Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Twillingate Part 1: Getting There

2013_NL_F16_0001Growing up in Newfoundland, I was always fascinated by the mystery of the Beothuk. I guess there were really two things that fascinated me. The first was: who were these people? The second was: where did they go?

It appears that the Beothuk culture in Newfoundland may have started around the same time as Europeans arrived on the island. It certainly ended thereafter, which puts their span at about 200 - 300 years. Since the Beothuk avoided contact with the Europeans, there is little recorded information about them, and we do not know much about how they lived.

On my way to Twillingate, I decided to stop at the Boyd's Cove Beothuk Site and have a look. I had never been there before, and I hoped to learn a bit more about this vanished people.

The Site consists of an interpretive centre and an archaeological site. The interpretive centre is small and simple, which I guess makes sense since so little is known about the Beothuk. But what information there is, can be had here. For me, it was a great chance to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, since it had been some 30 years since I last read anything about these people. I was pleased to learn that current theory has it that they were not exterminated by any direct action of my European forebears, but rather were the victims of competition for the same resources with the Europeans, the Mi'kmaq and the Innu. "Pleased" may be too strong a word, though, since the end result was the same.

It was difficult to really see the archaeological site as we walked to it from the interpretive centre. It was little more than a clearing in the trees.


There is a little walk-out so that visitors can view the site without actually walking on it; the government restricts access to the site itself. The site is maintained, to a degree. Forest regeneration takes so long in Newfoundland that not much really needs to be done, other than keep the grass cut.


Even though there was nothing to see that showed anything Beothuk, in my mind's eye I could well imagine their children playing while the adults engaged in chores. I wondered if the kids liked being down at the water's edge doing the same things I did while growing up on the coast of Newfoundland: watching the storm rollers in the winter, copying pans in the spring, or catching fish during summer.


Leaving the site, I felt sad that so little of their culture survived. I think we are poorer for not knowing more about them.

From Boyd's Cove it was off to Twillingate where they were holding the Fish, Folk, and Fun Festival, and to a happier frame of mind. The festival is targeted at tourists in an attempt to draw them to the area and it seems to be doing a good job at that. When I went to look for a place to stay, I found only two rooms left in the area, and had to quickly reserve one in order to have a place to sleep.

One of the festival events is a parade. It's hard to describe what a parade is like in a small Newfoundland town, other than to say it is very grass roots. I think these sorts of parades are perhaps more akin to the origins of parades as a coming together to celebrate, rather than a large, flashy spectacle meant to entertain and awe (like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City).

Since the roads are not closed off, the parade requires some sort of safety escort and the first "float" is the local police cruiser.


Following the police is usually the flag party of the local cadet corps.



With the police running the opening escort vehicle, it usually falls to the local volunteer fire department to run the closing escort vehicle. In this case, it looks like an old fire car was also added to the parade at the front to provide a bit more colour.


These small community parades are a great opportunity for local businesses to participate and get their name out there. An example is this local wedding service provider.


Of course this is also a good excuse to get all dolled up...


... and get the kids out for a walk.


You don't have to get all dressed up to participate. You just have to make sure there is a lot of colour on your "float".


The source of the colour is not important. What is important is that you get out there and are seen!


Any topic or subject is fine; royalty is not off-limits.


In fact, inventiveness is the key. If you can throw together a few bits and pieces from around the house for a float, then have at 'er.


Floats based on cultural references are fine as well, even if you cannot spell. In this case, the reference is to the Newfoundland folk song Lukey's Boat, and specifically the Great Big Sea version (watch the kids' version here, or the adult version here).


You can even announce to people your intentions of getting married later in the year.



As with all traditions, a sense of participation is instilled at a very early age.


Everything is designed to optimize participation, and even the closing escort vehicle, while not decorated, allows for "ride-alongs" so kids can enjoy participating.


With the parade over, it was time to see the other events and sights of the festival...

Here is a list of links to all of the posts in my Twillingate 2013 series
Twillingate Part 1: Getting There
Twillingate Part 2: Wine, Music, and Whine
Twillingate Part 3: An Iceberg and a Lighthouse
Twillingate Part 4: Down to the Sea in Boats

Here is a list of links to all of the blog posts from my 2013 tour around Newfoundland:
Cuckolds Cove to Carbonear
Signal Hill
Boat Tour!
Bird Watching!
Whale Watching!
Fogo Part 1: Getting There
Fogo Part 2: Walking Around
Fogo Part 3: The Fishery
Fogo Part 4: The Fogo Island Inn

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