Dorchester’s Sandpiper Festival and High School Reunion- July, 2010

Shep, the world’s largest sandpiper is celebrating its 8 th birthday in Dorchester this weekend. In a ritual set years ago, four large eggs are laid at the feet of the sculpture after which the village begins a weekend of celebration. Just miles away from the village center, 80 % of the world’s Semipalmated Sandpipers flock to the shores of Johnson’s Mills from mid July to mid September, creating a fluttering in the hearts of bird watchers.

In an homage to their bird the village offers many fun activities including an ice cream party, face painting, a rubber duck race, and an egg hunt for the children with clues hidden throughout the village. There will also be a beer garden and dance, a tea party and a People’s Choice photography exhibit. There are dozens of events all weekend as well as the local attractions that include the St. James Textile and Keillor House Museum.

Another draw for ‘birders’ is Roger Burrows’ book launch of “Birding in New Brunswick”. A Naturalist for Parks Canada and legendary ‘birder’ who wrote Birds of Atlantic Canada, Burrows will be giving a talk and book signing at the Masonic Lodge on Saturday in Dorchester.

This year there will be even more visitors arriving in Dorchester, and they may or may not be wearing a Tillie hat and a pair of binoculars. Dorchester Consolidated High School is holding a reunion for anyone who ever attended the high school, whether they graduated or not, and hundreds of people have responded, hoping to catch sight of an old high school pal.

It began as a small reunion of drinking buddies, and through the power of the internet and social media, has become an event that is drawing “numbers unknown’ says Macx MacNichol, the writer and photographer hosting the photography exhibit.

Bernard Landry started the ball rolling when he invited some friends for a beer. “ I was the one that started it”, says Bernard, “It was a bunch of drinking guys actually, we all graduated in 1963 and 1964, and in those days a lot of the guys would have left school and gone into the army, the navy or the air force. So I had not seem a bunch of them, and the ones I was meeting were at the funeral parlor.”

Bernard says that a few different reunions heard about each other and decided to work together. “I said fine and dandy”, says Landry, “and it went from 20 people to 500, maybe more. Somebody said there are going to be 1500 people there and I said, if there are, we’re going to be in trouble”!

A woman from from Florida called to inquire about the reunion, on behalf of here sister, who is 92 years and graduated in 1945, “And I said we’d be honored to have you”, says Landry. “It is a reunion, it’s a casual get together, meet and greet. Let’s see each other, standing, not horizontally, and alive, that is really what it is about”.

A lot of the visitors will be staying with family, and hotels will be particularly full because of the World Juniors going on in Moncton at the same time, says Simonne Malenfant-Edgett, Dorchester’s Village Clerk and Treasurer, who, with her older siblings, attended Dorchester High School. Her younger siblings attended Tantramar Regional High School when the local schools were closed down in favor of amalgamation, with the last Dorchester class graduating in 1971, “My sister Aline was in that one”, says Simonne.

Simonne says that losing the high school did make a difference to the village, “In high school, that is when you develop your friends and your interests, and if that is where you hang out, then that is where you build your community. It also removes some of the benefits for the kids too, because if you want to participate in the after school activities you have to have a car or a parent that is willing to drive back and forth”.

Bernard, who substitute teaches in a small school, thinks that small schools are good for the students, because they are surrounded by relatives, “So if a kid does something wrong”, says Bernard, “Somebody in the family knows about it”.

Bernard is looking forward to seeing friends from his past. Some of them have recognizable names, such as Wesley Armour who owns Armour Transport, and Bobby Lemieux who played on the Junior Canadiens team. Lemieux, who has written about his grandfather Marcel, the first Maritimers to play for the Montreal Canadiens, may read from some of his writing. “ I haven’t see him (Bobby) in 45 years” says Bernard, who remembers hanging out with his friend and watching Bobby’s grandmother dress the wounds on his grandfather who was returned from the World War 1 shot “through and through’ .

Many former students are hoping to see their English and History teacher, Mr Hanoomansingh’s (Ian Hanoomansingh’s father). Simonne agrees, “He was my favorite teacher, he was the kind of teacher that made you think, he would throw a statement out, and then one of the students would disagree and then another student would get into the discussion, and then he would throw something else out, which reversed what they were thinking. He opened our eyes. He was one of the teachers that they make movies about”.

Despite the fact that Bernard is not a fan of facebook, the internet has been the main facilitator of the reunion. “I don’t like face book”, says Bernard, “Fifty five people wrote me and wished my a happy birthday and I had to write them back and I thought – how to do it! I went and did it individually”.
But Bernard swears by the internet, “We talk to our grandchildren In England for an hour every week, and it does not cost us anything, and it amazes me beyond comprehension. It is a useful tool (the internet), this reunion would never have happened if I hadn’t had the computer”.

Bernard has been sending out emails with photos for the last few weeks, hoping fellow past students can identify faces and names. Like a ‘birder’ looking for identifying marks, Bernard says “ It is fun and it passes the time”.

SIDEBAR:
The 10 th Annual Sandpiper Festival – The Continuing History of Dorchester
When: Friday July 23- Sunday 25
http://www.dorchester.ca/documents/SandfestBrochureForWeb_000.pdf

Dorchester Consolidated High School Reunion –
Friday July 23 to Sunday the 25th.
Most events held at St. Ed’s Community Hall
Please contact Bernard Landry for information: 523-9338
landry_bj@hotmail.com

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