“So what’s happening in Queensborough?” People ask me that question all the time.
It comes from members of my extended family when we gather at times like the recent Thanksgiving weekend. It comes from colleagues at work. It comes when I attend events in far-flung parts of Ontario, and well beyond. It comes in emails and social-media messages from across Canada and all over the world.
And here’s the thing: the people who ask me that question already know what my answer will be. (It’s always just one word: “Lots!”) Why? Because the news has got out that Queensborough is a happening place. I am modestly proud of the part that Meanwhile, at the Manse has played, over the almost seven years of its existence, in spreading the word about Queensborough. Bust mostly I am proud (and not at all modestly) of the work that the people of this tiny, beautiful place are doing to make it punch way above its weight when it comes to interesting events and widespread recognition. I would go so far as to say that Queensborough is one of the better-known population-75 places (okay, maybe our population’s a whopping 200 or so when you count – as we should – the Greater Queensborough Area) on the entire planet. And that is something!
Regular readers will doubtless have noticed that Meanwhile, at the Manse has been a bit quiet lately. I apologize for that; my excuse, such as it is, is that I’ve been awfully busy. But that’s part of the deal with living in Queensborough, isn’t it? There’s always something.
So let me fill you in on what’s been going on. Late summer and early autumn weren’t quite as busy as the whirlwind few months we had last spring, but there’s still lots to share with you.
I believe I’ll begin with the annual Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, which took place in late September. Now, regular readers will know that our St. Andrew’s suppers (which I’ve written about many times, notably here and here and here) have a long tradition of success, attracting crowds of people from all over the place who are eager to enjoy a splendid meal in the congenial atmosphere of our pretty, historic country church. But this Turkey Supper was something special.
On a day that turned from grey and gloomy to gloriously sunny just in time, hundreds of people turned out. As usual, there were lineups even before the doors opened at 4:30 p.m. What was a little less usual was that the people just kept coming. And coming. And coming. Normally by 6:15 p.m. or so – the supper runs until 7 – almost everyone who’s going to come has already showed up and is seated at the communal tables, enjoying the meal. This year, there was turnover after turnover in the church hall, with seats in the waiting area – the church sanctuary – filled by new arrivals as soon as they’d been emptied by those who’d been called in to the meal. There was still a churchful of people waiting well after 6 p.m.!
The men and women who were working their butts off (to use a not very churchy term) to keep the turkey and trimmings coming out of the kitchen, and the places set, and the dishes done, began to worry that we might run out of food. But in the end, we had exactly the right amount: every visitor ate heartily and well, the church members and supporters who had worked so hard were able to do the same once the crowds were gone, and there was even a bit left over.
And when all was said and done, almost $3,500 was raised for the ongoing work of St. Andrew’s! That is a very big deal for a small country church. Everyone who came out to the dinner, and everyone who roasted turkeys, baked pies, peeled turnips, set places, and washed and dried mountains of dishes deserves huge thanks – not just for a job well done on that particular evening, but for keeping a truly great Queensborough tradition alive.
Okay: what else? Well, let’s talk about the Orange Hall!
When last you heard about the Orange Hall – from me, at least – it was early June and we were basking in the success of the Black Fly Shuffle (a community dance) that had just been held there. It was the first time in half a century that a public event had happened in that building, one of the oldest in our hamlet and a place that, back in the day, regularly played host to dances, concerts, travelling shows, wedding receptions and all kinds of other socials. After decades of disuse that saw the building fall into extreme disrepair, it was purchased and saved by Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, a couple – from the perspective of my advancing age I think of them as a young couple – who are bursting with energy and creativity. What they did to repair and restore the Orange Hall in such a short time brought smiles and wonderment on the evening of the Shuffle to those who’d last been there 50 or more years ago. To me, looking on and thinking hard about how important that evening was, it brought (well-concealed) tears of joy. The restoration of the Orange Hall is a huge step in the revitalization of our community.
But hey – that was almost five months ago! Things have happened since then!
Jamie and Tory went on to purchase the large empty lot that is immediately east of the Orange Hall. (That lot is much more empty since a shocking fire in 2012 destroyed a beautiful historic brick house that had been on it.) They also were able to buy the smallish 19th-century house that’s just to the east of the empty lot. Taken together, this will allow them to do a lot more with the Orange Hall, which came with only the land that it sits on and, as a result, no plumbing (because no land for a septic tank). With the empty lot added in, all that’s changed, and the possibilities for the building have opened up immensely. In addition, in very short order Jamie and Tory bought and spiffed up the little house next door to the empty lot, and now it’s as cute as all get out. And they brought in a gazebo for the lot in between! They (and we) have visions of concerts in summer evenings, kids’ activities, all kinds of fun community stuff on this centre-of-town property that they’ve brought back to life.
So what’s next in Queensborough? Well, in just a couple of week’s it’ll be Halloween, and I’ve already told you what a bang-up job Queensborough does on that front. On Oct. 27 – the Saturday before Halloween – the annual Family Halloween Party takes place at the Queensborough Community Centre. Again, I’ve told you about it previously in this space, but this event is getting bigger every year – thanks in part to so many young families having moved into the Greater Queensborough Area in the past few years. So many kids! So much potential for big fun at the QCC on the 27th! The Halloween Party has turned into one of the social events of the year, and you don’t want to miss it. Especially if you have kids.
And then what? Well, I’m glad you asked. Just a few days ago Raymond and I were at the monthly meeting of the Queensborough Community Centre committee, of which we are both members. The main item on the agenda was planning events for 2019, and I think it’s fair to say it’s a heck of a lineup we’ve got. I mean, really (in chronological order, starting in January): a chili cookoff; our annual community potluck supper, which this year will also be a Games Night; hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade pie served up by the Black River during kayaking season in the early spring; the Earth Day trash bash, to clean up the roadways in and around Queensborough; an Easter egg hunt; the St. Andrew’s Ham Supper; the ever-popular Pancake Breakfast in May; a Queensborough-themed art show (Queensborough having been a mecca for artists for much of its history); a kids’ softball tournament; the annual children’s summer drop-in program at the community centre; a new fall harvest event, complete with fireworks and – get this – a street dance (!); the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper; a followup to our hugely successful pie-making class, this time teaching pie newbies how to make a world-beating apple pie; the family Halloween party, of course; and Christmas carolling throughout Queensborough, to be followed by an evening of Christmas skits and other fun.
An ambitious lineup for a tiny hamlet? It sure is.
Can we pull it off? Of course we can! We are Queensborough – a place filled with community spirit and dedicated volunteers.
The only question that remains is: won’t you join us?
Watch this space, the local media, and the Facebook pages of the Queensborough Community Centre and St. Andrew’s United Church for details on each event. Please join us for as many of these events as you can; if you live here and can help out with some or all of them, please do!
So what’s happening in Queensborough?
I feel like my old standby answer, “Lots!” is no longer sufficient. We’ve moved past that.
What’s happening in Queensborough? More than ever!