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Centennial events heat up this weekend


With the Town of Fort Frances officially turning 100 on Friday, this weekend’s activities are shaping up to be one heckuva birthday bash.

“It’s going to definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said centennial co-ordinator Marla Simpson, who’s encouraging as many residents as possible to come out for the many events planned this weekend.

“It’s really exciting it’s finally here. When we started preparing in November, April seemed so far away,” she added. “But the big moment has come.”

And what a jam-packed three days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be.

First, B93-FM morning show hosts Barry Blake and Jennifer O’Reilly will be broadcasting from the Fort Frances Museum on Friday from 6-9 a.m. The public is encouraged to come out for coffee and doughnuts.

Several town councillors will drop by to chat about the centennial celebrations and the community in general, and the morning show crew will be talking to the public as well.

Meanwhile, the CBC Radio One show, “Ontario Today,” will be broadcasting live from the Memorial Sports Centre that day from 11a.m.-1 p.m., during which time Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and International Falls Mayor Harry Swendsen will be interviewed.

CBC Radio One can be heard at 90.5 FM in Fort Frances.

Meanwhile, the citizenship court is slated for Friday at 1 p.m. at the Fort Frances Courthouse. More than 100 local residents, including two classes from J. W. Walker School and another from Robert Moore, will re-affirm their citizenship along with 21 new Canadians.

The impressive number of local participants forced the citizenship court to be moved to the Fort Frances Courthouse from the Civic Centre.

The reception afterwards, which will include refreshments courtesy of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary Br. #29 and music by the Fort Frances Highlanders, still will be held at the Civic Centre.

Then on Friday evening, a re-creation of the inaugural town council meeting and the judging of the centennial beard-growing contest will be held at the Townshend Theatre.

The Fort Frances Highlanders will kick off the evening at 6:30 p.m. Then emcee Darryl Allan will hit the stage, setting into motion an evening including a speech by Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, the unveiling of a centennial quilt made by the Sew ’n Sews Club, and the beard judging.

There also will be the launching of the ladies’ hat and poetry contests, and a skit by Fort Frances Little Theatre, during which the 1903-08 council minutes will be reviewed and issues comparable between 1903 and 2003 (property standards, roads, Front Street, etc.) will be discussed in character.

Simpson has put a call for any former town councillors to attend—and has confirmed that one, George Richardson, is coming here from Edmonton for the celebration.

Special guests such as local MP Robert Nault also will be on hand for this and other centennial events.

The birthday party then will move out to the Fort High cafeteria, where the cake-cutting ceremony and a toast to the centennial year will take place. The evening should end around 10 p.m., said Simpson.

Free passes to attend the Friday night activities are available at the museum and Civic Centre (this will be the only way you can get into the event as seating is limited there).

Then on Saturday, the Memorial Sports Centre will have a free skate and swim called a “Celebration of Sport” from 1-4 p.m. This is sponsored by TD Canada Trust.

Meanwhile, tickets for the “Great Centennial Ball” on Saturday night at the Memorial Sports Centre auditorium are still available. The tickets, which cost $50 each (with a $25 tax receipt issued), are on sale at the Fort Frances Public Library until tomorrow at noon.

“It’s going to be an event you don’t want to miss,” enthused chief librarian Margaret Sedgwick. The library is a major sponsor of the gala.

“There will be shoe shine boys and flower girls,” she noted. “We have wonderful music to dance to and dine by, with the Borderland Orchestra and Paul Severson and Friends.

“And if anyone want to see a certain chief librarian playing the violin, they’ll have to come out for this,” laughed Sedgwick, who will be performing everything from “Turkey in the Straw” to “Stardust” as part of the Borderland Orchestra.

The gala gets underway with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by a grand march at 6:45 and then dinner at 7. A dance will follow until 1 a.m.

Turn-of-the-century dress is encouraged, which can be rented at Masquerade here as well as arranged through local seamstress Judy Tucker.

Patterns for period clothes also are available at Betty’s.

Simpson noted many of the centennial organizers have gotten their period costumes ready, and has verified Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and his wife, Judy, surely will be dressed to the nines.

Prizes, including some artwork from members of the Fine Line Art Gallery co-op, will be awarded for best costumes.

The dinner will be catered by Kathy Cuthbertson while the hall will be decorated by Linda Lovisa.

Lovisa, who will begin decorating the auditorium tomorrow, said she’s going for a Victorian-era look—with a garden fence, pillars, and a variety of plants and flowers.

“I think it’s going to look great,” said Lovisa. “They’ll get a really nice feel for the era when they enter that auditorium.”

In Focus Photography will be on hand to take “prom-style” photos.

Then on Sunday, the Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts will stage its annual highlights concert at the Townshend Theatre starting at 1:30 p.m.

The cost of admission is $2 per person or $5 per family.

But the centennial celebration isn’t over after this weekend as a slew of other events are planned for May, June, and July.

These include a Victorian tea and quilt show, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s trade show, Mall Days, The Great Centennial Airport Show, Culturama, a golf tournament, and the grand opening of the La Verendrye Parkway (Front Street).

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