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Could Not Have Been Lazy

"My pen almost slipped into the error of saying it was a lazy afternoon in...Brantford a small city in the province of Ontario, Canada. It could not have been a lazy afternoon. There was no indolence of pace about the city and the air was always as brisk as the habits of the people." The Chord of Steel, Thomas B Costain; 1960

The last couple of weeks in Brantford have proven that statement with a mix of what is new to our community and what, over years, has become tradition. I have always found Brantford to be a place of giving, hard-work, and a desire to succeed; we have leaders and citizens who strive to build a community of prosperity, innovation and sustainability. Like most communities, from time to time, we are blown off course by the winds of change that buffet every municipalities, but we always find our vision and set a new course by the stars.

A week ago, downtown Brantford experienced a sight unseen as, on three occasions, people of distinction and education paraded across Victoria Park and through the streets as a prelude to the convocations of Laurier Brantford and Nipissing Brantford. Professors, presidents and politicians joined together with the students and parents who had committed up to 5 years living in our community; living amongst us, contributing to our economy, volunteering and adding to the social and cultural growth of the downtown and the community as a whole.

A notable event within that notable event, was the bestowing of an honorary degree on Fisk Johnson the President of S C Johnson, an institution of industry and community giving in Brantford for generations. Fisk Johnson's grandfather met Mayor Morrison Mann McBride on the train to Toronto and the Mayor was able to talk the elder Johnson off the train and into setting up his company in Brantford. Decades later Fisk stood in Laurier's S C Johnson building (funded with a $1,000,000 donation) and stated that, "Brantford, and Canada, will always have a special place in my heart."

As Fisk Johnson and I had our picture taken together, I could not help but think of the decades that had passed and the evolution of our community toward a new prosperity.

July 1st was the Canada Day Festival at Lion's Park and tens of thousands of people made their way to an event that was designed for every citizen, from every walk of life. The festival started in 1995 with my wife Wendy as chairperson, and with a mandate to provide a Canada Day experience for children, seniors and families that was engaging, and (at that time) free. Starting small at Cockshutt Park, we wanted everyone to feel that they were welcome, and even if you didn't have all the money in the world, you could provide a family experience that would create memories for a lifetime.

The festival has grown from those early years and the current committee deserves praise for providing our community with one of the most successful, patriotic events in all of Ontario. Times have changed and the event has grown, but as the father of two children, along with their friends, I was please how little impact it had on my wallet compared with how much joy they were able to experience...and the fireworks were spectacular.

July 5th is the soft opening of the New Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, and although this column is written the day before the actual opening (I have to have it in Monday morning) I know that the people of Brantford will be elated with what they experience. The number 3 and 4 rinks have been open for a few weeks because we closed the red and blue rinks in the old centre, and camps and games have been played -- and the facility has won rave reviews.

Now the number 1 rink will open, and a program for children and their parents, coaches, conveners, and the citizens at large will be highlighted by the handing over of the keys from the contractor and the first time anyone will skate on the new ice pads. On one of the tours of the new Gretzky Centre I spoke with a man who, as a boy, had played on the first game on the blue rink, and I was struck by what an impact that continued to have on him over the years. We want to provide that experience for young and old alike, to remember being on the ice with Walter Gretzky and being a part of Brantford's history.

Then this week, one of my favourite times of the year comes as we celebrate the 38th International Villages Festival in Brantford. I can remember going to the villages as a boy with my parents and being wowed by the food, culture and entertainment. As a teenager, I joined my friend John Wdowczyk at the Village Polonaise on Pearl Street as an import for the dance team, and had the opportunity to experience the villages from the other side.

It is a pleasure to be able to take my children all these years later to learn and enjoy, and watch as they meet up with their friends who dance in the dance groups or who serve the food -- the connections of communities is what makes the villages a success.

Convocations, Canada Day, first skates and villages as part of the day to day experience of life in Brantford. These events were all within two weeks, and demonstrate a depth of character within our community that should make us proud. We built a university campus, we created a phenomenal event of patriotism, we are opening the best sports complex in the province, and we celebrate our diversity by coming together -- each a remarkable feat, but together, in that short timeframe, is (as my daughter Maddie would say) epic!

Be a Booster, get out and experience your Brantford with your family this summer.

"In later years, as a reporter in my home town, I found it necessary to hustle about my work and it seemed to me then that everyone else was moving with equal energy and purpose.

No, there has never been anything lazy about Brantford..."

The Chord of Steel, Thomas B Costain; 1960