All the Way to Haileybury and Back
A few weeks ago, Switchback hopped in the van and set off for our annual trip to visit our neighbors to the north in Canada. Our first stop along the way, though, was in one of our favorite towns south of the border, Elk Rapids, Michigan. We had a really high energy show in Elk Rapids to benefit the Grass River Natural Area and then we headed up to St. Joseph Island, Ontario the next morning.
Our first Canadian show, which happened to be on Marty’s birthday, was at the legendary Dew Drop Inn Again. The original Dew Drop Inn was “the place to go” on St. Joe’s for music and dancing back in the day. There was more than one score settled on the dance floor before it burned down in the early 1970s. The Dew Drop Inn has been revived (minus the fights!), and we had a rocking dance with about 250 of our closest friends on the island.
The next day, Saturday, was Davestock – the biggest birthday party in Ontario. Davestock was complete with Beer Olympics and rows of chickens and pork quarters on the open BBQ spit. We jammed throughout the day with Syzygy and various members of the Sundberg family. After dark, Dave lit a huge fireworks show with no mishaps this year! Well, there was the dock that collapsed, but everyone was fine!
We had the next three days off and filled them with fishing, socializing, and not as much rest as we had planned – but had a great time with our friends on the island! Somehow on Wednesday, we summoned the strength for the six hour drive northeast to Haileybury, Ontario, with Marty, Chris Knapp, the Sundbergs and me all packed into the Switchback van along with all the gear. Haileybury sits on Lake Timiskaming, across which you can see Quebec, and the drive up there is quite breathtaking. We had a wonderfully warm welcome at the Canadian Legion Hall, even though we rearranged the entire room. We kicked off the initial Haileybury concert season with a bang and met a lot of new Canadian friends, including Lee, Lucy, Drew and Lisa, who opened their hearts and their homes to us
We would have loved to have spent more time in Haileybury but were rudely thrown back on the road back to Blind River, the same town Neil Young referenced in his song “Long May You Run.” There we were touched by the loving reception at the Golden Birches Terrace Nursing Home and it was with full hearts that we left that facility to set up for our evening concert at the local French High School. This “Bucks for Beds” benefit concert was a lot of fun – the audience especially enjoyed the comedy of “Twister in a Trailer Park” and “Sycamore View” (The Nursing Home Song).
The next morning, we were on the road again to Thessalon, Ontario. We had a light but enthusiastic crowd there and had a lot of fun with Heather and Norm, who kept the requests coming, and the newlyweds James (age 83) and his lovely bride Isabelle. James kept the energy high with his Cape Breton step dancing and when he was joined by his young (73 year old) friend Tom, they really made the night! The next night was our last one in Canada back at the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie), with a benefit concert for their Soup Kitchen. We were joined one last time by our friends from St. Joe’s and were treated to Cameron Ross on the bagpipes. We played the “St. Joe Island Song” one last time, packed up, and said a bittersweet farewell to our northern neighbors and friends.