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Report on Conference 2002.

Grand River Branch hosted "Conference 2002" which was held in Waterloo, Ontario from June 6 to June 9, 2002. The site selected for the event was the Waterloo Inn with all of the amenities required for such a gathering. The Conference Committee members were as follows: Jim Sweet, Claire Machan, Glen Machan, Betsy Eydt, Marilyn Haslinger, Dora Mae Blayney, Fred Blayney, Doris Lemon, Laurie Branch and Marilyn Branch. President Robert McCarey joined the group from time to time as well.

The committee was on hand by nine o'clock on the morning of Thursday, June 6 to attend to last minute preparations and to welcome early arrivals. It had been necessary to have two rooms reserved for the number of displays along with registration and hospitality tables. Committee members staffed these last two areas where registrants were given gift bags of mementos relating to the area, and the opportunity to purchase tickets for a draw to take place later in the conference. First prize would be a numbered print of a painting by Peter Etril Snyder, donated by Dora Mae Blayney. One hundred and twenty-three people registered for the full conference with the numbers swelling to over one hundred and sixty for Saturday evening.

The hospitality suite proved to be a popular place for informal chat and refreshments for conference registrants each afternoon. It also functioned as the gathering area for dignitaries and other guests for a social time before the evening activities. A wonderful array of home baking was provided by members of the Grand River Branch and these along with a cup of tea or coffee were served by the conference hosts.

Meetings of the Genealogy and Education/Outreach Committees as well as "Project 2014" ran during that afternoon.

The official start to the conference was Thursday evening when Grand River Branch President, Robert McCarey, expressed his welcome. Local politicians also added their words of support to the conference and relayed their pleasure in having the delegates present in the Kitchener/Waterloo area.

The guest speaker for the evening, Sgt. Mjr. David Moore UE, was introduced by Fred Hayward. His uniform was that of the King's Royal Yorkers and his presentation of why the Loyalists left America to come to Canada was very well received. He painted a vivid picture of history, using a good amount of humour to illustrate his facts and thus set the scene for the next few days of learning. Elizabeth Richardson thanked Mr. Moore on behalf of all.

The Master of Ceremonies extended a hearty welcome to everyone, on behalf of the Manitoba Branch, for next year's conference in Winnipeg. He also mentioned that early promotion of this event appeared in the last issue of The Gazette.

A reception followed with the opportunity to mingle and renew acquaintances.

Friday morning dawned sunny and warm and the Long Point Settlement bus tour was soon on the road. Two buses left the parking lot at 8:15 a.m. with homemade muffins and juice boxes for the passengers to enjoy as they travelled along. The buses covered the same routes but in reverse of each other in order to accommodate the stops along the way. The first stop for bus #1 was historic Backus Mill where a Loyalist flag and a plaque were presented by Bill Terry, Dominion President. The second stop was at Port Ryerse Anglican Church where a wreath was laid on the tombstone of Loyalist Capt. Samuel Ryerse of the Fourth Battalion New Jersey Volunteers. Three descendents of the Ryerse family were present -- Donna Smith, Robert Ryerse and David Avery. (The second bus carried another descendent, Philip E. M. Leith, who also laid a wreath on his ancestor's grave.)

The route continued through tobacco and ginseng farmlands, Lake Erie shoreline, and other areas of Loyalist settlement and War of 1812 history. Turkey Point (formerly the Town of Charlottesville) and the Town of Vittoria, first capital of the district, were on the route. Next stop was the Eva Brook Donly Museum in Simcoe where buses #1 and #2 met. The unique sounds of Allen Givens' musical saw and Willard Challand's piano accompaniment greeted everyone upon entering. Tours of the museum, the archives and the Loyalist library were next on the agenda and then lunch prepared and served by members of the Norfolk Historical Society (N.H.S.). Greetings were extended by local dignitaries as well as N.H.S. President, Karen Culver and Museum Curator, Bill Yeager. The permanent Loyalist display was of particular interest to conference delegates. This was a project of the Grand River Branch along with the N.H.S. and the Federal Government.

Buses were again loaded and departed in the two different directions with Bus #2 now proceeding on the tour described earlier toward Backus Mill. Bus #1 continued through the towns and villages of Simcoe, Waterford, Mount Pleasant and to Brantford where their next stop was the Royal Chapel of the Mohawks. Nina Burnham, Chairman of the Chapel Committee and Marion Hill, Curator, welcomed everyone and guided the tour through the building and grounds. (Bus #2 had stopped there earlier and a wreath was placed at the grave of Chief Joseph Brant by Vice-President, Myrna M. Fox. Prayer was said by Rev. Jim Files, Chaplain of Grand River Branch.) The tour resumed and followed the Grand River through Paris, Glen Morris, the City of Cambridge and back to Waterloo. Both buses arrived at the same time as planned in order for participants to refresh before the evening.

