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Lions Park packed for centennial opening

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Lions Park was teeming last Thursday afternoon as people from across the district—and beyond—turned out en masse to celebrate Emo’s centennial.

Reeve Brian Reid and the rest of Emo council were piped down to the waterfront by Fort Frances Highlander Dr. Bruce Lidkea, where council officially greeted their “pioneer family”—Tim and Lori Anne Shortreed.

“It was near this very location that the Shortreed family landed,” town crier Doug Hodge announced, noting they settled “just at the point east” of where Emo lies today.

Reeve Reid said the banks of Emo received many people when the country was first settled.

“We can only imagine the challenges they faced,” he remarked. “Things have changed [over the last 100 years] but their pioneer spirit lives on.

“We’re proud of our community. We have survived 100 years,” he added, sparking a loud round of applause.

Local MP Robert Nault was on hand to present Reeve Reid with three commemorative plaques—one from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, one from Gov. Gen. Romeo LeBlanc, and one from Nault’s own office.

Rainy River Mayor Gordon Armstrong, Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, and Chief Jim Leonard of Rainy River First Nation also were on hand for the ceremonies.

“It’s important to celebrate on the banks of our river because most of our roots lie on the river,” Mayor Armstrong noted.

“Rainy River and Emo are like siblings—there’s always friendly competition,” he added. “The community from Emo and Rainy River has worked on many projects to make the district [a better place].”

Mayor Witherspoon said it was fitting to be standing on the riverbank congratulating Emo on its centennial because his own grandparents landed there in 1901 before setting up a farmstead in Burriss.

He also noted he was born in the hospital in Emo, giving the town “significance,” he joked.

“Please think of those [who came before us],” Mayor Witherspoon continued. “Carry their honour and heritage proudly.”

John Willis, a resident of Indus, Mn. across the river and owner of Kippewa Gardens in International Falls, Mn., presented Reeve Reid and council with a kite in the shape of a bald eagle, which is Emo’s symbol of office.

“For the past 100 years, people have gone back and forth across this river,” Willis said. “People have come from across for medical aid and to deliver babies.

“So without further ado . . .” Willis said, raising the kite up on a fiberglas pole. As if on cue, the wind picked up from the west and lifted the “eagle” up so the string pulled taut.

The crowd cheered.

Before people dispersed from the riverbank, Reeve Reid publicly acknowledged the volunteers on the centennial planning committee, especially Mary Curtis, whom he called the “catalyst of the group.”

“I think they deserve a hand,” he said.

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