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Banner project celebrates 100th anniversary of Hawkestone Hall

'Community-wide project' has involved residents, local students and many others; Canada Day will be a 'real day to remember' in Hawkestone

A 100-year-old community hall is helping to bring a village back together again, just like it did a century ago.

Hawkestone Community Hall came into Hawkestone 100 years ago when Orange Lodge members in the tiny hamlet just south of Orillia decided to purchase land and move an existing building onto it, to have a proper Orange Hall for their meetings. 

“We don’t actually know where the building came from,” Tracey McKillop explained. “There are no records available on that, but it was this building, and it’s celebrating its one-hundredth birthday this year.”

“The hall was the Orange Lodge, but it was almost immediately used by many other groups, in many other ways as well, and continued that way until it did become the Hawkestone Community Hall,” explained McKillop.

“We have records and photos that show the Red Cross ladies group used it, the Women’s Institute members, and it was used for community gatherings as well," she explained.

McKillop and others in the community decided it was important to commemorate the building's 100th birthday, and the resulting research, planning, and executing of many celebratory ideas has involved almost everyone in this small village and beyond — including the local public school and Orillia Secondary School.

“We wanted to celebrate the history of Hawkestone and the hall and came up with the idea of making banners that would show some of the historic buildings, places, and events,” said Marilyn Gregory, another member of the ad hoc 100th anniversary committee.

“Some of the local women sewed the banners, and we asked the kids at East Oro School if they could paint them. We had to figure out how to hang them, and after doing some research on what was feasible and what was allowed, we figured metal stands made the most sense,” she explained.

“So, the metal was donated by Jamie Atkinson, JDA Design, and the paints and palettes were donated by Tanya Grenkie. The shop class at Orillia Secondary School made the stands, and the Grade 5/6 class at East Oro School painted them. It really was a community-wide project.”

McKillop agreed. 

“We involved the Oro Historical Society, and at one point, we were just driving around the village, with (longtime resident) Joan Banbury and (Oro Historical Society member) Dorothy Moore in my car, just looking at each house, and hearing the history of each of them, who lived there, and other local stories. It was awesome," said McKillop.

The project ended up producing 35 banners, which are now hung on stands throughout the village, commemorating important buildings both still here and gone, including the mill, the churches, the original schoolhouse, the train station, the docks, and so much more.

Students in Ms. Kearns's grade 5/6 class at East Oro Public School made 35 banners for the Hawkestone Hall 100th anniversary. | Anna Proctor for OrilliaMatters

“The students at East Oro were amazing,” said McKillop. “I went in there prepared to give them a quick rundown of the history, and what buildings were important, and they had already done their research! They had all kinds of great questions and were ready to get right to work, creating and designing.”

The students did their own research, guided by their teacher, then created their own designs on pieces of paper before transferring them to the larger banners that now hang throughout the village.

The project took several days of class time, and the group worked in pairs as there wasn’t enough room on tarps on the floor of the classroom for all 35 banners.

“They have worked really hard on this, and done a great job,” enthused teacher Shannon Kearns. “They were very enthusiastic, and really dedicated and professional about getting it all done.”

The committee’s research led them down many paths, into many attics, and into many folks’ homes. McKillop ended up with a lot of memorabilia, photos, letters, books, scrapbooks, handwritten stories, and so much more. 

“The plan is to do storyboards for the Canada Day festivities at the hall, so I was putting scraps and photos into file folders, but it was getting overwhelming. I was typing things up, but there was too much, so I farmed out some of that work,” she said.

“And Marilyn was taking the photos and digitizing them, colourizing them, and getting them ready, too,” she added. “People were contacting us all the time with more information, and more memorabilia. It’s a lot."

Both Gregory and McKillop agreed the project has gotten the whole village involved. New residents are eager to learn about the history of the hamlet, and were clamouring to have banners on their lawns, and older residents were excited to tell the stories they remembered about Hawkestone.

There is talk about putting together a fundraising coffee table book of all the old photos, and a historical map is being made of the old village. 

“Susan Robous has walked the whole village and taken photos of every house,” said McKillop. “She had 20,000 steps that day. And now, she’s walking it all again taking photos of every banner."

Hawkestone Hall is back in action after the pandemic closure, and busier than ever. There is pickleball, art classes, Nia classes, yoga, a pollinator garden, a gardening club, jump classes, historical “Hawke Talks,” and recently, a community garage sale in addition to an open mic show.

“It’s definitely had a rebirth,” McKillop said of the hub of the community.

On July 1, Hawkestone will celebrate Canada Day and the 100th birthday of the Hawkestone Hall with a full day of activities and fun. 

“The day starts at 10 a.m. at the hall, with vendors, music, kids’ activities, food and drink,” said Gregory. “Then the parade is at 1 p.m., followed by the cake, a barbecue, and the historical story boards, the original Orange Lodge banner, and a special High Tea inside the Hall, sponsored by Cloud Gallery.

"There will be live music as well with local acts and the local choir, the Hawkestone Singers. It’s going to be a real day to remember and for everyone of all ages to enjoy," said Gregory, who gave a shout out to Imagine Therapeutic Services for being the major sponsor of the Canada Day festivities.



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