Over 80 people gathered last night (August 26) in Bala for the first in-person Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce event since the pandemic began. Coming together on the grounds of Trinity All Saints Church for the first time in a long time, however, was not the only reason the evening was special.
The crowd was there to celebrate all the milestone anniversaries in Muskoka Lakes that weren’t not able to be recognized because of COVID restrictions, starting with 100 years of Trinity All Saints Anglican Church on Bala Falls Road.
The Church originally planned to mark its first church service held on a July Sunday 100 years ago with a celebratory service in July 2021. But COVID restrictions made that impossible.
A month later, COVID restrictions had changed.
“When we were allowed to have 100 people outside, I called up Reverend Heather Manuel and the Church council to say a community celebration of the church and more was needed,” says Chamber Executive Director Norah Fountain. “The church, a Chamber Member, means so much to many in the community, whether people are Anglican or not,” she continues. “At the same time, I asked them if they would consider honouring everyone who couldn’t mark milestones during the pandemic. The church loved the idea, and we all went to work.”
With just four weeks of planning, over 30 organizations were identified as having significant anniversaries, and the maximum 100 attendance limit was reached almost immediately. Company owners and other organization representatives that were there in person were presented with provincial certificates from Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller recognizing their vision and years of success in the community. The provincial accolades were presented to organizations with 20 to 150 years of operations.
Honorees, to name just a few, included Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery for 20 years in 2021, Muskoka Brewery with 25 years in 2021; Brent Quarries and Stan Hunter Boat Builder with 30 years in 2020: 40 years of Bush’s Watersports and Shamrock Lodge; 50 years since the amalgamation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes; 60 years of the Chamber itself and of CNIB: and onward to 75 years of the Port Carling Lions; 100 years for the church, Muskoka Chautauqua, and Windermere Golf and Country Club; 115 years for Weismiller Timber Mart; and ending with 150 years of Windermere House.
A high point of the evening, says Fountain, was recognizing 145 years of Brooklands Farms, and honouring Ken and Katya Riley, who are the fifth generation of Rileys. The farm has never changed ownership. It was also touching to present the 75-year honours to Ryan and Chris Church of The Smithy, she adds, as Cathy (Church) Foreman had passed away in December of 2020 – her family company’s 75th year.
Before the evening wrapped up, the entire community gathered for a photo with a sign thanking Harry and Mary Ann Debes of the Harry Debes Family Foundation for their many generous contributions to help families in Muskoka Lakes (Andy’s House, West Muskoka Food Bank, Bala Santa Claus Parade, Meals on Wheels. Port Carling Health Hub, and grants to cover full university tuitions for local students).
Fountain says the evening couldn’t have come together without the support of church volunteers and generous donations from Clear Lake Brewing Co, Muskoka Brewery, Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery, Mary and Nick Grady of Gradmatic, the Chamber, and music by Shari Lundy of the Classic String Quartet.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!