Manager's Report (Fall 2018)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
Moving into the fall at Fort York used to involve transitioning from a busy summer season with the Summer Guard and a handful of events to just getting ready for the return of school visits. The reality now is that the event season is year-round and we’re doing more in a full calendar year than ever before.
In September we developed a rich program to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the Canadian contribution to the final days of the First World War. On September 21 staff and volunteer re-enactment groups provided a free education day for local schools. During the weekend were military displays, exhibits – including one from the Vimy Foundation – and demonstrations by uniformed re-enactment units. Authentic foods from the front line and the home front were prepared by our own kitchens. We offered Alison Norman’s lecture “In Defence of an Empire: Six Nations of the Grand River and the Great War,” 10 Short Films from Toronto’s Great War Attic, and much more.
A huge thank-you goes out to all involved in this multi faceted event. It clearly demonstrated the depth and range of expertise we have on staff here at Fort York as well as the strong network of partners and supporters we lean on to pull this kind of event together. (For pictures of the Canada’s Hundred Days weekend, see the previous issue of the F&D, archived at www.fortyork. ca, or scroll through the fort’s Facebook page).
One of the highlights from this living history weekend was the release of Recipes for Victory: Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada by Whitecap Books in Vancouver. Created by staff and volunteers at Fort York National Historic Site, this lavishly illustrated cookbook features kitchen-tested recipes from a century ago that will support the Historic Foodways Program here at the fort. Available in our own Canteen, the book is distributed internationally by Whitecap (and there’s a great recipe from the book on page 16).
Another aspect of culinary history at the fort was Canada’s Table, held on October 13 “in celebration of our cookbooks.” The one-day event was packed with workshops and talks by the likes of Bonnie Stern, Anna Olson, Tara O’Brady, Matt Basile and David Wolfman. Our thanks to Bridget Wranich, Elizabeth Baird and the entire Organizing Committee for putting together such a wonderful – and inaugural – Canada’s Table.
Also this fall we again hosted the Rexall OneWalk to Conquer Cancer, when more than 3,200 participants raised over $4.7 million for the cause. On September 29, the Sick Kids Foundation held its annual event at Fort York, this year with the Barenaked Ladies headlining the Get Loud Festival. The first weekend of October saw the Jumblies Theatre presentation of “Talking Treaties” with artists and visitors singing, dancing, and acting their way around Fort York, sharing stories of the complex treaty history of the city. And on October 20 and 21, Fort York hosted Toronto’s Soup Festival. Our scary Halloween programming had another successful season with the After Dark Tours running for five consecutive nights, most of them sold out.
Fort York staff continued to collaborate with The Bentway on many initiatives throughout the fall. The largest was on the weekend of October 13-15, when we hosted an installation under the Gardiner by renowned Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde called Waterlicht. This brought as many as 30,000 people down to Fort York.
If you had managed to stay until the early hours of October 14, you would have been able to watch the second span of Garrison Crossing, the Fort York pedestrian and bicycle bridge, being hoisted into place across the southern rail corridor. The bridge, which will open in 2019, will connect Liberty Village, Niagara and other neighbourhoods to the north with Fort York and the waterfront.
On November 10, Fort York staff in historic uniforms participated in the rededication of Coronation Park, immediately south of the armoury. Fort York and other Museums & Heritage Services staff helped develop plans for the park’s rehabilitation. Those in attendance included the Mayor, the Lieutenant Governor and a strong guard of The Royal Regiment of Canada in ceremonial scarlets. The next day, on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that marked the end of the First World War, close to 1,500 people attended Fort York’s annual ceremony at the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground; see the photo on this page and the Remembrance Day gallery at www.theglobeandmail.com.
On November 15, with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, 39 new Canadians were sworn in at one of our annual enhanced citizenship ceremonies. The event featured round-table discussions, an Indigenous feast and music. Special guests and speakers included our MPP Chris Glover, Ontario Heritage Trust Executive Director Beth Hannah, and Don Cranston, Chair of The Friends of Fort York.
Finally, on the first day of December, more than 700 visitors came to our seventh annual Frost Fair. Visitors enjoyed all kinds of demonstrations and activities – notably the East York Barbershoppers – and were able to peruse vendors as varied as The Cedar Basket Gift Shop, the Lone Wolf Trading Company, ChocoSol, Toronto’s First Post Office, and more.
With the onset of winter comes the return of The Bentway’s figure-eight Skate Trail. The uniqueness of being able to skate under the Gardiner, tracing what was once the shoreline of Lake Ontario, is one of the reasons we agreed to bring The Bentway to Fort York National Historic Site. We hope you take the chance to come down for a skate and to visit the fort’s many original buildings and displays when you’re here.