HANTSPORT, N.S. - From setting up tents, to manning the canteen and ensuring everything runs smoothly - Canada Day festivities in Hantsport simply wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and long hours of staff and volunteers.
As hundreds of visitors stream into the haven of hospitality, they roll up their sleeves, pull back their hair into pony tails, and rush to the next problem that needs solving.
Jill Miller and Annika Corbett, two members of the Hantsport Memorial Community Centre (HMCC) summer staff, with radios at their side, were just getting started at 11 a.m.
“We’re getting ready for this by June, we’re in the office every day, switching into July 1st mode,” Miller said. “As well as making sure things go smoothly, we’re also working the bar.”
Corbett has her hands full with scheduling, making sure all of the staff and volunteers have their assignments.
“We ran the children’s parade and as a staff we man all of the different stations, the bouncing castles, the information booth,” Corbett said.
For both, they wanted to dive head first into Canada Day activities because of the fond memories they have from their childhood.
“I was so excited for July first every year, that was really the start of summer,” Corbett said.
“You can’t sleep the night before, you’re so excited.” Miller added.
After the town of Hantsport dissolved into the municipality of West Hants in 2015, running Canada Day festivities fell to HMCC, and they’ve taken it on with fewer resources - but no shortage of passion.
“It’s important to keep it going, because I remember how much we loved it as kids,” Corbett said. “For this to go away? It can’t. We’ve gotta keep it going.”
Things don’t always go exactly as planned - equipment breaks down, or they run out of certain food items - but they work together to solve problems.
“It takes a lot of cooperation between volunteers and staff, and I think we’re super lucky that everyone’s on the same page,” Corbett said. “We’re all here for the community centre. It’s a well-oiled machine.”
Tapping into the community
Canada Day in Hantsport has been a staple in the Annapolis Valley for decades, providing a huge economic boost to the surrounding community.
Ben Johnson, a vice president in the HMCC’s board of directors, doesn’t get to sit around during Hantsport’s biggest day - he’s in the thick of it as well: finding garbage bags, running around finding people for certain tasks and welcoming the children’s parade to Churchill House during the opening ceremonies.
“When the town dissolved into West Hants, we decided as a group to take on most of the responsibilities for the celebrations,” he said. “It’s just been a huge staple for the Valley and a tradition in Hantsport for 70-plus years. We really wanted to maintain that.”
“It takes a lot of work to maintain, and about a year of preparation to get all of this stuff organized,” he said.
There are approximately 14 HMCC staff, who work mainly in the community centre, the day camp, the pool and other facilities, who all help out throughout the day. And then there’s the volunteers, 14 on the board of directors all working behind the scenes as well to make the day happen.
Then there’s the legion of community members who lend a hand in a variety of ways, big and small.
“We’re talking maybe 100 people or more, they might offer a half hour of their time, it could be all day,” he said. “It represents what Hantsport is… we really take a lot of pride that people are there to drop what they’re doing to help.”
Financially speaking, HMCC’s goal is to break even if they can - it’s not seen as a major fundraiser.
“It does take a lot of resources, but we’re able to tap into the community, there are trades people who live here who help set up tents, building staging, donate their time or materials or vehicles,” he said. “It’s so helpful to us.”
Laura Pelton, Princess Hantsport, said the volunteers and staff are the backbone of what makes Canada Day in Hantsport so special.
“The volunteers are the ones that get this going, they do a great job every year,” Pelton said. “Hantsport has always had really strong volunteer turnout, which I’m really proud of.”