Sunday, October 22, 2006

War of 1812 Bicentennial just might pull Region together

War of 1812 Bicentennial just might pull Region together

Mike Williscraft

Oct 20, 2006

Historians unite.

No, that's not a call to arms, rather, it is more of a call to ideas, planning and concerted effort.

And really, I should not limit the scope to historians, it just seems from first blush that many of the people keen on driving some truly unique and innovative initiatives around the bi-centennial of the War of 1812 tend to be people with an interest in history.

This is somewhat unique in its own right since, typically, big anniversaries and milestones of this nature tend to manifest themselves in the form of business-driven events.

I've been to several meetings around the region recently as the planning wheels get rolling for this most-interesting anniversary.

This is not meant to sound like a negative, but all the meetings have been almost identical. Very keen Niagara residents, all with one goal -- put this three-year skirmish in its rightful place in Canadian history --which would be the forefront.

For starters, it is likely you didn't know that the war was actually fought over three years. It makes me sound pretty smart, but I didn't know until I attended my first planning meeting in May. The most recent session was in Niagara Falls, when an excellent turnout packed a meeting room at the YMCA. Groups headed off to different sectors: events and activities; marketing and promotion; capital project and legacy; and education. The energy, ideas and creativity made it a lot of fun.

The reason I see such huge potential for this anniversary is the overall good it can do for Niagara.

Having had extensive dealings in Niagara West and covering each of the municipal councils out there at some time, I know there have been times when west-end residents have been less than enamoured with "the Region," whether it be because of a perceived funding shortfall, or just feeling a bit like outsiders due to geographic or social issues.

Our region is expansive. There are few, precious few instances or occurrences which could have the dynamics and scope to draw the region together in a strong, focused way. The 1812 anniversary has that potential.

Yes, the border communities of Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake can boast "ownership" of many of the highest profile and colorful events. But Grimsby has the legend of Billy Green and history of being the furthest encamped penetration of the U.S. at Forty Creek.

By drawing on these other events and characters of the day, a strong historical weave can be knit together to cover the entire region. As a result, all municipalities could be united - with a purpose.

There have been simply a ton of ideas. Few will be achieved, especially if federal and provincial funding is a goal, without concerted efforts from participants.

To this end, we are introducing today, the "1812 Bulletin", which you will find on page 8 of today's paper. We are working with the Niagara Parks Commission on this weekly feature, which will become THE "bulletin board" for all things 1812.

Historical tidbits, trivia, contests, meetings, events, you name it, it will all be there. There are a million stories to tell, and we're going to tell them.


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