WINDSOR: CITY OF WOODEN SHIPS AND IRON MEN
It was a happy coincidence.
A long-anticipated visit to my old stomping grounds – Windsor, Ontario, where I worked as a photographer and photo editor for 22 years – coincided with a weekend of celebration, commemorating the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.
The Sails to See Festival featured tours of several Tall Ships, replica sailing ships docked in Windsor and in the nearby towns of Kingsville and Amherstburg and on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
This marine history buff, who loved nothing better than to dive on the shipwrecks in the Pelee Passage, was in heaven.
The ships fought in a reenactment of the Battle of Lake Erie just a few days before the 200th anniversary of the battle. U.S. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry announced his victory on the waters of Lake Erie with the now-famous dispatch, “We have met the enemy and they are ours”.
Free concerts were presented, parades were held, fireworks exploded in the night sky and an original musical about the war was staged.
The musical, Spirit of a Nation was a delight. The lovingly-restored Capitol Theater was filled with excited moms and dads, grandparents and siblings. Reformed bad-boy fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, played haunting solos to start each act. The performers, mostly high school and university students sang and danced and acted with passion and precision. The music and lyrics were moving and story-telling. The show deserves a national tour.
Our history, so often ignored or panned as uninteresting, was celebrated with passion.
The War, which didn’t end until 1815, was a key step in the process that led to the establishment of the 49th parallel as the border between the expansionist-minded United States and the British Colonies that were to become Canada. At the time, the prairies and mountains of what is now western Canada were largely unexplored and uninhabited by Europeans.
After decades of job losses and factory closings, this hard-luck auto city across the river from now-bankrupt Detroit, is bouncing back.
Bravo Windsor. Keep up the good work.