Marking one hundred and fifty years is cause for quite a celebration, but few could ever have imagined what would unfold when the planning committee started to draw up ideas for what would become known far and wide over the next decade as 'PIONEER DAYS'. The year was 1970 and Middleville, a community located in the 'middle' of Lanark Township, set out to commemorate the arrival of the mainly Scottish immigrants in 1820 to the area. It was recorded that Middleville boasted about 90 residents in 1970. The community had a reputation for pulling together and getting things done. Dignitaries were invited, a parade was planned and the call went out across the Township to dust off antiques, tune up old engines and plan to celebrate everything from yesteryear. Word travelled fast and owners of antiques from all around the area started to get ready to head to Middleville on August 2nd and 3rd. What happened next was truly astounding.
The weekend programme in August of 1970 promised a little something for everyone!
The event kicked off with a good, old fashioned country dance in the hall on Saturday night. Then Sunday would start off with a interdenominational Church Service honouring the strong ties the immigrants had to their faith. Following that, the crowd was treated to displays of antique steam engines, horse and dog powered mechanisms and demonstrations of just about anything the pioneers had done in their daily lives. There was lots of food on offer catered by local Women's groups and a chicken barbecue that quickly became a highlight. The days were filled with contests like catch the greasy pig, bubble gum blowing, wood chopping and sawing. There were prizes handed out for best costumes and several beard growing categories. A stage was filled with musical acts from the area. All the village's various halls were filled with displays of handicrafts and memorabilia. The old stone school was re-opened with a historical township school display. This school later became the original space for what is now the Middleville and District Museum.
The parade on holiday Monday was a highlight not to be missed! In one year, 265 entries made their way from one end of the village to another delighting crowds that lined the streets.
When the dust settled on the event, the villagers knew they were on to something and plans began for a second 'Pioneer Days' celebration. The first years' estimated attendance was about 10 000 people. Original sponsors, the Lanark Township Volunteer Fire Department, were able to use proceeds from the event to purchase a new pumper truck for $6000. The second year's proceeds allowed for much needed renovations to the fire hall and some additional equipment. The second Pioneer Days had a well known special guest speaker, Dr. Charlotte Whitton, who recounted 150 years of Lanark County's history to a crowd of about 3000 at an open air interdenominational Church service.
With each successive year, Pioneer Days drew bigger crowds, welcomed more activities and exhibits and became a must see event of the summer. Countless volunteers worked endless hours to put on a great show. Entertainment talent and exhibitors came from far and wide to be a part of this event. It grew and grew.
As many things do, Pioneer Days eventually ran its course after a decade of tremendous success. The time commitment for volunteers became too onerous and eventually the community made the hard decision to discontinue this phenomenal enterprise. Pioneer Days will long live on in the memories of those who were fortune enough to have attended. Just the mention of it brings a flood of memories of a time when a little hamlet of about ninety, swelled to tens of thousands of visitors every summer for a glorious weekend of celebration. The Middleville and District Museum has a collection of memorabilia of Pioneer Days and is planning a special exhibit next season. It will be sure to bring back a few memories of a bygone time.
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This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.