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‘Quite unforgettable’: Smiths Falls’ Old Home Week shaping up to be an 8-day party

These two promotional banners have been designed by the Old Home Week committee to captivate the masses anticipated to be in Smiths Falls in August next year for the eight-day celebration. Smiths Falls Coun. Peter McKenna, who is part of the organizing task force, is pictured with the new banners. – Photo via Facebook

It only happens every 25 years, but Old Home Week in Smiths Falls is an event not to be missed.

The task force shared their agenda with council’s committee of the whole on Tuesday, Feb. 12, as co-chair Christa Dales Donnelly presented a budget for early-stage planning.

The date of the 2025 festival is Aug. 2 to 9; it will host such events as parades (a main parade and a night shirt parade), a midway, bands, a closing ceremony with a drone light show and much more.

They expect to spend about $200,000, Dales Donnelly explained.

“Our initial ask (of the town) was $50,000,” she said, as their total budget was based on the fact that in 2000, the budget was $100,000.

They’ve dropped their town ask to $40,000 based on the number of requests for funding through the community grants program, which was recently approved.

Dales Donnelly said to get ahead of the finances they will need to start paying deposits for things like administration, marketing and entertainment.

The cost of bands can be $1,000 and Dales Donnelly said they plan to have “two, possibly three parades.”

The drone show, she said, will be a highlight of the festivities at $30,000 but a 30 per cent down payment is needed, “which we think is a reasonable amount based on fireworks and what other shows have been.”

Putting down large deposits for great entertainment “means that we can secure the kind of entertainment that we may only see every 25 years that we want to provide for the community,” she said.

There are 10 volunteers currently on the Old Home Week task force, and they hope to get more people involved.

They are looking for administrative tools like a phone and laptop to help “present ourselves in as professional a way as we possibly can,” Dales Donnelly said.

The group is looking for partnerships with small, medium and large businesses and corporations as they get a start on their fundraising goals. To do that, Dales Donnelly said they need to secure the best talent possible first, and these funds will help.

Coun. Jennifer Miller, who is the executive director at Lanark County Big Brothers Big Sisters, said she has never attended an Old Home Week. She asked about the week-long summer festival, which she called “very resource-heavy…It seems challenging to me and I wonder if you’ve talked that through.”

Dales Donnelly agreed that it is challenging, and will require a lot of work by town staff and the Old Home Week committee.

“This has happened every year since 1925. I don’t consider it negotiable. We have to do Old Home Week. What that looks like will depend on what we are able to do based on the volunteers and the money.”

Dales Donnelly said this will be 100 years since the first one, and they want to ensure the plan continues in the future, “maybe in a better organized fashion than it has been carried forward in the past.”

Coun. Peter McKenna said any chance they get to promote Old Home Week is a good opportunity.
“Anyone who has ever lived here, been associated with Smiths Falls and the region is invited to come back home for that week. There are postcards going out this year. Book your rooms early.”

McKenna said this will be the third festival that he’s participated in, and as part of the task force, he said he’d be happy to answer any questions. “You’ll be hearing updates.”

McKenna said it’s unusual in Canada to go every 25 years with a festival like this.

“That makes it so special,” he said. “They’re quite unforgettable and everybody comes home.”

The beauty of it is, for all those who have moved here since 2000, Smiths Falls has become their home, and Old Home Week “is a lot of fun,” McKenna said.

“The goal is to bring everyone home,” Dales Donnelly said. “It’s also to introduce Smiths Falls to new people as well. And we know people come from all over the world. We also want to highlight our local industries, past and present, and … get to know the new people in town, which has been significant in the last few years.”

A good way to do that, she added, is to get involved.

“It is something that we are pretty proud of that we do every 25 years,” she said.

Chief administrative officer Malcolm Morris asked if they could have a look at the overall budget and how the $40,000 ask of the town could be leveraged into something bigger.

Morris said it wasn’t an immediate request as he knows it’s a volunteer group, “but just an overall global picture of what the total budget is expected to be.”

Dales Donnelly said it would be doable to get the budget submitted in a couple of months.

Coun. Dawn Quinn, who chaired the meeting, said the amount of work is appreciated by the task force, as she’s familiar with such festivals as the Chocolate Festival (when Hershey’s was in town) and the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario Festival – both of which she had a hand in.
Coming back to council with a more in-depth budget would keep the festival in the minds of those watching the town’s televised meetings.

“We get to see what you’re looking at for a budget,” she said. “And you’re keeping the momentum going.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Published August, 1925: “Over 10,000 invitations were sent out to old Smiths Falls residents. Letters in reply were received from all parts of Canada, The United States and England.  The town did its part by sprucing up with fresh paint, flags, lanterns, etc. and by covering its dirt roads with asphalt. Old Home Week 1925 started off with a bang on Monday morning, August 3.  The “Old Timers” had been pouring in over the weekend and the first night saw them gathering in a Ring around Rosy circle in front of the Rideau Hotel to renew old friendships.”

Task force meetings are every third Tuesday of the month to which the public is welcome. Check out their Facebook page or website for more information.

Smiths Falls inaugural Old Home Week parade 1925 as it makes its way down Beckwith Street. – Photo courtesy Old Home Week Task Force

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