Levee welcomes new year
Jim Alexander, the honourary cannoneer at the annual Friends of Fort George New Years Levee outside Navy Hall Friday, said it was "great fun" firing the cannon across the Niagara River. Helping him were Gavin Watt and Chris Gilchrist of Parks Canada. Fred Mercnik/Special to the Advance
Jim Alexander, a board member of the Friends of Fort George since its beginnings, hasn’t missed the traditional welcome of the New Year..
He’s helped organize them, he’s served punch, he’s been behind the podium for the usual toasts, but this was his first time in 28 years he’s been allowed to light the cannon.
It’s a job associated with some skill and danger that is taken very seriously, but it’s also great fun, he said.
“I was very honoured to be chosen.”
He and his wife Erika have been key in the role the Friends play in the operation of Fort George and the many events organized in partnership with Parks Canada. They have started to “ease off” a little in their participation, but remain very involved, he says.
He was chosen the honourary cannoneer for his commitment to the Friends of Fort George over many years, and although he has watched it fired many times, it still came as a surprise, he said.
His eyes and ears were well-protected, but he was still a little shaken up by the noise and the way the air and ground shook when it fired, and how immediate the reaction is once the black powder is lit, he said.
Parks Canada staff are very cautious, and took the time to walk him through the procedure.
“There is always a chance things can go wrong, and it has happened at other locations, but never at this site. We’ve never had a problem because of the diligence of staff.”
Up close, he said, the firing of the cannon can be “very head-clearing.”
Lord Mayor Pat Darte attended his second levee as a dignitary, and said he really enjoys the camaraderie of the occasion.
Parks Canada and the Friends of Fort George do a great job of organizing the event, he said.
“The entire founding of this town is based on history and heritage, and they are the champions of those things for us.”
Seeing friends and neighbours at an event that brings the community together is a great way to start off the new year, he added.