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  • Phil Jenkins

A River(fest) runs through us

Rising north of the Baskatong Reservoir, Tenagadino Zibi (Anishinaabeg name) or the Gatineau (settler name) flows on for almost four hundred kilometres, passing Low and down to Hull and on to the Ottawa.

A source of misty beauty, of recreation, of food, of habitat and inspiration for artists, our moving river gives much to us. And so, on Sept. 9, the river will host its own festival organized by Friends of the Gatineau River (FOG), which I doubt has any enemies, with a day of gratitude and celebration for the river.

There will be music, drumming, and dancing aplenty. The music will take place both on land and water, with the landlubber shows in the Wakefield community centre, which will be acting as headquarters for the day. At HQ, there will be an eco-fair, a kid zone, and a costume contest with freshwater creatures as the theme, with judging going down at 7:30 p.m. Time to dig out the Ninja Turtle outfit.

On the water, a paddle parade will leave from turntable park in Wakefield at 1 p.m. and cross the border into Chelsea, ending at the Farm Point dock. (Best to register on the FOG website, Waterborne musical instruments will complement the rhythm of the paddles, but just be careful not to mix up paddles and guitars. Becky Mason will perform her canoe ballet to the brassy sounds of the L'Ensemble River Brass as the parade gets underway.

The community centre has a raft of free family events, starting at 4 p.m. with, most appropriately, the Eagle River Singers and Anishinaabe dancers from a fellow Gatineau River community, Kitigan Zibi. The Chelsea Youth Choir will add their songs of celebration with special guest Ian Tamblyn at 5 p.m.

Later at 6 p.m., locals Pickachune (say it quickly) will provide a chance to make new friends with a Celtic square dance led by the acoustic talents of Eva Vanderberg on fiddle, Matt Selic on push button accordion, Pat Maher on stringed instruments and Steve Renehan on the bodhran drum. There will be a caller, Emily Addison, to limit collisions to a minimum and keep things whirling. Come one come all. Then starting at 8 p.m., the Peptides, an Ottawa-based nine-piece, will funk you up. Here's a review of the band according to MuchMore Music: "Mixing their stunning vocals with funk beats underneath as soulful sound, an abundance of theatrical dance moves and kitschy quirks, they defy any genre or description. One must simply see them to believe them.”

Also on hand will be a trio of speakers. Living in the Hills is all about water and defending its rights, and Gatineau Valley Historical Society's Gilbert Whiteduck, author and activist Maude Barlow, and the current Ottawa Riverkeeper Laura Reinsborough will speak to that.

Finally, as evening falls, around 9 p.m., there will be a bonfire, a circle of song by firelight, rivers perhaps being the general theme. And as the last chorus drifts over the river, the Gatineau will, as it has always done, go with the flow. Three cheers for Tenagadino Zibi. Long may you run.

Phil Jenkins is a proud Gatineau Hills author and musician. Reach him at with your arts in the Hills news.


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