By Adam Slight
Ottawa’s foundation owes a lot to the Irish and French immigrants who settled the area in hopes of building a new life in the new world. When Col. John By was commissioned to build the Rideau Canal, creating a safe passage for ships from Montreal to Kingston, thousands of Irish and French families laid their roots in ByTown to work on construction. It was a difficult time with much hardship and even violence.
The Ottawa Irish Festival, being held this week, honours those early inhabitants and the legacy they have left us.
A local blog, entitled Ottawa Valley Irish, does an impressive job of tracing Ottawa and area’s Irish ancestry. Run by a small number of enthusiasts and built by community contributors, the blog exemplifies people’s history. If that’s up your alley, then you’ll be able to spend a few hours digging into the blog’s photos, anecdotal histories, and geneologies.
Explore for yourself at www.ottawavalleyirish.com.
By Adam Slight
On March 8th The Chateau Lafayette will be shaking up its regular Saturday night bill to bring us a tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors. The stage will be open to a number of Stompin’ Tom impersonators who will pay homage to the late Canadian folk icon. The most uncanny impersonator will receive a prize guitar awarded by The Laff’s resident bard, Lucky Ron.
Leading up to the performances will be the screening of a short music video entitled “Don’t Stop Stompin,’” produced and presented by The Hockey Project, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues in young people through hockey.
Its fair to say that this event is a must-attend for any fans of Stompin’ Tom, and by extension, anyone who considers themself Canadian.
The event runs from 4-8 on Saturday, March 8th at the Chateau Lafayette in the ByWard Market.
By Adam Slight
The benefit of offering sled tours of the Rideau Skateway is that we are able to meet and observe people from all over the world travelling to Ottawa to skate on the world’s largest outdoor rink. Here is a glimpse of what we saw last weekend!
By Adam Slight
Photos by PATRICK WOODBURY, Le Droit
In many ways the Rideau Canal is the heart of Ottawa. Not only does it bisect Ottawa’s downtown core, but it is also more or less the whole reason Ottawa exists in the first place. The Rideau Canal was built in the early half of the Nineteenth Century to establish a safe trade route from Montreal to Kingston, secure from exposure to the United States border. Most people know the Rideau Canal as a great place to skate in the winter, or jog along in the summer, but do you know these lesser known facts about our world-renowned waterway?
While the canal offers 7.8km of skateable surface, the canal itself runs from the Ottawa River through several lakes and rivers, all the way to Kingston. The complete span of the man-made channel is over 200km.
In the 1970s, City Council actually considered paving over the Rideau Canal to create a freeway through the city. Even when the NCC proposed to turn the canal into a record-breaking skating rink, many councillors scoffed at the idea. The first day the Rideau Skateway was officially open for skating, 50 000 skaters came to enjoy the ice.
When the canal was commissioned to be built, thousands of French and Irish workers immigrated to the area to work. The population formed ByTown, which at the time consisted of the ByWard Market and Lowertown areas. Not long after the completion of the Rideau Canal, ByTown became Ottawa, the capital of Upper Canada, due to its strategic distance from the United States.
One American journalist commented on the move, joking that Canada needn’t fear an invasion as soldiers would only get lost in the woods trying to conquer the new capital.
The workers who built the Rideau Canal lived and worked in challenging conditions. Many died of malaria or in crushing landslides. In 2013 a construction worker fixing a pipeline on Queen Street suddenly found himself surrounded by human bones. Archeologists confirmed that they were the remains of workers who had died building the Rideau Canal.
After the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832, ByTown was teaming with jobless Irish and French workers…who didn’t really get along with each other. French workers formed French lumber mills and Irish workers formed Irish lumber mills, and the two nationalities clashed frequently on the streets of the ByWard Market. This conflict would later be called the Shiner’s War, referring to the Irish “Shiner’s” gang, which was known for raiding innocent homes of their whiskey supplies and beating up French workers in alleyways. ByTown would for awhile hold a reputation as the most dangerous city in North America.
