Getting ready for community come home year celebrations is a monumental task, one requiring dedicated volunteers devoting a lot of free time to the most minute of details.
This summer, the tiny island community of Ramea, accessible only via ferry ride from Burgeo, will host Come Home Year celebrations from Aug. 7 to 11.
Chairwoman Laura Kendall, who was nominated to take the reins for the 2019 festivities, also served on previous organizing committees. Currently, she is helping guide a crew of about 23 volunteers.
“Oh my gosh, the details,” laughs Kendall. “It’s difficult to know exactly what you’re going to be faced with until you jump in with both feet.”
Kendall cites accommodations as the biggest challenge the committee has faced.
Ramea has about 400 full-time residents, and since come home year festivities are held regularly every 10 years, those with family or friends in the area anticipated the 2019 schedule.
“There are not a lot of options for housing for people to rent or you know, borrow, or anything like that. Anything that was available was arranged for way in advance,” says Kendall. “Some people had accommodations booked before we even said, ‘yep, we’re going to do it again this year.’”
By the time the invitation process had begun, there was really nothing left. Some making the trip will bring campers and tents. There are sewer dumping stations and water hookups for campers, and locals have relatives who have committed to tenting in the backyard. Others will sail their own boats to dock in the harbour.
“That’s not an option for everyone of course,” admits Kendall. “We have one of the public buildings here in town that’s agreed to let … people sleep on floors with air mattresses and sleeping bags and whatever, … people are making use of whatever space they can come across.”
Kendall says there are still logistics being worked out for showers and the public buildings will have bathroom access.
“Replies are still coming in and you know, not everybody has responded, but we’re definitely over 500 people at the moment. We’re at about 235 families, but you know some of those families have a large number of people that are coming with them,” says Kendall.
Presenting an additional challenge for the organizing committee is that Come Home Year overlaps with the popular annual Rock Island Music Festival, which continues to draw more tourists.
“That is something that we just cannot foresee. You know, tourists pop in at every given time of the year and we have no way of knowing,” notes Kendall. “There may very well be people that may be stopping in to take in the festival, but again there’s no way to know that.”
The committee is also hoping the ferry schedule can be adjusted to allow more trips across to the island for the influx of visitors. Reaching out to the Department of Transportation and Public Works is still on the committee’s to-do list.
“The department traditionally has been very understanding of the circumstances, so we’re hopeful that they will again provide additional runs when the traffic warrants it,” says Kendall.
When it comes to extra food and other supplies, Kendall says the town’s merchants and volunteer groups have plenty of experience.
“As a committee, no, we won’t be ordering food supplies but the stores here in town will certainly anticipate the need for more,” says Kendall. “All of our service organizations will be involved in pulling off meals.”
Preparations for the events are also well underway and the committee has already released its official schedule of events on its Facebook page.
“We have festivities planned for every day of the event.”
Kendall notes some of them are weather dependent and adjustments may have to be made accordingly. Some of the highlights include dory races, screech-ins and dances.
“Music is obviously a big part of the event.”
Helping the community offset the cost of hosting its celebrations is the pre-sale of clothing customized with the official logo.
“We’ve also done a cookbook and we’re in the process of just about finalizing a calendar. Of course, it will be a 2020 calendar,” says Kendall. “We’ve collected pictures from residents and former residents.”
Kendall anticipates in addition to the local businesses and volunteer groups, crafters and other entrepreneurs will enjoy a bit of a revenue boost.
“We encourage that. It’s a great opportunity for people to make a bit of money.”
Until the opening parade kicks off the festivities, Kendall admits there’s still a lot of work to keep the volunteers busy.
“There’s a whole slew of things that need to be done.”