It is a sort of homecoming for Remembrance Day when Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre hosts scaled-back Remembrance Day celebrations to be live-streamed.
It was almost a century ago that the Memorial Park Society (then called the Sidney and North Saanich War Memorial Park Society) first formed in 1921 to assume title of a 12-acre parcel of land that the Sidney Athletic Association and Sidney Women’s Auxiliary had previously acquired for athletic and recreational purposes. A year later, the War Memorial Park named in memory of soldiers who had fallen the First World War opened. Two years after that, the land located at Beacon Avenue and Oakland Avenue became the site of a memorial cenotaph.
A second, larger cenotaph appeared in the northwest corner of the land in 1932 before its move to the current location in front of municipal hall in 1969 after the provincial government had expropriated it for highway construction.
The land on which the Mary Winspear Centre now sits is deeply rooted in the history of Remembrance Day – a connection that has continued into the present with the centre serving as the starting point for the traditional parade down Beacon Avenue.
“So from our perspective, it’s always have been very important for the Memorial Park Society to be involved with Remembrance Day,” said Brad Edgett, the society’s executive director. “This was our way of saying, ‘How can we still be involved and give back to all of our fallen soldiers of (the First World War), (Second World War), of the Korean War, and all of our veterans, and still provide a service where everybody can participate.”
Public health regulations have grounded the parade. Also missing from this year’s ceremony is a public wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph. Local dignitaries will lay their respective wreaths earlier that day. A trio of local Legion members will also lay wreaths.
This year’s indoor ceremony will actually start outdoors with a small parade, featuring a colour guard flanked by two army vehicles, from Sidney’s nearby firehall to the centre, where the ceremony will feature familiar outdoor elements, including the roll call, two minutes of silence and the Last Post. Michael Kaeshammer on piano and singer Rachel Moss supply the musical accompaniment during the ceremony, with a veterans’ audience consisting of surviving Second World Wars in the area. A flyover will follow.
Organizers hope residents will tune in to the live-stream of the event and find ways to mark the occasion in their own way.
Kenny Podmore of the Royal Canadian Legion Saanich Peninsula Branch #37 encourages residents to stand outside their homes starting at about 10:58 to do their own two minutes of silence. He also hopes that parents will encourage their children to make poppies for display in windows, while also educating them about the larger significance of Remembrance Day.
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