In 2007 UNESCO recognized the Rideau Canal as a significant world heritage site, as a work of human creative genius in extensively representing European slackwater technology. In fact, the Rideau Canal is the last canal in North America of its kind still fully intact.
Go figure! The most unanimously disliked Batman film features the Rideau Canal in the climax of the film, standing in as the frozen streets of Gotham city.
While the Rideau Skateway is open for skaters during the winter, we offer guided sled tours of the Rideau Canal. In this tour you can sit back, cozy up under a warm blanket, and learn more lesser-known facts about Ottawa’s engineering marvel. This is ideal for people who want to enjoy the Rideau Skateway experience but may not be the strongest of skaters, or for those who simply want to learn more about Ottawa.
You can find us at the 5th Street rest stop, or schedule a tour in advance right here.
By Adam Slight
Fernando cellini Hair Salon, Shopify, and La Bottega Nicastro have teamed up to bring Ottawa a night on the town, all for the sake of raising money for Ottawa’s Toy Mountain Foundation (and for showing people a good time of course).
Winter Glam is a semi-formal event a where you can dress up, socialize, eat, drink, and help give under-privileged kids toys for Christmas, hosted at Shopify’s chic office space on York Street. Tickets are $75 for standard admission, and $150 for a V.I.P ticket (which offers added perks, including a V.I.P room and access to a mixologist). You can also help raise money (which goes towards the purchase of toys) by participating in the Winter Glam online and live auctions, competing for donated items including a year’s membership at House of Baron’s, a one-year unlimited Shopify account with business consultation session with Harley Finklestein, a cooking class for twelve, and more. In the past, Winter Glam has raised over $40 000 put towards Ottawa’s Toy Mountain.
Don’t pass up this opportunity to attend a swanky event, have fun, and give toys to kids who deserve them!
Winter Glam | 7-11 PM | December 15th, 2013 | 125 York Street (Rear Entrance)
Above: Opening Ceremonies featuring from left Carol Anne Meehan, former CFL-er Ken Evraire, Jörn Rosenberg Deputy Head of Mission for Germany, Deputy Mayor Steve Desroches, Ontario MPP Madeleine Meilleur, and Ottawa City Councillor Mathieu Fleury.
By Deek Labelle
“One more time, how do you say that phrase in German?” “Die Sonne scheint”, I replied; Carol Anne Meehan was brushing up on her German moments before the opening ceremonies on Clarence Street. The sun was in fact shining long enough for Schteev und die Lederhosers to serenade the opening festivities. Being an active member with the ByWard Market BIA, I was front row centre at the main stage to catch it all. Honored guests alongside Carol Anne Meehan were the Director of Mission Jorn Rosenberg, and several of our local politicians. Toasts were made and the keg was tapped, while the crowd couldn’t resist bopping to the music. The Ambassador for Germany, Werner Wnendt shared how Oktoberfest began more than 200 years ago in Münich, Germany and has grown to be the largest fair in the world.
The ByWard Market Oktoberfest is celebrating a mere fourth year, but thanks to a grant from Celebrate Ontario, it was able to grow to a full weekend celebration! Unfortunately, only one week before the event the City of Ottawa revoked the street permit that would have allowed people to have one drink, in a designated mug, on Clarence Street. Taking away what people associate most with Oktoberfest – live entertainment accompanied by lots of beer and lots of food, the ByWard Market Oktoberfest continued to focus attention toward the more traditional aspects of the historic event.
“Volksmarches”, which translates to a “people’s walk”, are typically 10kms, and were started in Europe as a means of group fitness. The ByWard Market adapted this concept into guided tours through their own historic district. C’est Bon Cooking offered free foodie tours of the market on both Saturday and Sunday. The Haunted Walk led Sunday matinee tours of landmarks within the neighborhood. Since not everyone enjoys a long walk, for those who wanted the Coles notes version of all the tours, local stables provided free wagon rides all weekend – with accordion accompaniment to boot!
