© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
When your dad is the premier you have to look your best when going to his New Year's levee so big snow boots must come off your feet and nice shoes go on. Julia, left, and Emma Ghiz get some help from their grandfather, Irwin Ellis, before they go into the levee at Confederation Centre of the Arts Wednesday.
Bitterly cold weather may have discouraged some people from venturing out Wednesday but for thousands of Islanders the time honored tradition of attending New Year's levees would not be forsaken for the sake of a falling thermometer.
"I'm a Canadian," said John Campbell, of Charlottetown. "It would take more than a little ice on my upper lip and cold feet to keep me from starting the year off right by greeting friends and associates at Fanningbank or City Hall."
A steady stream of people flowed through levees at both Fanningbank and City Hall, two of New Year’s Day’s biggest levees, to shake hands with Lt. Gov. Frank Lewis, Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee and members of city council.
Even the first levee of the day at Timothy's at 9:30 a.m. drew a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of levee regulars, drawn by the lure of piping hot coffee and a taste of Campbell Webster's fortifying magic elixir.
And there was no shortage of people at Premier Robert Ghiz’s levee at Confederation Centre, where the premier, his wife, Dr. Kate Ellis Ghiz, and a number of Liberal cabinet ministers, exchanged New Year’s greetings with hundreds of Islanders.
But a drop in numbers from previous years was evident at some stops along the route.
Some attributed the decrease to the cold weather, while others suggested a lack of parking played a role.
Still the numbers were respectable and those who ventured out were in good spirits, ready to embrace the new year with open arms and high hopes for what has the potential to be a very big year for P.E.I.
Many an outstretched hand was greeted by a hearty handshake and good wishes for the new year before the day came to an end with the last levee of the day at the Charlottetown Fire Hall.
Along the way there was a hearty bowl of punch to sample, a glass of sherry or a tumbler of “ moose milk” with which to toast the new year.
And to keep body and soul together there was a steady stream of sandwiches, sweets, chowder and assorted hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, all which helped fortify people against the cold as they traveled from levee to levee.
Water Street Fish & Chips, one of the busiest of the smaller levees, invited patrons to sit for a spell and relax while they dined on free fish and chips.
In Stratford revelers were treated to a multi-cultural buffet and music from the Orient.
Charlottetown’s City Hall offered those on the levee trail a number of tasty treats.
Those hearty souls who follow the levee schedule from start to finish put in a long day.
In Charlottetown alone there were more than a dozen levees Wednesday.
Most were old and well established events, but there were also some new levees on this year’s route.
The Caledonia Club held its first-ever levee at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel.
Trinity United Church also held a levee this year.
Some attend virtually every levee on the list, traveling in some cases by charter buses that pick them up and drop them off at specific times.
Some attend just a few of the more traditional levees, the lieutenant governor’s levee, the mayor’s levee, the P.E.I. Regiment levee, the bishop’s levee and the premier’s levee.
"You try to do them all but sometimes you run out of steam, " said Max MacLean.
One levee regular encountered en route said he wished the good will so freely dispensed on New Year’s Day could be spread throughout the year.