by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

The official launch of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has made for an extremely busy few weeks. On June 7 we hosted Toronto the Good, a gathering which brought to Fort York a broad cross-section of Torontonians with an interest in the City and in city building. On June 8 The Encampment opened on the first night of Luminato.

Commissioned in partnership with Luminato, it proved to be the great success we hoped when we first discussed the installation more than three years ago with artists Thom Sokoloski and Jenny-Anne McCowan ( Each evening between June 7 and 24, crowds of people visited The Encampment to experience the magic of 200 individually illuminated tents located within the fort’s walls. In the end there were more than 10,000 visitors. Anyone interested in ensuring that the stories associated with the War of 1812 and the potential of Fort York are understood and appreciated owes a huge thank-you to the 125 creative collaborators, scores of Fort York volunteers, and many others involved with the installation.

On June 14 the City of Toronto officially launched its War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration at Fort York. As part of the event it was announced that a lead legacy gift of $1 million from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation had been made to the Fort York Invigorated Capital Campaign ( The Foundation’s gift will be directed toward the rehabilitation of Garrison Common, which is part of the ongoing revitalization of the larger 43-acre national historic site. The event was attended by Andy Pringle, Chair of the Fort York Foundation fundraising cabinet; Geordie Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation; the Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Honourable James Bartleman; elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation; and the co-chairs of the City’s Bicentennial Steering Committee: Councillor Michael Thompson and Blake Goldring.

Free Bicentennial launch events continued over the June 15-16 weekend at Fort York with a variety of family-oriented programs, including music from Gin Lane, Morningstar River, Muddy York, the Barra MacNeils, the Metis Fiddler Quartet, and performances by the Fort York Regency Dancers, Lisa Odjig, Manifesto, and others. A special thank-you goes out to Alok Sharma, Supervisor of Special Events, for planning and producing the weekend, and to the staff and the 70 member Fort York Volunteer Team who pulled it off so successfully. While things were busy at the fort, various events were taking place as planned elsewhere across the City, including a special service at St. James’ Cathedral, a free open-air concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at David Pecaut Square, and The Loyalists, a participatory theatre performance in Victoria Memorial Square produced by Single Thread Theatre Company. Worth noting is that after the Fort York Guard opened the TSO concert to loud applause, it was invited to participate in three TSO performances the following week.

On the actual anniversary of the Declaration of War, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, formally launched the Federal Government’s War of 1812 Commemoration at Fort York. The event went well with Fort York as the backdrop, Councillor Paul Ainslie providing remarks on behalf of City Council, and the Fort York Guard figuring prominently.

After the launch, staff then moved into programming for National Aboriginal Day, in partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and Canada Day. After the July 4 Parler Fort, our next Bicentennial event will be held on July 14. ‘On Common Ground’ is a free festival that we hope will grow into an annual celebration. The event, which will be our formal launch of the Garrison Common as a new public space, opens at 3 pm and features Sarah [i]Credit: Tom Ridout,[/i]The Encampment, Photo by Tom RidoutHarmer (9 pm), Shad (7pm), The Rural Alberta Advantage (5:30 pm), and Alex Cuba (4 pm). We encourage everyone to come down with family, blanket, hat, and umbrella (i.e. rain or shine).

Although work on various capital projects continues, updates on these items will be left for the next issue. The one to note now is that the tender for the Visitor Centre construction is out and bids from the pre-qualified general contractors are expected to be submitted in July.