More mid-summer memories

Adam Cooke (left) handled keyboard duties for the August 2 album release party for Eastbound at the Dundee Resort and Golf Club. Also onstage that night were: (From second-to-left:) Drummer Shawn Burke, Eastbound members Jay and Krista Luddington, guitarist/mandolin-player Gilles Larade, and bassist Billy Joe Hines. Eastbound will host a follow-up release event on August 23 in Mulgrave.

Since last week’s column saw me sharing some favourite moments from a crazy stretch in the summer of 2019, I figure that’s a good theme to revisit for one more week.

The first Friday in August saw a celebration of the end of a long-time journey that was simultaneously a beginning. Not for me, but for two good friends of mine, Krista and Jay Luddington, who had a packed house at the Dundee Resort’s West Bay Room for the release of the first album bearing their musical duo name, Eastbound.

I had the honour and delight of playing keys for this event as part of the house band, and I was thrilled to see so the enthusiasm and love shown by so many relatives, friends, neighbours and just plain fans – many from Krista’s Dundee stomping grounds and Jay’s Guysborough County roots.

(If you’d like to get in on the fun, another Eastbound release event happens on August 23 at the former Mulgrave Memorial Education Centre site; and if you’re looking for a nice early-fall drive, I’ll be joining Jay and Krista at the Louisbourg Playhouse on September 23.)

Also in the house that night in Dundee: Cathy’s sister Deb and her brother-in-law James, who stayed with us during the first 40 hours of their latest visit to Nova Scotia. Now living in the southern France town of Cessy, our visitors helped make the first weekend of August extra-special with energy and good humour, not to mention generous amounts of European chocolate (and for me, white chocolate), We also enjoyed a drive through Richmond County that brought us to Lobsters ‘R’ Us to pick up four hearty shellfish for the now-traditional Cooke-MacKenzie-Howard crustacean celebration.

Shortly after we bid farewell to Deb and James on a sunny Sunday morning, Cathy drove me to St. Mark’s United Church, where I played the organ for a busier-than-usual service (four baptisms!) before joining Cathy to sing the worship songs at Reach (Pentecostal) Church a few blocks away. And then it was off to St. Peter’s, where the sixth edition of Swim The Canal – and my fourth – was getting underway.

The canal swim’s official launch was delayed until roughly 3:20, as a brief thundershower rolled through Richmond County. Fortunately, the skies brightened up and an estimated 300 swimmers hit the canal for a nearly-kilometre-long swim that wound up being one of the most refreshing, invigorating experiences of my entire summer.

With my long-time friend Tanya (second swim) and her brother Jay (first) alongside me, we arrived at the canal locks just as CTV’s Ana Almeida launched into her second year of Swim The Canal MC duties. After playing coy for most of her time at the edge of the canal, Ana once again plunged into the water, this time doing a mid-air twist that wouldn’t have looked out of place during her cheerleading days.

Music once again filled the locks as we awaited our final leg of the journey. We began with “O Canada” for the third straight year, and then dug up two favourites from the 2015 swim: “The Island” and “Working Man,” which ended just as the locks opened and we headed for the ocean. Heading to the Battery Park change-houses, I met a woman who had just finished her first canal swim – alongside her two boys – and declared that she was going to learn the words to “The Island” so she could sing it with us next year.

That trio came from Windsor Junction. A surprising number of swimmers made day trips to St. Peter’s for the swim, coming from Sydney, New Glasgow and Peggy’s Cove. A former resident, now living in San Francisco, flew to Nova Scotia for Swim The Canal after her niece enjoyed it in 2018. We even had an Alberta resident named Nicholas Denys (I’m not making this up) who came for the swim specifically because it wrapped up the week-long St. Peter’s community festival bearing his name. (Well, apart from the “h,” but you get the idea.)

Acadian friends old and new bookended the final 24 hours of this amazing eight-day August sprint. Last Thursday, I joined Arichat’s Delores Boudreau for a colourful, lively and occasionally moving half hour of music at the “Souper Spectacle” held at Centre La Picasse as part of Festival Acadien de Petit de Grat.

The following day, Cathy and I had brunch at the Fleur-de-Lis Dining Room in Port Hawkesbury with a great friend of ours from Cheticamp, Bruno Cormier, who was home from Toronto for a family reunion. Next week it will be 30 years since Bruno and I met as teenagers at a Catholic youth camp near Boisdale; I’m beyond grateful at the way our friendship has evolved and solidified over that three-decade span.

So, how’s your August going?