It all came together beautifully. The first Circle of Art event, held on Saturday, July 25, was a another great success for the Friends of Crystal Beach.
The setting for the art show was Queen's Circle on Derby Road in Crystal Beach. It was a triumphant return to the heart of the village, where it all began. For it was in the late 1800s that Crystal Beach became a meeting place for artists, educators, musicians and speakers as part of the Chautauqua Movement, named after the town in New York State where it began. Once again, artists, musicians, educators and people gathered in the shady, idyllic circle to enjoy art, food and conversation. It was a true example of what can be achieved by dedicated community volunteers.
Visitors were impressed by the recently refurbished gazebo that has been in Queen's Circle since the late 1990s. Now painted a light silvery green, it blends in with the trees and plantings that adorn the lush circle. Shade trees protected the artists and their works from the summer sun and a breeze kept things cool and comfortable. The work on the gazebo was moved ahead at the request of the Friends of Crystal Beach, along with a generous donation to the project so that visitors and residents alike would enjoy the park even more this summer.
Circle of Art creator and coordinator, Gayle Martineau worked tirelessly for months on the project. She got a lot of help from other Friends of Crystal members, especially Karen Davis-Matthews, who also took Second Place in the visitor poll. Paul Lewis took First and Stacey Thomas came in Third. Artists were very impressed by the treatment they received and the sales they made of their artwork. All have indicated they will be back next year on July 23, 2016 for the second Circle of Art exhibition. Local students were also represented and awarded ribbons for their efforts.
Bob Steckley provided food along with his fabled Crystal Beach Waffles and Suckers. Nothing better than sharing a blooming onion in the shade while visiting with friends and neighbours. Hot dogs and all the other great food he serves up were washed down with Crystal Beach Loganberry. Other soft drinks were offered by The Friends of Crystal Beach along with their popular tee shirts and special tote bags with the Circle of Art logo. Even palette-shaped homemade shortbread cookies made by Gayle and her friend Mel were available.
A great assortment of door prizes was raffled off, provided by a number of local businesses. Buskers offered ambient music and even visiting canines were provided drinking water, treats and clean-up bags.
As an observer and a volunteer for this event, I must say that this is what I have always envisioned for Crystal Beach and Queen's Circle. It has taken years for Crystal Beach to come back from the devastation of the closing of the amusement park. At least a dozen new people to the area introduced themselves and told why they chose to relocate to Crystal Beach. One couple said they had been trying for several years to find the right place to buy. The tortured Era of the Condo was never mentioned; people were just too happy at what they saw yesterday in Crystal Beach. Meanwhile, that morning was the annual Crystal Beach Drive/Terrace Lane garage Sale. Another long-standing tradition that draws people from all over.
There was another very important event going that day in Waverly Beach: the dedication of a plaque commemorating the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of the NAACP which is the leader in the civil rights movement in the United States. A representative of Barack Obama, President of the United States was on hand as well as a number of local and national dignitaries. As many know, Fort Erie was an important stop on the fabled Underground Railway for runaway slaves from the US in the years preceding the American Civil War in 1861. It was a natural setting for a meeting of civil rights advocates; it is now recognized as a birthplace for the movement.
To sum this all up, I have to recount a statement made by a visitor to the Friends of Crystal Beach tent:
"Thank you for all you do."
Amen to that.