Throughout the year, there are many dedicated community groups that work to remember, preserve and celebrate the shared history of our city. Each February marks Heritage Month in Burlington and, to kick things off, over 20 groups converge annually to present a joint Heritage Fair for residents to enjoy. This special day, hosted by the Central Library, features a number of insightful demonstrations and presentations that highlight the history that has shaped our city.
As soon as we walked through the front doors into Centennial Hall, our Heritage Fair adventure started with a flair as a period surgeon regaled us with tales of the medical profession in the early 19th century. He demonstrated how leeches were used to drain inflamed wound areas because they can suck in up to 10
times their own body weight in blood until they become engorged and fall off!
The Heritage Fair is a trade show of sorts. Each group hosts a booth showcasing their work while educating and entertaining visitors.
I enjoyed how the booths seemed to be arranged in a somewhat eclectic way. Right next to the wartime surgeon was the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Burlington who call the Burlington Art Centre home. This Guild is a “dynamic community of local fibre enthusiasts who work, play, and create with fibre to make beautiful things.”
The volunteer here took the time (and patience) to show Jr Burlington how a miniature loom works. He was quite proud of the small section of fabric he was able to weave by himself.
The surgeon and the soldier (below) were just the first of many costumed characters we’d meet this day. It was fun to see so many volunteers dressed up in period clothing seeking to make the day memorable. Even the library staff working the checkout desk were in the spirit and sporting their finest heritage wear.
Kids were invited to play dress-up too as part of an interactive display where they could try on militia costumes and perform some military drills.
A craft area allowed for the creation of a “stovepipe” shako with plume to replicate the regulation headgear of an 1812 era British soldier. Another craft re-created the silver gorget (a piece of armour for the throat) presented to Burlington founding father, Joseph Brant, by King George III.
Further down the way, we came across the Friends of Freeman Station. This group is the epitome of determination as evidenced by their dogged
pursuit of saving Burlington’s 1906 heritage railway station for future generations to enjoy.
By talking to the gentlemen representing this group, I discovered more about their challenges and successes to-date and learned that the station will finally be restored and moved to its new home later this year. Funds are still being raised for the move so our family chipped in $20 to help move the station the distance of one railway tie!
While Jr Burlington paused to do a craft with the Museums of Burlington, I paged through books chock full of local vintage photos at the North Shore Publishing table. We chit chatted with a number of other groups as we made our way to the exit.
On the way out, I made one last stop to hear about efforts to restore and open the 1850s Beach Canal lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling. This important initiative would help preserve the two oldest heritage structures remaining on Hamilton Beach.
I left the library impressed by the breadth of this event and inspired to continue publishing bits and bites of our heritage on Facebook in an easy-to-digest daily format.