by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript & Free Press, Hayter-Walden Publications
Brainstorming is underway and a battle plan is being drawn up to host a large celebration to mark the Battle of Longwoods bi-centennial in 2014.
Over 20 people, including members of the Upper Thames Military Re-enactment Society (UTMRS), attended a meeting at the Wardsville Masonic Hall on Monday evening, May 13.
The bi-centennial event is to be held on the weekend of March 7 to 9, 2014 with re-enactors beginning to arrive on Friday, March 7. Billets will host guests and a social event will be held at Crocodile Productions, the old Memorial Hall that evening. A breakfast will be hosted the next day as well.
Longwoods Rd. will be closed for several hours on Saturday, March 8 with traffic re-routed around the block from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This six hour window will allow for on site activities which are to start at noon with the traditional memorial service followed by the unveiling of a memorial plaque. Short formalities are to precede a re-enactment of the battle on the actual battle site, rather than the Longwoods Road Conservation Area where re-enactments have been conducted for over 20 years.
A reception will be held in a tent although the event will be going ahead no matter the weather.
This will no doubt be one of the largest events held in the municipality with the Governor General having been invited. Such re-enactment events draw huge crowds with the celebration at Queenston Heights drawing 1,000 Red Coats.
Mary Simpson says that concerns were voiced about the uncertainty of the size of the crowd and funding, although there is a partial budget provided by the federal government. It is hoped that some local groups will take on certain aspects of the event.
Co-ordination and organization of local community hosts is being considered with the exact number of those attending unknown. Simpson says that one of the big questions is whether the event should focus on re-enactors and guests versus being an event to draw onlookers.
Activities that the local community needs to support are the billets, meals, music and entertainment and ancillary events such as a possible driving tour.
With the highway to be closed between Old Airport and Pratt Siding Rds., attendees will be able to angle park along the roadside with the road closure controlled by the OPP, providing access for emergency vehicles.
Ownership of the battle site is in the process of being transferred from the County of Middlesex to the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex for the establishment of a municipal park adjacent to the National Parks’ cairn. Various improvements are being made at the site and a large sign is to be erected to explain the significance of the battle, including the names of the soldiers who died there.
Another planning meeting will be held on June 24 at 7:00 p.m., again at the Wardsville Community Masonic Hall.