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A figure skating show (really!) part of the reopening party at riverfront park

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Cathy Dobson

Four years after being closed due to contamination, Centennial Park is reopening with a family-friendly community bash on Saturday.

The entertainment includes everything from live music on the new Suncor Agora stage to a figure skating show on artificial ice, a barbecue and sports demo.

The kids can look forward to inflatables, face painting, crafts and games.  The whole family can walk through the park for the first time since 2013 and see the unveiling of a mosaic wall made in honour of Canada’s 150th.

Aside from the barbecue, it’s all free.

The cleanup of asbestos and chemicals in the soil led to a complete reconstruction of the park’s seawall, its special features, walkways, playground, gardens and waterfront stage. The fencing that kept the public out came down June 2.

“We’re excited to be celebrating our park and our beautiful waterfront,” says city event organizer Rachel Veilleux.

An Ontario 150 Community Celebration grant is covering 75% of the estimated $45,000 cost and the city is picking up the rest of the tab.

As a result, the party is a salute to both Sarnia’s premier park and Ontario’s sesquicentennial.

The musical acts includes a rock band from Strathroy called Upside of Maybe and francophone pop singer Gabrielle Goulet, who hails from Bourget in eastern Ontario.

Homegrown talent takes the stage at 6 p.m. when Sarnia’s Kira-Jade Nixon sings an acoustic set of classic and new country with local musician Mark Blayney.

“The new waterfront stage is special to me,” says Kira-Jade. “I remember performing in the park when I was just a little kid and the stage was called the Dow People Place.

“I’m so glad we have a new stage in the park.”

The Suncor Agora (Gathering Place) has replaced the aging Dow People Place with a stage that faces Sarnia Bay.

“I love how open concept it is,” said Veilleux. “It is just a beautiful venue.”

A cement pad in front of the stage can accommodate thousands, she said.

The new stage will be the focal point for dignitaries and city staff to hold opening ceremonies at noon, followed by local musician Eric Ethridge who will speak about the reopened park and stage.

At 1:45 p.m., a figure skating show by Glisse on Ice takes place on a 16-foot X 16-foot synthetic ice surface.  Professional skaters will perform for about 25 minutes, and then be joined by members of Skate Sarnia.

The skating show reflects how important ice and hockey are to us and to all of Ontario, Veilleux said.

Local groups are pitching in too.  Several service clubs are involved in serving up a barbecue lunch, available for a fee. Harmony for Youth is erecting a temporary archway and inviting everyone to make a craft to hang from it. Rebound is hosting games in the field, while The Strangway Centre is putting on a tai chi class at 11 a.m.

In recent weeks, local residents have been asked to decorate 300 4-inch tiles. They will be combined into an 8-foot X 8-foot mosaic mural to commemorate Canada’s 150th.  The unveiling of the portable mural takes place in the park during the day.

“This is a perfect opportunity to recognize our park, our community and our province,” said Veilleux.  “We can be very proud.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Centennial Park and Everything Ontario Party

WHEN: Saturday June 17, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

WHERE: Sarnia’s reconstructed Centennial Park

TICKETS:  Free, except for the food. For details, visit the City of Sarnia Facebook or website.

The Arts Journal celebrates Sarnia’s cultural life.  Send your ideas to [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

 

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