By Neil Fernyhough
Excitement is building around Camp Alexandra for this weekend’s big event of the centennial year – our Homecoming Festival.
To be held this Saturday, Sept. 10, 3-8 p.m., this celebration is the culmination of months of planning and is a way of inviting the community we have served since 1916 to blow out the candles with us.
Since we began planning our centennial last year, I have been astonished and moved by the stories shared with us by past campers, volunteers, staff, program participants and neighbours.
I have learned about the importance of Crescent Beach to the Semiahmoo First Nation, whose people first lived here and harvested the ocean bounty.
I’ve read of the first Europeans to settle here; and of how children from Alexandra Orphanage in Vancouver travelled by train during the dark days of the First World War to enjoy summer sun and camping on land owned by the pioneer Agar family.
I have also heard firsthand accounts of folks who have been associated with the camp, including 99-year-old Marie Williams, who moved with her family to Crescent Beach in 1920; and Joan Moxness, who came to camp with her single mother on relief in 1935.
At the height of its original incarnation as a summer camp, Camp A hosted more than 3,000 people of all ages in the course of a single year.
Today, there are scores of people throughout the Lower Mainland who have stories to share from their trove of memories.
Today, in its incarnation as Alex House, we continue the tradition with summer day camps for children, and residential camps for supported adults with cognitive disabilities, as well as newcomer Canadian families.
In addition to the original vision as a camp, Alex House has, for many years, offered a full spectrum of community services and activities, building new memories.
The Homecoming Festival is an opportunity to celebrate that legacy through a day of fun, music and historical reflection.
On the mainstage, we will feature music from the River Bottom Boys, Ocean Park Wailers and Kit n’Kaboodle; the City of Surrey’s Historical Re-enactors; and centennial reflections through story and song from Virginia Gillespie and Peter Tennant.
There will be a petting zoo and midway rides for the kids; a photo booth; food trucks; crafting demonstrations by local artisans; a sod-turning ceremony for our new Centennial Plaza; and door prizes galore.
Finally, we will have a historical exhibition from the Surrey Museum, including dozens of newly enlarged archival photographs of Camp Alex and Crescent Beach, dating back to the 1920s.
The evening winds up with a traditional campfire, complete with camp songs, hot chocolate and cookies.
Admission is by donation, with all proceeds going to Alex House’s programs for seniors and children.
For more information, contact us at 604-535-0015 or firstname.lastname@example.org; and be sure to check out our website, www.alexhouse.net
Neil Fernyhough is manager of Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s community programs. For information, call 604-535-0015 or go to www.alexhouse.net