I had the pleasure of organizing the first ever ByWard Market Fashion Show on Saturday morning. Inside the lesser-known Time Square building on Clarence Street, more than 30 models displayed looks from over a dozen retailers from the market. Highlights included the kids’ costumes from Tickled Pink, the roller girls from Neon Skates, and the gorgeous hats from local milliner, Chapeaux de Madeleine. In addition to the show, everyone was invited to participate in the Fashion Volksmarch. Ours lead participants to all of the fashion retailers in the market. Several stores offered deals or discounts to those with the official ByWard Market Oktoberfest mug.
Since rain couldn’t dampen our spirits, quite literally, late Saturday we found ourselves on the patio at Paddy Bolands and stomped along to the Tartan Terrors rocking out on the main stage. Blending bagpipes and bratwurst, the band joked that the event had now transformed into Scotchtoberfest! Saturday evening closed out with a show and a beer after all!
Oktoberfest was lacking and it showed. It can’t really compare to the similar locally held Oktoberfests due to the absence of beer. I spoke to some highly disappointed local residents as well as one restaurant owner who made a point to the City. In front of his bar, adjacent to a pitcher of ginger ale, a note read: “No fun zone sponsored by the City of Ottawa.” The street remained closed but few were there to party.
Overall, everyone who attended had a great time! Hopefully the next time an event like this comes along to the ByWard Market, the City won’t be so bold as to deny them the same type of events already held in similar districts around town. With all the changes and improvements citizens are screaming for to happen in the Market, this feels like one step forward, two steps back.
**Disclaimer: The written opinions above are of those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the Byward Market BIA.
By Adam Slight
You may have seen a couple of them before, walking on Murray Street between Cumberland and Dalhousie: Small cobalt cats, posed casually in the barred window sills of a City of Ottawa garage on the South side of the street. You probably thought, “hmm, that’s neat” and continued on your way. What you didn’t realizing was that a whole host of similar felines are perpetually hosting a party on the top floor of the parking garage, and you’ve been too busy to stop in.
These sculptures of 14 alley cats were created and installed by Jean-Yves Vigneau in 1993. If you’re a public art junkie, cat-lover, or like to seek out hidden gems in Ottawa, these sculptures, experienced prowling against a backdrop of Lowertown rooftops, are worth checking out.
By Adam Slight
If you’ve still got a hunger and thirst for pretzels, beer, and all things Bevarian from the epic Oktoberfest celebration at Beau’s All Natural, then you’ll want to pay a visit to the Byward Market this weekend for the community’s FREE three-day festival. Some things you can expect to find include:
We’ll be present in the neighbourhood during the festivities, so expect to see some photo coverage next week! For a full schedule for Byward Market Oktoberfest, click here.
By Adam Slight
Centrepointe Theatres wants to ask the question, “What do you talk about while standing around the water cooler at work?” This October, a comedy troupe from New York will be performing at Centrepointe Theatres, covering just this subject matter!
The Water Coolers brings their unique comedy performance focusing on work, life and balancing the two, to Centrepointe Theatres on October 18, 2013 at 8 p.m.
“This musical comedy revue is perfect for a city like Ottawa where there are so many people working in office cubicles from 9 to 5 every day,” Explains Allan Sansom, Artistic Producer and Manager of Centrepointe Theatres. If you’re one of these 9-to-5ers, then this performance is apparently geared towards you. The performance parodies the “IT Cowboy,” the “Male Office Hottie,” and other Office Space-esque archetypes.
The cast includes seasoned Broadway talent, with the current company members’ performing credits including Rock of Ages, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot, Wicked, The Lion King, In The Heights , Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, and Grease.
“Their performances are top notch and their observations are on the money,” says Sansom.” It’s like watching ‘The Office’ set to music.
You can purchase tickets in advance at www.centrepointetheatres.com or call the box office at 613-580-2700.