By Dave Thompson
Like most great ideas, the concept of Summerfest was hatched over a couple of beers. As I recall through the fog of age, we were sitting in the Bear's Den after a Chamber of Commerce meeting and the President of the Chamber, Jim Dickens, muttered, "what this Town needs is a party"!
We brainstormed throughout the evening and the grandness of our plans grew exponentially with the intake of the beverages. Thankfully someone was jotting down notes on the back of the beer coasters (or in Jim's case...Rum coasters) so it would all make sense in the morning.
The first dose of reality occurred when we realized the Chamber only had $1,000 in the bank. That might get us a few cases of beer, an 8-track player and some stale chips...not exactly a summertime extravaganza.
There was even some reluctance on the part of the Treasurer to release the cash on such an unproven concept. Typical of Jim's feisty spirit, I recall him saying, "keep your damn money...I'll pay for it out of my own pocket".
Thus Summerfest was born. The initial driving forces included Alanna O'Brien and Doug Brown with significant volunteer help from both the Kinsmen and Lions Clubs.
I recall being Master of Ceremonies during the opening festivities in front of Giant Tiger. It was a beautiful evening with a lot of folks milling around. During a gymnastics demonstration, one of the young girls broke her ankle...we hoped this was not a harbinger of things to come.
With most of the activity on the upper level of the campus, the beer tent was shoehorned beside the bowling alley and the beers were stored in canoes filled with ice. The musical entertainment was a band called Lowdown from London.
How far we have come!
Summerfest has had amazing stewardship over the many years including the two Chris's (Harding and Carroll) and now the eclectic duo of Susan Morris and Alastair McIvor. But what makes the event work is the countless number of volunteers who have gladly lent a hand over the years.
Whether is was the watchful eye of Barry Burtch over the kegs in the beer tent or the dedicated support provided by Gary McAnulty and the much needed sanitation facilities, Summerfest is all about the people who make a contribution to make it happen.
The event is so much more than a beer tent with amazing entertainment. It is a kaleidoscope of cultural, sporting and family activities that continues to draw friends and family back to Deep River.
Amazing what you can do with $1,000!