For many in the Ottawa area celebrating Canada Day means a trip to Parliament Hill and enjoying the fireworks at dark.
If you think that's patriotic, then you have not experienced Canada Day in Sheenboro, Quebec.
Sheenboro is a small hamlet at the "end of the line", as we say up the Valley. It's about two and a half hours west of Ottawa. And about 8 miles past Chapeau, Quebec. It was the centre of a strong Irish farming community. It's where my Dad was born, Dr. Wilbert Keon, too. They went to school in a one room schoolhouse, and attended mass in the village.
Today there isn't much in Sheenboro. Just a few homes, the Catholic Church and the Church Hall, where most celebrations are still held. What keeps it alive is a strong cottage community at Fort William, just a few kilometres away. Those who summer along the Ottawa River on the Quebec side, usually have some family tie to Sheenboro. If they don't, they are soon co-opted into the community.
Canada Day is usually the first chance of the summer season for cottagers and locals to get together. The day starts with Mass, followed by a healthy breakfast cooked up and served in the church hall. The parade is the highlight. It's an odd collection of farm machinery, old cars, municipal vehicles and wagons that carry anyone who can play an instrument. For years my family decorated a wagon with flags and the kids sat in the back throwing candy to the crowds. Now they are too old to be seen doing that. There were once more horses, and more music.
The parade may not be as long, or as "interesting" as years gone by, but it still draws a huge crowd. People come from far and away to see a parade that is so good, it passes twice. The chatter is how the homestead, or the cottage has endured another winter, and if the skies will be clear enough for fireworks at the Fort. The reason for coming together is the parade, but the real pull is the people. And we are a patriotic bunch, federalist to the bone, the red and white worn with pride in these parts. Communities change - it's inevitable. But so long as there is a Canada Day Parade in Sheenboro time will stand still, for at least one day.
Of course, when I videotaped this piece I could not find either my father, or Dr. Keon. Both were there, as they are every year. I guess I will just have to wait until next year to get them on my camera.