An affair to remember…
…and not easily duplicated was the 44th Anniversary of carnival – or Mardi Gras, if you prefer – in Hamilton, the "Mardi Gras Capital of Canada". Since 11 is a very important number as carnival is concerned (Carnival traditionally starts on the 11th, 11th, at 11:11 and ends at Ash Wednesday the following year) 4 times 11 established a landmark in Canada.
The celebration took place at the Chandelier Place in Hamilton and about 400 revellers showed up to help the hosts – the G.K.G. Narrhalla ’58 – celebrate 44 years of carnival in Hamilton.
The first item of interest the visitors noted was a fabulous display of carnival memorabilia in the hallway. Pictures of past "Royal Couples", the Crystal Palace of 1859 – where carnival actually started over 141 years ago – huge cases with various medals from around the world and earned by the Narrhalla members over time – and hundreds of photographs from events in the past. It was awesome! It also provided no small measure of delight when people recognized themselves or friends, or when the photos triggered other fond memories.
This feat of longevity in carnival is something to be proud of. Many carnival societies in Canada have fallen by the wayside and ceased operation when the old guard went to Valhalla – or wherever carnivalists go when they leave – and no young blood had been recruited to carry on.
Membership is the answer to a continuation of carnival societies and attrition invariably ends its existence.
However, foresight by the directorship since October1957, when Julius Rauchfuß, Ted Ellwanfer and Phillip Waldecker first met to father this K.G. Narrhalla, has helped to lead this society and has kept it alive for 44 Years. One of the main reasons for the continued success was the switch to English as the language of carnival in Canada – much to the chagrin of the "Old Guard" – but a boon to interest created in second and third generation Germans. This helped to maintain interest – especially by the dance guard (and sometimes their boyfriends) because they could now understand what was going on and appreciate the demonstrated traditions. One other factor was the connection and close ties to the Germania Club 1864 of Hamilton, their support and the provision of a ‘home’ for the Narrhalla.
But let’s go back to the festivities. When all the guests had arrived and where seated at the beautifully decorated tables a sumptuous dinner was served. Whenever a large serving plate was empty, the staff quickly replaced it with a fresh one to ensure that no one was left hungry: chicken, schnitzel, penne arabiata, and more. It was one of the best dinners of this kind, I have ever attended. Kudos to the staff! Coffee and cake rounded off this fabulous meal and made the audience receptive to the official part of the evening’s program.
When the ‘Elferat’ (The court of Jesters) and their female counterparts had seated themselves on the dais, Albert Kergl, president of the Germania Club and Honorary President of the Narrhalla, opened the proceedings with well chosen words of wisdom and introduction of the special guests present this evening: The hon. Lincoln Alexander, former Governor General of Ontario, Robert E. (Bob) Wade, Hamilton’s Mayor and his wife Ida, David Christopherson, MPP and a host of others including the BDKK President Fred Wagner. All of these special guests gave short addresses, congratulating the Narrhalla ’58 for its success and Hamilton’s Mayor remarked that he now understood why Hamilton is "Canada’s Capital of Mardi Gras". Of course all received the special medal created for this occasion that also depicts the Crystal Palace of 1859 fame on it. David Simon, president of the Narrhalla, Hugh Turner, ‘Elferratspresident’ (and Prince for the last two years) and Fred Wagner also addressed the audience and pointed out some of the past successes of the Narrhalla.
At the end of these proceedings the various presidents of the attending carnival societies presented gifts and plaques in congratulation to the hosts.
Attending societies were: KG Narragonia Brantford, KG Treuer Husar, Toronto - 1. KG Blau-Weiss-Rot, London – 1. KG Londoner Funken Rot-Weiss – 1. KG Teutonia, Windsor – KG Blau-Weiss Eintracht, Oakville – 1. KG Narrenzunft Concordia, Kitchener – 1. KG Ottawa – KG Treuer Husar, Mississauga – KG Essener Freunde, Detroit – 1. KG Ontario Prinzengarde – Germania Downriver, Detroit – 1. KG Blau-Weiss, Sarnia – GKG Harmonie, Toronto – 1. KG Klein Aff from Borbeck,near Essen, Germany. As you can see, some of the visitors had come from the US and Paul Biegger, Honorary president of the Narrhalla, from as far as Monaco. Now that is what I call dedication!
