For the past 28 years, the community of Avondale has been celebrating its wharf and shipbuilding history with the annual Avondale Wharf Day. This year’s event on July 27 is no different.
The original Wharf Day took place in 1991, when the community came together to rebuild the wharf, which had deteriorated into a pile of rubble, says Tacha Reed, facility manager at the Avon River Heritage Museum and Avon Spirit Shipyard.
Then, in 1994, during a special Wharf Day celebration, the community staged a re-enactment of the landing of the Planters in 1760, inviting descendants to join in the festivities. At that time, local residents Kristie Sheehy and Trudy Lake had organized a temporary museum at the United Church, consisting of old diaries and photographs and other trinkets of memorabilia belonging to the descendants of the founding families of Avondale.
“Some of those items on display 25 years ago became the first few items in our museum collection, which continues to grow with each passing year,” says Reed.
This year’s event celebrates the 25th anniversary of the museum's inception in the Avon River Heritage Society. The society will be setting up a curator’s corner, with museum curator Carolyn Van Gurp, who will be collecting information and stories connected to artifacts to help fill in some of the missing pieces, says Reed.
“If anyone has a memento or relic they think should be preserved by the museum, please bring it along and Carolyn will talk you through the options for donation and how your item will be best preserved, whether by our society or another, like the West Hants Historical Society or the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic,” explains Reed.
FULL SLATE OF ACTIVITIES
This year’s Wharf Day festivities get underway July 27 at noon, with a picnic and games on the field. Reed says to bring a blanket and a sunshade and enjoy an afternoon filled with activities on the field and in the shipyard. The afternoon will be a prime time for mud sliding, and after 7 p.m. until dark, will be ripe for fishing.
Members of Avon River Arts will have lots of art supplies on hand for activities like building fairy houses, painting garden rocks and making paper lanterns. Head to the boathouse for live music with an open mic during the afternoon. Starting at 6 p.m., there will be performances by Chairman of the Blues and the No Name Blues Band. The fireworks over the Avon River, the most popular event, will happen around 9 p.m.
This year’s celebration includes the use of the newly constructed wharf, Reed added.
After more than 20 years, the most recent rebuild of the Avondale Wharf was beginning to show signs of rot, explains Reed. Because of the rising tides, the wharf was becoming partially submerged during extreme high tides. After a few false starts, the community came together in 2016 to fundraise to rebuild the structure.
“With funding help from the Municipality of West Hants, a handful of locals, many of the children of the families responsible for rebuilding the wharf in 1991, came together, and throughout the summer of 2017 and 2018, a new wharf was constructed,” says Reed, “This time, three feet higher than the previous wharf built in 1991.”
Reed says this wharf is in constant use by the community and visitors. A number of boats launch daily to fish the Avon River and it is a popular place of relaxation for those wanting to take in the pastoral landscape, witness the tidal bore or experience out of this world sunsets, she says.
Rebuilding the wharf may have been what initially brought the community together to celebrate cooperation and the area's roots in wooden shipbuilding, but after 30 years, this has become a way of life for many living in the community.
“Wharf Day allows us an opportunity to share with a wider audience what we normally enjoy on a daily basis living here on the Avon River,” she says.