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article imageCelebrating the founding of Guelph, Ontario on John Galt Day Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 2, 2010 in Entertainment
Guelph - Ontario's August civic holiday has been designated by some municipalities as a day to celebrate the founding history of the communities. Guelph celebrates its founder, John Galt.
There are some in Guelph who argue that John Galt Day should be moved to April 23, the anniversary of the felling of the first tree. That ceremonial event occured close to the John Galt Park, where John Galt is now celebrated each August. But most people don't seem to mind that the celebration of the founding of the city doesn't happen when that first tree was felled.
In the days when this part of the country was known as Upper Canada, Guelph was one of the first planned settlements in Canada. You could say Guelph was a company town, created by the land development enterprise known as the Canada Company. Historian Dr. Gil Stelter said the company was not interested in running the towns it created, just in development, which allowed the company to sell off lots to private interests. Stelter said the Canada Company created some headaches for the early municipal government of Guelph.
Since 2006 after designating the holiday as John Galt Day, the City of Guelph offers an afternoon of historically-themed activities to mark the day. This year the theme centered on Galt's plan for Guelph, which featured what is known as a "radial plan," where the streets are laid out in a design similar to a wagon wheel.
Founded in 1827, by John Galt, who also founded the Canada Company, the City of Guelph has grown from a "heavily wooded" site to a bustling metropolis that prides itself on its arts and culture, hosting a population of over 100,000 people.
The 2010 festivities were kicked off by former Mayor, Norm Jary and current Mayor, Karen Farbridge accompanied by MP Frank Valeriote; Councillor Leeanne Piper, who designed the John Galt flag; as well as Peter Anderson and Dr. Gil Stelter. Anderson and Stelter were the two driving forces behind creating John Galt Day.
Opening ceremonies for John Galt Day 2010. From right to left  Master of Ceremonies  former Mayor No...
Opening ceremonies for John Galt Day 2010. From right to left, Master of Ceremonies, former Mayor Norm Jary; Current Mayor Karen Farbridge; MP Frank Valeriote; Councillor Leeann Piper; Peter Anderson, and Dr. Gil Stelter.
Karen Farbridge read a paragraph John Galt wrote in his autobiography about the founding of Guelph, saying the paragraph should be read at all future celebrations. Galt penned "The tree fell with a crash of accumulating thunder, as if ancient Nature were alarmed at the entrance of social man into her innocent solitudes with his sorrows, his follies, and his crimes. I do not suppose that the sublimity of the occasion was unfelt by the others, for I noticed that after the tree fell, there was a funereal pause, as when the coffin is lowered into the grave; it was, however, of short duration for the doctor pulled a flask of whiskey from his bosom, and we drank prosperity to the City of Guelph." The annual ceremonies are held on the riverbank of the lands first cleared to create the City of Guelph.
Two men dressed as Tiger Dunbar and John Galt wandered about through the festivities, talking to anyone who was interested. The person playing Dunbar explained the historical roles of the two figures by pointing at the Galt actor, saying "I found Guelph and he founded Guelph."
Re-enacters representing Tiger Dunlop (vest) and John Galt (black coat).  The River Run Centre is in...
Re-enacters representing Tiger Dunlop (vest) and John Galt (black coat). The River Run Centre is in the background.
Over the past 183 years, the city of Guelph has seen many changes as the population grew from a tiny settlement with big plans to a city. Mayor Karen Farbridge said Guelph's history predates the Confederation of Canada. She said "... We have those long roots, and it's very important to recognize our history and our heritage. It's a part of who we are. We're a very caring community and I think it comes from that pioneer beginning where you had to look out for each other, otherwise you wouldn't make it, right? And so I think that sort of value is part of this community and that comes from that history."
While growth always presents challenges for city administrators, Farbridge said over the years there are several key issues that do not change over time. The city is always working to maintain health and sustainability, she said. "In every election I've run in, growth has been an issue. That primary function has been delegated by the province and municipality ... so its not surprising that growth is an issue. When I first became mayor, I went back and read one of Norm Jary's inaugural speeches about what the issues were at the time. And it was transit and it was affordable housing -- you know, it was all the same issues. They never go away, we always have to pay attention to them and make sure they are not neglected."
Inside the 1941 caboose showing the existing stove.  The caboose was very popular for all ages.
Inside the 1941 caboose showing the existing stove. The caboose was very popular for all ages.
Historically, trains were major contributors to the growth of Guelph -- and Canada, said Bruce Lowe, a key volunteer with the Guelph Historical Railway Association Inc. The organization brought out it's 1941 caboose for the event. The group is restoring the caboose with its original-style tongue and groove exterior siding, as well as the addition of a pot-bellied stove for inside the car. The caboose will also have original style lettering repainted as part of the restoration.
MP Frank Valeriote  right  talks with Bruce Lowe (orange vest).
MP Frank Valeriote, right, talks with Bruce Lowe (orange vest).
Lowe said the body of the caboose was made all of wood, and it was the place where the train conductor and other staff could call home while travelling. The caboose provided a place to sleep, eat and keep warm, and was the conductor's office. The conductor, Lowe said, was the person who really ran the train. The organization has a 1950 baggage car it is hoping to restore and bring out for people to experience in the future. Lowe said the group hoped to one day establish a small museum dedicated to the railway.
A tyke s face at the window of the Guelph Junction Express.  The train provided rides throughout the...
A tyke's face at the window of the Guelph Junction Express. The train provided rides throughout the afternoon for people willing to pay a small fee.
When asked why trains were important, Lowe said "Railways were, and still are, a part of our economy and our heritage." He added that many Canadians have family members who used to work for one of Canada's three railroads: the Grand Trunk, the Canadian Pacific or the Canadian National, driving home the point that railroads were an integral part of the Canadian economy.
But there is more to Canada's railroad history that that Lowe said. "Trains provide a sense of community. Rural Canadian life really began at the station," Lowe said. "Really, truly our heritage."
Activities during the afternoon included a brief lecture given by Dr. Stelter titled "What is special about Guelph's plan?" Stelter revealed that while Guelph was one of John Galt's crowning achievements, Galt was fired for spending too much money on creating Guelph.
A model of The Priory  John Galt s home in Guelph.  Also in the picture is a sketch of the bust of J...
A model of The Priory, John Galt's home in Guelph. Also in the picture is a sketch of the bust of John Galt, which is located in front of Guelph's City Hall.
The Guelph Museum provided old-time activities for families.
Old fashioned activities were provided for the amusement of young and old by the Guelph Museum.
Old fashioned activities were provided for the amusement of young and old by the Guelph Museum.
Other activities provided for the young set included colouring and face painting and musical entertainment. The very popular Guelph Junction Express sold tickets for train rides.
Brian and Friends entertained the small set with favourite songs like the Hokey Pokey.  The stone wa...
Brian and Friends entertained the small set with favourite songs like the Hokey Pokey. The stone wall in the background is a restored wall from the Speed River Skating Rink, which burned down in a fire.
Music for young and old was provided, and the highlight of the afternoon was a game called "canoe hockey," a version of "canoe polo." Played by all ages, the vigorous game saw two canoes overturn during the game. While it was difficult to see the game, the event was very popular. Spectators cheered along with the players, who were loving the game, although there were times when players were confused as to who was on which team.
The game faces of some of the participants in Guelph s Canoe Hockey game.
The game faces of some of the participants in Guelph's Canoe Hockey game.
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