While all of these activities had been happening, another group spent the day in a different part of the area. Following a morning seminar on Waterloo Mennonite settlements by Susan Burke, curator of Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener, they travelled to the Haus for a tour of this National Historic Site. Lunch under the trees was thoroughly enjoyed and then back on the bus for a ride through Waterloo County. They toured past Mennonite farms, schoolhouses, meeting places and through the villages of Wallenstein, Floradale, Yatton and Elora. A stop at the famous "Kissing Bridge" in West Montrose was one of the highlights of the afternoon. This is the last covered bridge in Ontario. After a brief exploration, the tour resumed, returning to Waterloo Inn by late afternoon.

On Friday evening, the doors opened to the sights and sounds of "Oktoberfest". Banners decorations, lederhosen, dirndles and "oompah, pah" music were featured to provide us with the experience of that international festival for which Kitchener/Waterloo is renowned. Several members of the local Oktoberfest Committee led us through the ritual of "tapping the keg" and the distribution of its contents! The honours went to Bill Terry and George Anderson for following instructions to accomplish this feat! We were then entertained by dancers from the Concordia Club, one of the local German clubs. Children and adults performed and at one point members of the audience were encouraged to join the group. John Warburton was one of these stars and did a great knee slap!

During and after a sumptuous buffet of traditional Oktoberfest food, the entertainment continued with Florence Hansen, her daughter and granddaughter. This widely acclaimed professional act, with many credits and honours to their name, featured violin, accordion, alpine bells, singing and yodelling, with much audience participation. Fritz Reeves, Shirley Dargatz, George Anderson, Elizabeth Richardson and Rod Craig donned make-believe dirndles and lederhosen to form a marching band and then a bell-ringing ensemble much to the enjoyment of the audience. This lively evening concluded with the singing of the "Maple Leaf Forever."

Saturday morning saw the opening of the Annual Meeting. The Colours were presented by Noreen Stapely UE and Robert McCarey UE. Lunch was served at noon and the meeting concluded at approximately 3:30p.m. This was followed by the Dominion Council meeting chaired by new President, Myrna Fox. Guests assembled in the Regent Room at 6 p.m. for the reception and banquet festivities.

A Costume Parade with Piper Finlay McLennan was led by a family of 4 generations of Loyalists, all members of Grand River Branch. Doris Wilson, daughter Marilyn Branch, granddaughter Becky Leclerc and great-granddaughter Culver Leclerc joined hands as they proceeded around the room. They were followed by many other members in splendid period dress. The Head Table was then piped to their places and the piper was "paid" with a measure of scotch brought forward on a silver tray by a "serving wench". The Colours were then presented by Beverly Craig, Fritz Reeves and David Ellsworth. The Royal Anthem was sung followed by the Loyal Toast, proposed by Edward Scott and the Ancestral Toast, proposed by Doris Lemon. The conference Honorary Chaplain, Rev. Richard Hawley, said Grace.

Master of Ceremonies, Laurie Branch, explained the tributes to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at this "Jubilee Banquet". Jubilee flags and pins were at each place and portraits of Her Majesty were given to each person at the end of the evening. The Union Jack was included in the Colours presented.

Bernice Flett introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Ian Wilson, National Archivist, who told us of wonderful new ways to access information from the Archives and how technology is making this such an exciting experience. He also told of fascinating articles and artifacts which are housed in the collection and which are of great importance to our research. Excerpts from Dr. Wilson's speech are printed separately.

In her remarks to the assembly new UELAC President, Myrna Fox, spoke of her hopes for the next two years.

Following Myrna, several presentations were made. Bill Terry presented a framed crest of the Armorial Bearing to Bernice Flett in recognition of her work on behalf of the Association, Robert McCarey presented a Loyalist flag to Elizabeth Richardson for next year's host, the Manitoba Branch, and Doris Lemon presented Bill Terry with his Past President's Jewel. A personal moment was included when Carol Terry presented a Loyalist flag to her husband, Bill Terry.

The draw for the raffle prizes took place with the following winners: Fourth prize, a collectors copy of the magazine "Royalty" went to Claire Machan, third prize, a sports bag, to Shirley Dargatz, second prize, a gallon of maple syrup, to Becky Leclerc and first prize, the painting by Peter Etril Snyder, was won by Bernice Flett.

The Singing of "O Canada" and the retirement of the Colours ended the evening.

Sunday morning two buses and many cars took members to the Church Service at First United Church in Waterloo. Several parishioners wearing red, white and blue ribbons were on hand to welcome the Loyalists to their Church. The Colours were presented by John Chard, Shirley Dargatz and Robert Wilkins. The service by Rev. Richard Hawley was so appropriate for our members and the music by the choir, trumpeters and organist, Mr. Jan Overduin, was thrilling! It was a wonderful and fitting conclusion to the conference.

A buffet brunch at the Westmount Golf and Country Club provided one more opportunity to say goodbyes before departing to various parts of the country. Conference 2002 had ended as it began with happiness and good cheer.

--Marilyn Branch UE, Conference Chair.
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Author:Branch, Marilyn
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Date:Sep 22, 2002
Previous Article:Some corrections. (Speakers' Corner).
Next Article:The President's address to the AGM, 8 June 2002.

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