Manager's Report (Summer 2018)

A nother successful summer has come to an end at Fort York and it was certainly a busy one for the men and women of the Fort York Guard. While the weather was far from ideal in 2018, the Guard can be proud of their accomplishments. Once again they distinguished themselves at Fort George during the annual Soldiers Field Days, coming in a close second just behind the Grenadiers of the Fort George Guard. They were also part of two Bentway-related events, the Toronto Summer Music Festival’s “Reflections of Wartime” concert in July and the opening of the Strachan Gate in August (watch the Fife & Drum Corps on City TV’s coverage of the opening here: https://www.bttoronto.ca/videos/stella-is-live-at-the-bentway-3-of-4/).

Moving into September, and on the heels of several big third-party events on Garrison Common, we held our own Canada’s Hundred Days: A Great War Living History Weekend. Almost 300 students joined our educational programs on September 21 and many more visitors came down to the fort over the weekend to commemorate the Canadian contribution to the closing days of the First World War.

During the weekend, visitors could browse displays of the uniforms, weapons and equipment of both sides. In a series of tents was a comprehensive display of Canadian medical services. There were demonstrations of weapons, tactics, and communications as well as numerous Great War Foodways presentations. A huge thank you goes out to all the fort’s staff, particularly Kevin Hebib, Colin Sedgwick-Pinn, Bridget Wranich and Melissa Beynon for leading the charge, and to our many partners, including the Canadian Centre for the Great War, the Canadian Military Heritage Society (PPCLI & CAMC), Soldiers of the Kaiser, the 11th Swiss Rifles Association, Parks Canada, the Great War Flying Museum, the Hamilton Vintage Signals Team and Gary Blakeley, Alison Norman and Scott Woodland.

Recipes for Victory coverWe were also pleased to have our new book Recipes for Victory: Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada on hand for Canada’s
Hundred Days. Just released by Whitecap Books, this lavishly illustrated cookbook was created by staff and volunteers at Fort York. It features kitchen-tested recipes from a century ago that will continue to support the award-winning Historic Foodways Program here at the fort. Whitecap is distributing the book internationally and you can pick up a copy in our well-stocked Canteen.

Also early this October we were pleased to see the Talking Treaties Spectacle return to the grounds of Fort York. Talking Treaties is an outdoor pageant, rooted in oral history and community collaboration, that explores the treaty history of the Toronto area through words, song, movement and spectacle. Inspired by the historical research of Victoria Freeman and others, director Ange Loft led professional and community performers through vignettes of the Dish With One Spoon, the Toronto Purchase, the Treaty of Niagara and more. A huge thank you to all involved, particularly our partners at Jumblies Theatre.

If you’re visiting Fort York before the end of November, our site partners at the Bentway have a new exhibit called “If, But, What If?” which includes art works from Michael Awad (Toronto), Steven Beckly (Toronto), Wally Dion (upstate New York), Mani and Sanaz Mazinani (Toronto and San Francisco), Alex McLeod (Toronto), Sans façon (Calgary) and Jon Sasaki (Toronto). The signature work WATERLICHT, by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, was a large-scale light installation at Fort York in mid October. Visit http://www.thebentway.ca for more about all of this.

Sunday morning, November 11, we will once again, in co-operation with the Toronto chapter of the IODE, present our evocative Remembrance Day service. At 10:45 a solemn procession of period-uniformed staff and standard bearers will leave the fort’s west gate and make their way to the Strachan Avenue Military Cemetery at the west end of Garrison Common. There, a public service will honour all members of the Toronto Garrison who have fallen during the past 220 years in defence of Canadian ideals and freedom.

The last big event of 2018 will be the annual Frost Fair, this year promising to be bigger and better than ever. On the first day of December you and the whole family can enjoy musical and military demonstrations while the kids are entertained with drill workshops, dress-up fun, games and crafts. You’ll be able to shop for unique gifts by local artisans, gifts ranging from jewellery to historical reproductions to holiday greenery. Our talented Volunteer Historic Cooks will have their Heritage Café open for lunch. Check our Upcoming Events listings at the end of this issue for ways to keep the children busy in the kitchen over the coming holiday season.

We’re pleased to see the end to much of the construction around our site. The first phase of the Bentway is now largely complete. The second span of Garrison Crossing, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the rail corridor north of the fort, was scheduled to be lifted into place on October 13. Work on the underside of the Bathurst Street bridge was completed in September. That means work on Lower Garrison Creek Park, part of Fort York National Historic Site on the east side of Bathurst, can begin in the spring. Final trail connections along the north side of the fort between Garrison Crossing and the new park will be completed at the same time; see the designer’s own description of the park in the April 2018 Fife and Drum.

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