We are not sure how many people joined us for Fall Fair 2018. We outgrew the dining hall and had to move the alumni dinner outside, and even at that we had a waitlist. Our food service provider told me he made 1300 chicken breasts and had 50 left – only at Lakefield would we use chicken as our metric. Everyone said it was going to be the largest ever Fall Fair, and it was. But not just because of the number of people.
On Saturday, we gathered to officially open our waterfront. We wanted to do something special to celebrate and so we decided – why not throw a party? We had the usual bake sales and raffles, with alumni from every decade, starting with the 40’s. We also had children everywhere with bouncy castles, an art fair, and flags. Our cake was a canoe with cupcake waves – it’s so amazing that I am including a photo below – and one unexpected outcome is that kids cried as they had to wait until after the official ceremony to dig in. It was a party all right.
And then we gathered at the waterfront and the magic continued. One of our students, Claire Campbell, worked with one of our teachers, Hugh Dobson, along with a whole crew of others, to organize a Paddle Extravaganza. Over 80 paddlers canoed 10km of the Trent Severn Waterway – through four lift-locks – in support of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Before arriving at our dock, they rigged up 41 flags, representing the 40 countries we have at the school, plus one from Curve Lake. When they got within sight, hundreds of people gathered on our dock. It was powerful and more than one person had tears in their eyes. For me, I was full of anxiety about the wind and keeping to our program, but I just had to stop and enjoy the moment. I relive that feeling every time I hear a story about their paddling experience – when the Turkish brothers made sure that they paddled with their flag; when the group yelled to slow down the American paddlers as they didn’t like the optics of them in the lead; when a staff member described the pride of paddling the canoe that belongs to her grandparents; and when the string quartet and the trumpeters surprised the paddlers by serenading them at the locks. It was powerful.
And there was more.
Our waterfront is on the shores of Lake Kathchewanooka, and Katchewanooka is an Ojibway word, which directly connects us with our indigenous peoples, who also paddled our lake. We enjoyed the music of Unity, an a cappella women’s group who perform their own work as well as traditional Indigenous music and began our ceremony with an Anishinaabe elder who acknowledged the land with a blessing and prayer.
Our students performed – we are one of the first schools in Canada to produce Mamma Mia! and we got a sneak peek preview of that show, with our dock as our stage. And we wrapped up the ceremony with a good Canadian song – everyone joined in the singing with our Rock Choir of ‘Ahead by a Century’.
It was a deeply meaningful and symbolic day.
Our new waterfront captures the best of the past – with our iconic boathouse looking spiffier than ever – with the best of the future – with our new dock reaching out into Lake Katchawanooka. Katchewanooka means lake of many rapids, and typically, rapids are sections of a river where the water moves quickly. It is the constant flow that ensures nourishment to the environment. We are inspired by the idea that our lake is a symbol of change. We began our official opening with our oldest alum – our past – paddling alongside our youngest student – our future.
This year, as we launch our strategic plan, we are working on our current – to maintain a balance of honouring our past and our traditions, but always moving forward with strengthening our strengths, and a genuine openness to always being better.
We know that we want our students to care, connect, and contribute. We want our students to be known as leaders who demonstrate a responsibility to the environment. We want our students to be known for their passion, particularly for their community. When a school like Lakefield, that has been thriving for 139 years, considers its future, the question is not just what needs to change. The question is also what must we preserve.
We have a saying around here – That’s so Lakefield – and there were many moments on Saturday when that was the case. I am grateful that our new waterfront provided us with the chance to celebrate and be reminded of the power of our environment and the strength of our community.