There’s an air of familiarity to the Hawkesbury Room, located on the downstairs level of the Maritime Inn on Reeves Street, as we head into the final six hours of St. Patrick’s Day 2017.
It’s partly because I’ve been here many times over the last 16 years, as a journalist and a musician. It could have a lot to do with the familiar faces I see around me – particularly the members of the Port Hawkesbury Rotary Club who I’ve gotten to know so well since I joined the organization in November.
Among the recognizable faces is my favourite face, Cathy’s, as she joins some friends of ours at a table off to the side of the room. And there’s a steady stream of faces that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering over the past 20 years of being involved with the Strait area music scene.
They’re all here for Chase The Leprechaun, a variation on the Chase The Ace phenomenon that the local Rotarians devised as a fundraiser for the club’s charitable activities. By the time the dust settles on this night, we’ll raise over $2,700 for the charitable work carried out by the Port Hawkesbury Rotary Club over the coming year.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see an event like this come together so quickly, only four months after I joined the group in an effort to serve my community while helping a long-running service organization take in some fresh faces.
You see, the town’s Rotary Club launched a major membership drive this past fall. I’m one of three new Rotarians who have come on deck as a result of that effort, with at least three more currently considering their options. Given the struggle so many similar groups have faced in recent times, we’re glad to have even a small part in continuing a movement that has served the area well for over 55 years.
So we get together every Tuesday morning at another Maritime Inn conference room for a breakfast meeting, which starts with the singing of the national anthem. (Given my long-time affection for “O Canada” and the fact that it’s our country’s 150th birthday, I certainly don’t mind joining a group that begins the day by singing Canada’s national song.)
We often have guest speakers discussing their particular professions, updating us on community improvement initiatives, or sharing fascinating stories about their experiences here at home, or around the world. But most weeks we’re a group of professionals – some retired, but most of us actively working – getting together on a weekly basis to have adult conversations on how we can make our community, and our planet, a better place.
And that’s how we come to be filling the Hawkesbury Room with music, laughter and prize draws on this particular St. Patrick’s Day. We see an opportunity to contribute to the community’s musical and cultural scene while raising funds to help us address the needs of our less fortunate – could there be a better combination?
That’s why I’m grateful to so many familiar faces who have come to share their time and talent with us on this night – the likes of Delores Boudreau, Robert Bouchard, Teralee Sampson, Jeannie Beks, Paul Davis, Jeremy White, Mac Campbell, Brian Bona, and fellow Rotarians Chris Cook (our current president) and Patrick Lamey (our incoming president). They’ve come from communities as diverse as L’Ardoise, Arichat, Creignish, Mabou, and Linwood to help us out.
Familiar songs fill the air, as well. Paul, the long-time Music of Ireland host whose show has now found a home on Radio Richmond during its fourth decade on the air, sings “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” which I remember hearing many years earlier but never had the pleasure to play or sing. Teralee and Jeannie turn the clock back two decades with some of the classic vocal harmonies they’ve delivered – on either side of the Atlantic Ocean – within their group Thistledown.
Delores rolls out “Wild Mountain Thyme,” encouraging the packed house to sing along. And Patrick ends the night with “The Irish Set,” a 10-minute, eight-song medley of everything from “The Black Velvet Band” to “Tell My Ma” that was devised over two decades ago for a performance by several Strait area musicians in our nation’s capital.
More sobering times will greet us as March rolls on. Snowstorms will buffet the region in the first week of spring, and headlines from around the world will give us cause for pause.
On this third Friday night in March, however, it’s all about the familiar joys of music, laughter, friends, and joining together for the common good – and that’s a chase worth pursuing all year long.