It is Saturday morning and two-year-old Brie Friese is happily munching away on her hearty pancake breakfast at the Callander Community Centre.
Brie is one of 400 people, a larger than expected crowd, to attend the breakfast hosted by the Callander Volunteer Fire Fighters as the kick-off to a full day of activities marking the return of Callander’s FunFest Canada Day Celebrations.
What is normally an annual event was cancelled for the past two years due to COVID protocols.
Based on the turnout for this year’s return event, the community was ready to party.
“It is great especially since these guys haven’t been able to experience much of it, so it is nice to get back out and do things,” said Brie’s mom, Jessica referring to her family enjoying the breakfast.
Callander Mayor Robb Noon said people needed that in-person return to the fun.
“Needed and deserved after the two long years,” Noon added.
“The comments I’ve been getting is that it is so good to be out with the rest of the community. They really missed that opportunity to come together as a community over the past two years, so they are really enjoying having that interaction with each other.”
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli who attended the breakfast also noticed the happy social interactions.
“They added four more tables right in front of us while the breakfast was going on just to accommodate the huge crowd. They stayed longer, chatting, meeting new people, talking about everything except COVID, just talking about their kids, their work and all the fun they’re going to have this summer.”
Event Coordinator Dina Vendetti also heard from people how much they were looking forward to the return of FunFest.
“Lots of people are excited. There were lots of things said about it on social media. We had over one-thousand people who are interested or going on our Facebook event post. So it is good.”
Fire Chief Todd Daley says volunteer firefighters enjoyed the opportunity to be back mingling with the public at an event they traditionally have played a role in for many years.
“I always tell people this is a fun day but to me, it is the start of summer. It is great to get out doing something like this because a lot of times when people see us, it is because we’re involved in some sort of emergency, so it is nice to get out and it is not starting off as a negative experience for somebody. It is just a positive, happy day.”
From pancakes, attention turned to the apple pie contest judged by the firefighters who had the distinct pleasure of being part of taste testing a record number of pies divided into numerous age categories.
Upon entering the Community Centre, people were greeted by walls adorned with 200 hand-drawn pictures submitted by children from pre-kindergarten to grade 8.
The images were based on the theme of Super Heroes and Heroines.
Most of the youngsters drew images based on their favourite comic book characters, while others were inspired to draw people from their own lives or from within the community.
Winners chosen from the different age categories will have their artwork hung in the municipal office.
Late morning people sought out shade from the scorching hot sun, lining Main Street Callander in eager anticipation of the FunFest parade.
This year it was led by a police cruiser followed by fire trucks, Shriners, vintage cars, children riding their decorated bikes, clowns, local politicians and representation from community organizations.
People eagerly reached for the frozen treats handed out by volunteers in a bid to cool down.
While it is a celebration of Canada Day, FunFest is always held in advance of typical July 1st celebrations.
“Because there is so much going on, on Canada Day, and with people away for the long weekend, we like to do it the weekend before so that everyone can enjoy the festivities,” said Vendetti.
Food and Artisan vendors set up booths at Centennial Park along with local clubs such as the vintage motorcycle club and the Lions Club.
Donations were also collected for the local food bank.
Heather Wood, co-owner of Heather’s Fudge was elated to get back to an in-person client-based business.
“It is absolutely fantastic to get out of the house and do business the way we like to do it, which is up close and personal. We like to get to meet the people and talk to the people as opposed to doing everything online. This way we actually get to have a more personal exchange.”
Youngsters ran around the park and cooled off at the splash pad.
Despite the heat, children lined up for a turn on the bouncy castles.
Live music mixed with the sounds of children laughing and parents trying to corral their little ones, who were excited to take in as much of the scheduled events as possible.
The day wrapped up with the always highly anticipated fireworks display put on by the firefighters at dusk.
Another event to save the date for is the return of Sirens in the Park on August 20, another full day of fun at Centennial Park, followed by a movie in the park.