Ex-planations or hindsight of a celebration
If I consider that the Canadian National Exhibition had asked me a few years ago if I wanted to put on the German Day at the Ex by myself without the then collaborator, I still shudder at the amount of work I know it takes to put on such an event. And if I consider what Gabriele (Gabi) Schick managed to negotiate, coordinate, procure and produce this year at the Canadian National Exhibition against any and all odds, I stand in awe of her tenacity and perseverance.
She had no idea that the bigger firms with German background have no interest in supporting venues that even remotely smack of anything German. She also did not know how divided the German community is in itself. She only knew us from our chocolate side, the side she got to see when husband Joe Schick and the Harmonie Brass play at different venues in and around our region. She herself is very proud of her German heritage and probably cannot perceive that others might not be or prefer to ignore an opportunity for us to shine collectively as a group at a national venue.
Luckily nearly 300 performers did not share the sentiments of those who would avoid or even oppose such an event at the Ex and neither did the 12 hundred visitors plus who came to experience a German Day at the Ex like we never had before. And we did have a few, as some might recall, all successful. There just was a 3-year pause before this amazing comeback.
In earlier versions I was involved in we simply had a community stage for our use. This year we were given the honour of appearing at the much bigger and prestigious venue of the Toronto Star Band Shell. Everyone involved worked their hearts out to shine on behalf of our German community. A lot of marketing effort was put out to all sorts of media and Canadian sponsors rallied to the cause.
The sponsors and performers that did support the German-Canadian Showcase deserve special mention, as do the performers. Not enough can be said about their zest and participation.
There is for instance Mike Sauter of Sauter’s Inn in Ajax. He not only donated a hefty amount of cash to the cause, but also his daughter and granddaughter to the fashion show of Regina’s Dirndl Stube.
Regina’s own daughter Barbara came with friends from Niagara Falls, where she operates a dance studio and choreographed the presentation as well as performed with guest dancers a few interesting ballroom sidesteps. The other models were all of them best friends with Gabi Schick and in civilian life perform executive functions.
Our own Alexander Oolo won the VIA-Rail ticket and accommodations in the Minto Place Suite Hotel in Ottawa. Deerhurst Inn, Embasy Suites Hotel and other sponsors also donated valuable prizes to this event. Sunny Crunch generously donated again a few thousand Granola bars.
The vendors went all out to give information or show their wares. Lein’s Delicatessen, as always, went the extra mile to feed all of us.
I was totally amazed that five of our German-Canadian choirs came out to support this event: the Harmonie Choirs, the Harfentoene, the Loreley Choir, the Hansa Choir and the Austrian Choir. Only the strong wind could occasionally outperform the wonderful voices of nearly 200 songbirds under the direction of George Zaduban with 4 classical choices. After that the choir sang "Schunkellieder" with the help of Manfred from the Harmonie Brass.
The evening abounded with dance. First the young dancers of the Treue Husaren Mississauga performed the traditional styling of Mardi Gras. It must have been hard for the kids to give up their vacation time. But they came, not all of them, but enough to create an impact. And when the Solo-Funki did several times the Split on stage I heard a few of the people in the audience wince. I guess they were imagining what it would feel like if they would attempt such a feat.
Afterwards the evening belonged to the Forget-me-nots with an instrumental presentation, and the Danube Swabian dance group, in which the Szauter familie plays a big part. What a sight! The stage was filled with whirling, twirling couples in beautiful costumes. Poetry in motion! This segment demonstrated not only German culture but reflected the Austrian as well.
The Swiss culture was represented with 3 Alphorns played by three of the Harmonie Brass musicians. Too bad that no Swiss groups could be found to participate. We do not hear much about their culture in this country anyway.
And it was a great day! Never in a million years would I have thought 16 years ago, (when I did my last show as a model in the Queen Elisabeth Theatre, which you see in the background of the front-page photo) that one day I would lead a parade around the fountain in a dirndl. After all, I am from the northern parts of Germany and we do nor wear dirndls. But the version Regina created just for this occasion appealed so much to me that I felt totally at home in it when I led the fabulous visiting Schalmeien Band and Alpenwind Band, on tour in North America, towards the big stage just before the official opening of the event at 1pm. It looked truly great, and Global TV also thought so. Little did I know then how tired I would be after the last number of this long day, the last song, the last dance and the last wave of good-bye to a very happy audience.
Mr. D.M. from Pickering writes the following note, representative of many comments we received in the days after the show: "Liebe Sybille! Auf Drängen meiner Frau zu einem Besuch des "Deutschen Tages" auf der Exhibition möchte ich mich persönlich bedanken bei Ihnen, sowie auch Gabi Schick, für einen hervorragend gelungenen Tag und Abend."
I tip my hat to Gabi Schick and thank her for allowing me to contribute to this really well organized event, the incredible line-up of talent, for the pageantry and the feeling of togetherness it created. Perhaps more people would have been able to come if it had not been the opening day and a Friday. The stage management of nearly 300 performers, and the not easily controlled technical details like sound fell to Dennis Hampton, who was as long on his feet, if not longer, than Gabi and myself.
It has been said that an individual is only as valuable as his/her contributions to others. What Gabi Schick managed to accomplish was way beyond the call of duty and deserves more accolades than I can give her here. We can only hope that she would lend her considerable talents and abilities again to such a venue next year. (You can read more about her business on our website) As a specialist in the hospitality industry she is ideally suited to help this community to raise its profile in the larger multicultural landscape of Canada. And I am certain that everyone who was part of German Day at the EX this year will participate again next year, as long as Gabi is at the helm. I certainly won’t mind putting on a lovely Dirndl again for MC duties or my top hat and tails for a Marlene Dietrich performance. Next time I also will present Gabi with roses, although not red ones. I will leave that to her husband.
When we all danced at the end to the rhythm of "Hot, hot, hot" we knew that we had pleased a lot of people. Tired but happy we went home. It had been a great success!
Until next time
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