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Annual Frisian July event again pulled together its thousands

Fortieth anniversary a draw

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PARIS, Ontario – Organizers of the annual Frisian Picnic are all smiles with their fortieth event on July 2 (2007). The three thousand Frisians ’om ûtens’ gathered at the local park, and among other things, officially sent off three committee members with a hand of applause. They also noted the absence of the One Man Band of crowd pleaser Bert Ferwerda, who entertained numerous thousands over the many years he helped provide a happy and festive atmosphere at the picnic.

Organizers noted that the turn out was noticeably higher again this year, after the extreme heat during the previous year. At the opening ceremony, the Wellandport area brass band (until the 1950s, most Frisian villages and towns had at least one of those) played the Canadian and the Frisian anthems and more. Bev Van Dyk Slofstra, Robert Lenos and Margareth Helder Wesseling retired from the committee after decades-long involvement and have been replaced by the father and son Torensma-team.

The park, which has a lake with beech as well as shade-providing trees, saw plenty of activity, ranging from happy reunion chatter in Frysk, Dutch and English and the unique immigrant blend of all three, to pole walking, the Frisian ball game kaatsen (arranged by separate organizers), planklopen, and various water balloon contests, to name some.

The more contemplative types – not necessarily just retirees – watched the beehive from their chairs on the sidelines. Snack venders Miedema and Van Dyk Fish (for more of his delicacies, try the St. Jacob’s Public Market, where there also is a Witteveen Meats outlet owned by a Paris-based Frisian family) were run off their feet without getting away from their portable shops. The committee’s 40th anniversary souvenir was sold out before long.

The publicity for what is the largest annual gathering of Frisians in North America was supported by a number of firms in Canada, mostly with no direct Frisian ancestry.

– with thanks to photographer & contributor Jerry Van Dyk.