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Canada’s Birthday Town celebrated in video exhibition just in time for Canada Day

June 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

If you’re ever in doubt about the power of community, consider the origin of Aurora’s nickname “Canada’s Birthday Town.”

It started with a simple street party on Richardson Drive and grew into so much more.

Now, building on an exhibition from 2017, the story of how Aurora earned this patriotic reputation is the subject of a new video produced by the Aurora Museum and Archives.

“Our 2017 exhibition told the story of how that designation came to be, how celebrations were formatted, and explored the heyday of the celebrations from the 1960s – 1980s,” says Michelle Johnson of the Aurora Museum & Archives. “Understanding that this year’s celebrations for Canada Day will have to be virtual, we thought this was a great time to re-format the exhibition to tell the story in a new way.”

The Museum knew just where to turn for a professional assist. Building on their recent award-winning collaboration charting the community’s ties to the Queen’s York Rangers regiment, the Museum enlisted the Mountain Goat Film Company to bring this story back to life.

“Aurora was on the cutting edge of celebrating Canada Day, so this is a story that deserves to be told far beyond a physical exhibition,” explains Ms. Johnson. “Aurora being Canada’s Birthday Town really came from a group of residents on Richardson Drive who wanted to have a party on July 1 when no other municipalities were necessarily doing so, and Aurora wasn’t.

“Back in 1967 – 1968 they threw a party to celebrate Canada and that led to a proclamation in 1969. This story really showcases the community spirit that existed on Richardson Drive and emphasizes how ahead of the times Aurora was. Then, people knew it as Dominion Day and it wasn’t until 1982 when it became known as Canada Day and municipalities started having their own celebrations. People came and gathered in Aurora for these celebrations for decades before their own municipalities held events.”

Some of these early celebrations must have been sights to behold.

There was a bed race, for instance, that took place between the Council members of Aurora and Newmarket. Each team was challenged to furnish a racing mattress for the occasion. Other activities included a “greasy pole” contest, a balloon race, community races and more.

Unique souvenirs were also produced proclaiming Aurora’s celebratory spirit and the Canada’s Birthday Town logo is still familiar to long-time residents – as well as to anyone who has come out to Lambert Willson Park in recent years for the Town’s annual Canada Day bash.

Of course, those celebrations are now on hold until July 1, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this timely video reminder will launch on the museum’s website ( to help fill the celebratory void.

“As people are gathering and social distancing in smaller groups and smaller numbers this year, I hope they can take pride that this celebration is a major part of Aurora’s history and whether you’ve celebrated in crowds of thousands in previous years or celebrating with just your family in your own back yard in your own little way, it is really engrained into Aurora’s spirit to take pause and just really celebrate.”

The Museum would also like to remind you to pause before throwing out any of your Canada Day decorations or window displays – or even before deleting any celebratory photos from your iPhone. We’re living through a historic time right now and the Museum wants to know how you’re celebrating the occasion.

“We are actively trying to collect and capture the experiences of Aurorans during COVID-19,” says Ms. Johnson. “If people are making window decorations, those are the things we are interested in. If you shoot a video on your phone of your family sitting around the barbecue or questioning your family members on what Canada Day means to them and recording it, those are all things we would love to have in our collections to tell the story of how Canada’s Birthday Town still celebrated Canada’s birthday while paying attention to social distancing and social isolation.

“I think now more than ever it is important for Aurorans to do something special on that day a little bit out of the ordinary, to do something to celebrate because part of the Aurora legacy is celebrating Canada Day. However Aurorans choose to celebrate, whether it is a jam session on your porch or a video, it can really say a lot about the kind of times we’re in and the Aurora experience during COVID-19.”

By Brock Weir



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