By: Ewa Chwojko-Srawley
Our American friends did not invent Thanksgiving; it began in Canada!
In 1578 Sir Martin Frobisher, an English explorer, celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Newfoundland. The Georgina Historical Society has been keeping the tradition alive for over forty years at the Georgina Pioneer Village with their Harvest Festival.
On September 14–the day of the Harvest Moon–visitors were transported back in time to a period when there were no cars, no electricity, and no municipal water.
There were ladies in bonnets serving cider, gents in suspenders fixing farm tools, and all of them delighted us with stories about olden days.
Hessel Pape greeted guests at the Smallwood cabin, and he revealed that he actually lived in that building as a child in the early 1950s! He remembers that his parents paid $25 a month in rent. The cabin was constructed in 1875, and Mr. Pape recalls that some 80 years later life there was not that much different than the life of the early settlers – no electricity, no running water.
Each building at the Pioneer Village tells a story. Drop by the old Post Office house and learn all about spinning from Mary Pape. Open the church door and murmur along with the Voices of Georgina Choir, or come to the General store and grab some home-made candies!
Local musicians entertained guests at several locations, and Georgina artists presented their artworks. Sabrina Chianelli, a recent art college graduate who creates beautiful handmade jewelry, took part in the Pioneer Village Harvest Festival for the second time. She said it was her favourite community event, with hundreds of happy visitors savouring the small-town atmosphere.
Even the youngsters immersed themselves in the old ways! They put away their electronics and indulged in good old-fashioned outdoor games of kick-the-can or roll-your-hoop. The young-at-heart could not resist, either!
Jackie Diasio, one of the societies directors and a Georgina enthusiast, says that these annual September festivities bring the whole community together, and remind the younger generation about our history in a lively way, through games and stories.
Over fifty volunteers dressed in period costumes make the Pioneer Village come alive! Mrs. Diasio stresses that the entertainers are also volunteers, and all vendors make a small donation to be there and sell their wares.
If you missed it–well, harvest time comes around every year, and the Georgina Pioneer Village will be waiting for you next time!
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