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2013 Conference Summary: ‘Meet Us at the Head of Lake Ontario’

by Ruth Nicholson UE – Conference Chair

We invited friends and members from across Canada to join us at this year’s Dominion Conference from May 30-June 2nd in the Hamilton/Burlington area. Our Conference Committee worked on this event for over three years and it showed! We were supported by a wonderful team of volunteers and even back-up volunteers. Everything went smoothly for the 155 who attended.

To encourage feedback we decided that an on-line survey would give us some data to look at and determine areas needing change for future conferences. The survey came back with strong support in all areas. Suggestions for improvement will be shared with future conferences.

Due to our fundraising baskets over the past three years and donations to our conference, we covered all of the expenses and were able to donate $1 000.00 to the Toronto Branch for their conference next year. We have just under a $5 000. 00 surplus with which we plan to purchase a new screen and our own branch data projector for our meetings.

All our choices were good from the menus, to the musicians and the speakers. The opening evening was especially significant since the Dominion fundraising for the Four Directions Project was presented to Janis Monture, director of Woodland Cultural Centre, for youth education. Elder Don Monture spoke to those assembled and shared his gratitude for our support as a Loyalist organization and friends with the First Nations. Fred Hayward UE presented a specially designed wampum belt, made on Manitoulin Island to Don Monture, recognizing our long established friendship and respect for one another. Joseph Brant descendant David Hill Morrisson UE gave an opening address for our conference and Honourary Dominion Vice President Zig Misiak spoke about the Battle of Stoney Creek and the Aboriginal warriors who supported the British and militia at this battle. All of these components came together to form a very meaningful opening for our Dominion conference.

All of the day trips and lunches went well. Ravine Winery even gave us free wine tasting, when in Niagara. The speakers were outstanding. Those attending wished everyone could have heard the Friday speakers, Doug Adams (furs then and now) and Jim Taggart (early medicine). The two groups who visited Battlefield Park, Stoney Creek, enjoyed Native dancing, the Stewart Memorial choir and a British drum corp as well as a period clothing fashion show by Westfield Village.

Saturday’s AGM dealt with the new federal guidelines for not for profit groups. A Toronto lawyer had been going through our constitution carefully and had made recommendations where changes were necessary, particularly in the membership category. President Robert McBride handed over his chain of office to incoming Dominion President Bonnie Schepers, who followed tradition with an inaugural address at the gala banquet.

The entertainment at both the Burlington Golf and Country Club (Tamarack) and the Holiday Inn Gala (Cottonwood Brass) were exceptional. Those attending told me that both nights were like attending concerts. Nathan Tidridge, Saturday’s keynote speaker was spectacular. He introduced us to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and father of Queen Victoria. Edward was a fascinating royal figure, who led a very interesting life in Gibraltar and in Canada. Many places are named for him, such as Prince Edward Island, Kent Gate in Quebec City, Kentville, King’s County, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Prince Edward Square, St. John, New Brunswick and Kent College that eventually became the University of P.E.I. This was a fascinating topic. Afterward, Nathan signed copies of his most recent book, Prince Edward Duke of Kent, Father of the Canadian Crown.

The Sunday Service at Christ’s Church Anglican Cathedral was awe inspiring. To enter into the vast space and see all the wooden architectural carving and detailed stained glass windows is quite something to behold! The service was excellent. A specially catered lunch was ready after the service and all remarked on the quality of the food that was prepared for all of us. It was the crowning event for this year’s conference and it left everyone with a very positive experience.

I’d like to thank all members of the Conference Committee once again and most especially our registrar Gloria Howard who kept everything organized, clear and always upbeat. She was at all the registration tables for all the events and had printed out name cards for every single attendee. I’d also like to salute Fred Hayward, whose vast experience was drawn upon time and time again for protocol issues and all the details. Fred was the MC at both dinners and as a retired art teacher his eye for aesthetics is beyond compare. Take note of the newly designed vertical banner, the glass display cases showing our history as an organization and as a branch, the menu cards at both dinners and the silver enveloped 1812 coin collector gifts at the gala. Fred arranged for the special letters for the front of the binder, from Rick Goldring, Mayor of Burlington, Mike Wallace M.P. and David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

John and Michele Lewis brought in the perfectly coordinated gift baskets for our welcome room. Though they had a family wedding to attend on Saturday, they welcomed people to our Social room Friday evening, helped with registration, getting bottles of water for the trips and encouraging anyone passing by to come in and see our display and sale room. John developed the electronic survey that was sent out to our attendees and he kept us abreast of incoming results.

Colin Morley developed the Niagara experience and saw that it happened. He also thanked one of our speakers. Doug and Sharon Coppins supported Colin during the all day trip to Niagara and they made sure that people weren’t left behind whether on the Friday trip or on the way to dinner at the Burlington Golf and Country Club. Doug thanked the Friday musicians. Bev and Bob Corsini were there to help with anything and everything from bag stuffing and set-up to welcoming those wishing an extended social time in our welcome room Thursday evening. Bev’s red coat apron was a real hit, as she dressed the part to serve anyone who stopped by the Pearson Room.

Jean Rae Baxter was the narrator on the microphone during the Niagara trip. She had just returned the day prior from a trip to Israel to promote one of her books and yet she stepped right into action. Jean thanked our Saturday musicians. Jean made the arrangements at the cathedral, from the readers to the hymns and the catered food. Pat Blackburn designed the Local Tour; it was full of interest and went smoothly. Pat also thanked one of our speakers and arranged for the stuffing of the bags and the organization for the binders. Marilyn Hardsand accompanied Pat on the local tour and had the cell phone contacts if anything was needed. Marilyn made sure no one was left behind during the tour and also from the hotel to the off-site dinner.

Martha Hemphill helped here and there continually. Her extra data projector was always available, at the front, if an extra projector was needed as was the case on Saturday evening. Martha introduced and thanked our Friday speakers and gave announcements on Thursday. Catharine Gonnsen was in the midst of an expanded business work load and an addition to her home yet she arranged for the floral centerpieces that were at the gala dinner. In all fairness I must thank Catharine’s sister, Rhonda Donn who took on the design and delivery of these wonderful red, white and blue arrangements. New member to our team, David Woodward, recently retired from his second career, volunteered in many areas, arranged to have our brochures printed by the Tim Horton’s Company, thanked our keynote speaker on Saturday and had his camera at the ready to record photos at all our events.

These are simply the core committee members. Many more people pitched in to give of their time and talents to make Hamilton Branch’s conference a great success. Thank-you to all.

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