need to show them that a small town is up to the task. Last year, the national games were held in Greater Vancouver, a city and surrounding area comprised of some 2.5 million people. Greater Antigonish (!) has a population of about 18,000.

It has been a daunting task to plan an event of this magnitude. I don’t think most of us have any idea what a big deal this really is. Yes, we are a university town and every September we welcome around 4,500 students to the area. Antigonish has been doing this for decades and the drill is well rehearsed. The transition to a new academic year is almost seamless. We expect more traffic, more energy and a lot more noise in our neighborhoods until students settle into their groove.

But this is different.

There is no doubt that Antigonish has had some experience hosting national competitions but these will be dwarfed in size and complexity by the Special Olympics. Organizers have been preparing for a few years now and the fruits of their labour will be borne out this week. An army of volunteers is in place to handle every possible contingency but let’s not sit idly by. This may be one of the greatest marketing opportunities for the town that we’ve ever had.

So, how can you help?

Undoubtedly there will be some last minute calls for help. No one can predict with certainty how things will unfold. Check your social media platforms a bit more often. If you’re already on Facebook 24 hours a day, please disregard the previous comment!

Be courteous to the many new faces you will meet on the streets of the town. Be helpful with directions. For many visitors, this will be the first time that they have travelled to Nova Scotia and we want to demonstrate our hospitality.

Be patient. Expect more traffic. We sometimes get our knickers in a knot if we have to wait more than 45 seconds trying to make a left turn. Economic spinoffs from a major event come at a cost so prepare to be delayed at some point this week. Restaurants, grocery stores, retail outlets will all be busier than normal. If you happen to be in a lineup and you see a stranger, strike up a conversation and welcome them to our town.

Smile at people. No one is suggesting that we all walk the streets with a perma grin on our face but a smile goes a long way. Take some tips from the Special Olympians. Smiling is something that comes naturally to them.

Be a spectator. While all of the focus and energy has been on the planning of the games, many people forget that this is an athletic competition and Canada’s best will be here strutting their stuff. If you want to see great athletes and great attitudes on display, wander over to the campus of St.F.X, the epicentre of the event.

Be an ambassador. We all know the expression, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is a golden opportunity to show the country that we are hospitable and caring people. We want our guests to go back home and rave about “the Antigonish experience”. Tell visitors about our beaches, live theatre, our culture and heritage, our university, our library, our museum. Tell them about the strength of our primary industries of farming, fishing and forestry. Tell them about our world class hospital and the Coady Institute. Invite them to next year’s Highland Games.

Better still, show them. If they have time and you have time, show them around the area. Take them to the Tall and Small for a coffee or buy them an ice cream at the Koala Cone, or a drive around “the Cape”.

In other words, do what you always do.

Show people that Antigonish just may be the best small town in Canada.

 

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