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July long weekend again highlight for Frisians in North America

Fortieth anniversary Frisian Picnic

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PARIS, Ontario – One of the largest outdoor events organized by the postwar Dutch immigrant community in North America will celebrate its 40th anniversary on July 2 at the Pinehurst Conservation Park in Paris, a town near centrally located Brantford. The annual Frisian Picnics which at its peak attracted crowds as large as 3,500 people, now is focused more on socializing than on actively participating in games and sports.

A real draw for Frisians far and wide, are the kaatsen games, a fast handball-sport which has many enthusiasts among the folks that hail from Friesland. The kaats games are run by a separate group at the same location. Picnic goers can watch these acitivities. Although the sport also has fans in Belgium, it is most widely practiced in some regions in the northern Dutch province.

The Paris event again bills an appearance by the Dunnville-area based Excelsior Christian Brass Band, which has performed at the picnic since the early 1990s. The band also accompanies the crowd in singing.

Among the other activities held at the picnic are stilt walking, water balloon contests and the popular stoelendans. Games such as wheelbarrow racing and pillow fights above a watertank were dropped over the perceived injury risks.

Out of town Frisian Picnic participants can find accommodation in Brantford. Those who travel with camper or motorhome can look for a spot at the public park (first come, first served).

The organizing committee is undergoing further changes this year. Three of its long-time members Margaret Helder, Bob Lenos and Beverly Slofstra are retiring. They have signed on the duo Andy and Peter Torensma who are part of this year’s organization team. The retiring trio served on the committee since the early years when they joined to help Luit Miedema with the work. Fellow organizer Terry Terpstra stays on.