Workshops, talks, performances, open houses, and culinary events, over 20 in all, are planned for this year’s Flashback Feburary, the County Museums’ annual exploration of County history. The festival, now in its seventh season, coincides with Ontario’s Heritage Week, and runs 17-25 February.
As the Curator of the County Museums and festival organizer, Jessica Chase, notes, “history isn’t just about looking back. It’s also recognizing that history is made in the present.” Ms. Chase, whose family can count seven generations here, is a living example of this principle.
The County’s many traditions are represented in events to be held all over the island. Weller’s Bay offers Settlers’ stories; an exhibition about the Quaker tradition launches in Wellington; Base31 connects the County’s military history with a personal drama, a love story in letters; the Macaulay Museum hosts a discussion of an ancient clay vessel discovered at Sandbanks, while dramatic displays of some of the Museums’ roughly 25,000 artefacts are planned. There is even a session about Richard Nixon’s friendship with Mayor H. J. MacFarland.
The events on offer are about the many ways history is written, and the documents that preserve it: tombstones, property records, letters, family genealogies, home movies or oral histories that keep stories going.
Base31 is staging a reading of the love letters exchanged between a soldier in the trenches of Italy to his waiting bride in Toronto in 1944. The letters are read by Robert Horgan, the grandson of the writers, Horgie and Peach Pie, so we know it all works out.
The Marilyn Adams Genealogical Research Centre in Ameliasburgh showcases the writing of imaginative history. It welcomes author Jane Simpson, whose recent book, “Shades of Allegiance,” tells the story of the Giraud (or Gerow) family, which was exiled from France in the 1680s, emigrated to New York, and, within two generations, was exiled again as Loyalists, ultimately making a County connection.
Ms. Simpson will discuss the ways in which genealogical work goes “beyond the gathering of names and dates to breathe life into our ancestors.”
“Genealogy can be a gateway to deeper historical stories,” she added. “Once you’ve got the facts down, you can look for a marvelous story such as I was able to find in my Gerow County relatives.”
Storytelling also features in Indigenous multidisciplinary artist, J.P. Longboat’s “Canoe Stories,” part of a series that collects oral histories.
The first of these events is a sharing circle that seeks out knowledge that is otherwise unrecorded. The research is aimed at creating a work for a commission for the Flight Festival later this year.
Quoting Mr. Longboat, Ms. Chase described the process of the Canoe Talks: “I don’t know what form my performance is going to take yet, but I’m really just interested in what people have to say about this place.” Ms. Chase said participants speak “specifically about their ties to the land and the waters here and just why this place seems to have the magic that it does.”
At once capturing history and making it
The current life of the County, ongoing traditions such as cooking, making wine, and parenting, are also celebrated to mark continuities between the past, the present, and the futures to which they might lead.
A not-to-be-missed tradition-in-the-making is the second annual County Jam, offered by Signature Sponsor the Waring House. Featuring many local musicians, this a reprise of last year’s event, one people are still talking about.
Dates, times and locations for all of Flashback February’s events can be found at the Gazette’s Events page (at pictongazette.ca) and flashbackfebruary.com.