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From memorials to celebrations

Her Honour Patricia Fagan and husband Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan laid a wreath at the national war memorial during Saturday morning's service. — Photo by
Her Honour Patricia Fagan and husband Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan laid a wreath at the national war memorial during Saturday morning's service. — Photo by

There are advantages to having a half hour head start in Newfoundland, especially on celebratory days.

Members of St. John's Regional Fire Department stand at attention during Saturday morning's memorial service.

Canada Day started here first, marked in St. John’s with a sunrise event on Signal Hill at 6 a.m., followed by a days’ worth of commemorations that ended with the usual fireworks display at Quidi Vidi Lake.

This year’s memorial service at the National War Memorial downtown saw a marked drop in attendance from last year’s event, when thousands came in honour of the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel. A couple of hundred people braved the drizzle — which turned into sunshine for a while — to attend the service. Dozens of wreaths were laid in in honour of war veterans.

Comedian Mark Critch participated in both the serious and the fun Canada Day events. He volunteered at The Rooms, speaking to visitors about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment alongside several descendants of Regiment soldiers, who spoke about their personal connections to Newfoundland’s horrific loss during the First World War.

This lady showed her patriotism at Canada Day events by wearing a crocheted maple leaf as a necklace.

“I spoke with people from Australia and Japan about Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Critch said. “We celebrate Canada on July 1, but it’s important to also pause and remember those who died under a different flag and sang a different anthem.”

This year is Canada 150 — the celebration of the country’s 150th anniversary — but for many Newfoundlanders it’s only really Canada 68. Except for Nunavut (which joined Canada 18 years ago, but had been part of the country as a territory), we are Canada’s newest province, joining in 1949 by a vote margin of just two per cent.

Critch figures most Newfoundlanders consider themselves Canadian now.

“I met a lot of new Canadians (on Saturday),” he said. “They worked hard to get here and they’re very happy to call themselves Canadians. In some way, we are new Canadians as well. In my family, I’m a first-generation Canadian. My parents weren’t born in Canada. 

Comedian Mark Critch did double duty on Canada Day, first speaking to visitors to The Rooms about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the significance of July 1 as a memorial day, then tormenting longtime CBC journalist and anchor Peter Mansbridge about his retirement on a live national broadcast.

“The history we gave Canada in 1949 was respected and shared as Canadian history. I’d like to think that we are at the point where we can consider pre-Confederation Canadian history as ours as well.”

For the afternoon’s Canada Day events, Critch switched from a suit and tie to a red shirt covered in white CBC logos, and headed to King George V park for a live broadcast connecting him with The National anchor and longtime journalist Peter Mansbridge, who officially retired this weekend.

Critch told viewers it was a big day for P.E.I. — not Prince Edward Island, but Peter’s Employment Insurance.

“Newfoundlanders need to know: who’s going to feed Rex Murphy when you retire? If you’re sending him back here, give me a heads-up so I can release him back in the wild to the family of owls who raised him,” Critch joked, doing his trademark Murphy impression for the camera.

Ten-month-old twins Ayden (left) and Avery Hapgood of Eastport take in Canada Day celebrations in Terra Nova Park.

Quidi Vidi lakeside was full of patriotic revellers, taking in bouncy castles, laser tag, an hour-long wait for hamburgers and a free concert featuring the likes of The Novaks, Mallory Johnson of C.B.S. — a Nashville-signed singer/songwriter who recently won the Canadian Country Music Association’s Spotlight Performance contest — and The Sheepdogs

On George Street, it was Day 2 of three days of celebrations, with free all-ages events during the afternoon and a concert with ’80s rockers Honeymoon Suite and Helix in the night. The events continued Sunday afternoon with Rock the Block, a battle of the bands.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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