Thought Australia’s Bicentenary was big? Think again. Canada is putting Australia to shame in the national celebration stakes this year as the country marks its 150th anniversary of confederation in serious style.
This year marks 150 years of Canada’s confederation. But unlike Australia’s Bicentenary back in 1988, the celebrations will go far beyond commemorative license plates and a culturally questionable First Fleet re-enactment.
No, Canadians know how to really mark such an anniversary with mega beer festivals, a virtual reality multimedia village, eye-popping mechanical creatures, a record-breaking playground, and once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences highlights of the sesquicentennial agenda.
And to think Australia thought World Expo 88 in Brisbane was a slick production…
While Aussies had the touring Australian Bicentennial Exhibition in 1988, Canada is taking a much more futuristic (and memorable) approach to its roaming cultural experience, SESQUI. The multimedia dome village that’s travelling across Ontario this Canadian summer contains a 360-degree cinematic experience of the country, giving lifelike glimpses of ice fishing in the north, the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island, and Victoria’s historic Chinatown. There will also be theatre performances that celebrate the Great White North’s diversity.
Anniversaries and sport — they seem to always come together, don’t they? In ’88 Australia had the Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Youth Cricket World Cup, and the Trans-Australia hot air balloon race. But they all seem to pale in comparison to Canada’s epic 150 Ultra Marathon, guiding super fit travellers 150 miles (241 kilometres), from Winnipeg River at Great Falls, past the region’s historical hydro electric dams along the Canadian Shield, before venturing deep in the woods and skirting across colossal rock faces, finishing at the southern reaches of Falcon Lake. Even if you’re not the athletic type, it’ll be worth getting to the finish line at ski village Falcon Trails Resort on July 1 for the atmosphere alone.
What’s the best way to encourage youngsters to participate in a national anniversary? For Australian schoolchildren in 1988, it meant being gifted a Bicentennial ‘Heritage Medallion’. Gee…thanks? Canadian tykes might be slightly more enthused when a brand-new 46000-square metre playground opens up at Ottawa’s Mooney’s Bay Park. The largest playground in the country, it has been created as part of the TV series called Giver, with the help of local Ontario kids. Shaped like Canada, it’ll have a different play space for each province and territory plus the world’s longest set of continuous monkey bars.
Akin to Australia’s widely publicised love affair with beer, Canada also has a rich history with the golden nectar, which will be celebrated in many forms (July 28-30) at Toronto’s Festival of Beer. Featuring samples from every province and some seriously tasty bites, you’ll be able to chat with brewers and food producers from across the country, as well as soak up non-stop music.
The celebrations don’t end there for beer lovers — Central City Brewers + Distillers in British Columbia have partnered with breweries from 12 provinces and territories across Canada to launch a special craft beer 12-pack to commemorate the country’s milestone birthday. Dubbed the ‘Red Racer Across The Nation Collaboration pack, it will be available in liquor stores in most provinces throughout this year.
As Canada’s capital city and the epicentre of the 150th birthday celebrations, Ottawa’s food scene is set to take on great new heights, literally. The Sky Lounge experience will take place 150 feet in the air by Ottawa City Hall, serving diners a three-course menu showcasing locally-sourced ingredients and Canadian fine wine, with a side of impressive city views. This aerial dinner is part of the city’s Ignite 150 program throughout July, which will also include epic stunts, a 4D outdoor movie (3D with ‘physical effects’) and yoga sessions on a barge floating down a local waterway, accompanied by a live orchestra.
Vancouver, British Columbia
If there’s one major criticism of the 1988 Bicentenary, it was the lack of events that showcased what the anniversary meant (or didn’t mean) to Indigenous Australians. Australia has come a long way since then, as has Canada. Vancouver’s Larwill Park will host The Drum is Calling Festival — a free, family-friendly, multi-day festival celebrating the region’s First Nations heritage and culture. Expect live music, food vendors, carving and weaving exhibitions, dance, and sports tournaments, as well as a village of life-size aboriginal housing structures, which will double as event venues (July 22-30).
World-renowned French performance company La Machine, will bring its giant machines to North America for the first time to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary. Taking place in Ottawa (July 27-30), La Machine will see gargantuan mechanical creatures roam the streets, bringing science fiction to life, like enormous spiders and a great fire-breathing dragon interact with crowds.
The revered Canadian Museum of History in Quebec is set to unveil a new signature exhibition on the nation’s birthday, the Canadian History Hall —considered to be the largest and most comprehensive exhibition on Canadian history ever developed. Comprising three main galleries that will be connected by a hub, the Canadian History Hall will present the story of Canada and its people more inclusively and candidly than ever before, with some 65 interactive elements, 75 maps, 100 digital productions, and 1800 artefacts.
Vancouver, British Columbia
When it comes to Canadian comfort food, few places can compare to Vancouver’s rave-reviewed Timber restaurant. Think lumberjack and hunter meet upscale city setting, and you have yourself Timber’s Long Table Canadian Suppers, which are being held throughout 2017. With a meat-focused menu, diners can expect local delicacies like succulent meats, bison burgers and deep-fried cheese curds, followed by marshmallow roasting and s’more-making at the outdoor fire pit.