After the official part of the evening was concluded the entertainment was next on the agenda and one of the definite highlights was the Solo dance by Tina Moskopp from the KG Meck-Meck, Stromberg, Germany. This young lady was also a guest here in Canada at the opening of carnival in Kitchener two years ago. If you thought that she was good then, you should’ve seen her now. "Wow" is an understatement!
By the way, the Chandelier Place, where this event was held had reserved the ‘Lincoln Room’ as a smoking lounge, to keep the rest of the building ‘smoke-free’. Excellent solution. But the weather was nice, so the smokers did their thing outdoors that evening.
Kinderfest at the Hansa Haus
Hosted by the "Weiss-Blau Bayern Jr." Schuhplattler, the 7th annual children’s festival took place on Sunday the 6th of May and was attended by The Kitchener-Waterloo Schuhplattler & Folk Dancers (Junior group), the Enzian Schuhplattler Verein from Kitchener, G.T.E.V. Alpenrösl, St. Catharines and the Vychodna Slovak Dancers from Mississauga.
This is one of the events the kids eagerly await each year. Usually the weather is nice, lots of old friendships can be renewed, parental supervision is not too strict and good food is always available. And of course there is always a fantastically rich Tombola (raffle) held at the end of the afternoon where great prizes can be won.
And the kids are having fun. After all that is what this is all about and the emphasis is on just that. But you can also see a sense of pride and accomplishment in the sparkle of their eyes – and the eyes of their seniors - when they finish their dance demonstrations.
The STV Weiss-Blau Bayern hosted the annual "Heimatabend" at the Hansa Haus. This being a traditional affair a great number of traditional guests had arrived to join the party – some from as far as Rochester (STV Heidengold & STV Alpengrün) and West Haven, Connecticut (HSV Bavaria) in the states. When the various groups marched in at the beginning of the event they were led by the flags of Germany, Canada, USA and Bavaria. After completing a couple of circles around the hall everyone stopped for the national anthems, played very professionally by the Black Forest Band.
Other guests were: GTEV Maple Leaf Almrausch from Ottawa - the Gau Trustee and Gau Vorplattler - GTEV Alpenrösle, St. Catharines – GTEV Alpenland, Hamilton – Kitchener-Waterloo Schuhplattler & Volkstanzgruppe – Concordia Enzian Schuhplattler Verein – Volkstanzgruppe Almrausch, Brampton and of course the hosts themselves, Seniors and Juniors.
There was also a guest present from Hamburg, Jan Barvitzki - a "Zimmermann" (Carpenter) and member of the "Vereinigung der fremden Zimmer- und Schieferdeckergesellen" who is travelling the world as a "Wandergeselle".
One of the guests of honour was Her Worship Susan Fennell, Mayor of Brampton, who addressed the guests and wished them well. She later admitted that she had immensely enjoyed the performances of the various dancers and the bell ringers.
The Board of Directors had decided to hire the Black Forest Band from Kitchener, as I had mentioned earlier. This was a "First time performance" at the Hansa Haus, by this band. That was also a pretty good choice by the board and we will likely see them again at this venue. Of course the various groups brought their own musicians to play for the individual dances.
The hosts added something new to the Bell-Ringer performances. Now they have about an ‘octave’ of kids, each with a different bell, to play. The song they chose for the evening was "You can’t be true, dear". It is of course needless to mention that the performance received raving applause.
The Hansa Haus kitchen did a fabulous job of providing for the inner man and I heard many people praising the food and the efforts of the staff. One of the guest said, "I love coming to the Hansa Haus, since I can always be sure to get an exceptional meal here". My sentiments also.
It is gratifying to see the younger members of these groups enjoying themselves. The kids obviously love dressing up in those beautiful costumes and meeting others of their peers’ in situations such as this event. And it is important to interest the young ones in order to maintain a continuity of the group itself, and the heritage aspects involved – even if the spoken ‘German’ is no longer an issue.
Well, that’s it for this month. As always
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