Time to party as province celebrates ‘150’

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This evening’s countdown to new year launches sesquicentennial anniversary

Happy New Year

As it did 50 years ago, Prince Edward Island is facing what should be a most interesting year and one that could be counted among the most important in its history.

For the past two weeks or so, excerpts from The Guardian and Evening Patriot editorials of 50 years ago have been reprinted to show this generation what was the level of interest, or lack of, as the province prepared for its Centennial Year. Scanning through the news pages revealed there was not a lot of advance coverage until almost the final couple of weeks before the start of 1964.

The big news 50 years ago was the construction of the Fathers of Confederation Memorial Building. Everything else paled in comparison.

The buildup and the events planned for 2014 are exciting and encompass the entire province, thanks to the efforts of P.E.I. 2014 Inc. As in 1963, it took some time to get the citizens involved and excited. That should all be forgotten this evening as a gala sesquicentennial kickoff is planned in front of Province House, and a big party follows at the new P.E.I. Convention Centre with Johnny Reid headlining. And the New Year’s Day levees no doubt will have a special theme as this province begins a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada.

The nation will celebrate in a big way in three years time for its own 150th birthday bash, so this coming year will be a trial run in some ways as P.E.I. will start the party towards 2017.

There are some Islanders who think that 2015 will be just as important a year in P.E.I.’s history. That will mark the 250th anniversary of Samuel Johannes Holland’s historic survey of P.E.I., its division into 67 townships or lots to be disbursed by the Board of Trade and Plantations in London and awarded by lottery to a variety of British politicians and military men. A number of absentee landowners had little interest in the colony and it took years before the land question was settled. But other landowners arrived here with boatloads of settlers from Britain who played a critical role in the province’s history.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Holland was born in the Dutch town of Nijmegen. That town has become well known in Canada, not because of Samuel Holland, but because of the Nijmegen Marches which represent the world’s largest walking event. More than 45,000 marchers from more than 50 nations, as well as more than a million spectators, participated in 2013. Some Islanders were also involved this year.

Mr. Holland used P.E.I. as a tune-up before surveying other British lands in the American colonies but that came to a sudden end with the looming American Revolution and the defeat of the British.

As P.E.I. prepares for its 150th anniversary party, the province faces many challenges. But those will temporarily be pushed towards the background as we prepare to welcome the rest of the country and the world to our party. There is sure to be a royal visit, with Prince Charles and Lady Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, as possible options.

The city will be busy in 2014 with dozens of major conferences, meetings and sport tournaments, with a big concert in August yet to be confirmed. Governor General David Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are expected to visit as well. Can an NHL exhibition game be a possibility . . . maybe the Maple Leafs and Canadiens?

Let the party begin!

Organizations: Province House, P.E.I. Convention Centre, Dominion Board of Trade and Plantations NHL Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, P.E.I., Charlottetown London Britain Nijmegen Canada

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  • intobed
    January 02, 2014 - 00:03

    I wonder what the average annual income was fifty years ago, the cost of living, or the unemployment rate, the tax rate, or even the provincial debt? Spending millions this year on a party is foolish.