By RYAN MELANSON
Thursday, Dec.1, 2011
The Stratfords of the World Festival was last held on P.E.I. 10 years ago, and the celebration was much more sombre than usual.
The 2001 version of the festival, which connects communities around the world that share the name of Stratford, had its opening events fall on the same day of the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks in New York, which shocked travellers and froze much of the world’s airspace.
The 2012 festival will be held Sept.13-19.
Stratford Town Councillor Diane Griffin attended the events in 2001. The unfortunate timing of the attacks in New York kept people from being as cheerful as usual, as well as preventing many from making it to P.E.I at all, Griffin said.
“There were quite a few people who didn’t get here, the opening reception was very poorly attended. It was only our own Stratford people and some that had come ahead of time.”
A group from Stratford, Conn., who chose to take a bus rather than flying to Prince Edward Island, were the only ones who were able to arrive on the Tuesday of the attacks. Some travellers weren’t able to reach our Stratford for days after plane crashes.
“The people from Australia weren’t able to arrive until midway through our Friday night concert,” Griffin said. “They still managed to perform in the second half of the concert right after getting to the church, so the whole situation was quite something.”
Coun. Randy Cooper said he’s happy the town gets to host the event again to make up for the bad timing of the 2001 festival.
“The last time it was held here was right on 9-11 and we know only about one third of the people were able to make it on time, but it’s back in Stratford again for this upcoming year, and hopefully under better circumstances.”
The festival was founded in 1985, with Stratford, P.E.I. first becoming part of the group in 1997 after being invited by the mayor of Stratford, Ont.
The festival is a great way to stay connected with the international community and for residents to bond with people who they would otherwise never meet.
“It connects us with the other communities, which would be in Australia, Ontario, Connecticut, New Zealand, and England. So that’s pretty unique and we’re looking forward to that,” Cooper said.
The aspect of community connection and learning about different Stratfords does come into play during the festival, but the focus is mostly on fun, social activities, Griffin said.
“Last time, we had our concert and a dance, a golf tournament, we went to the race track one night and were able to use the judge’s table, there’s receptions and an ending banquet as well.”
Unlike some who have travelled to different Stratfords for the event numerous times, Griffin hasn’t attended outside of Prince Edward Island. Still, bonds are made and she said she’s excited to reunite with friends she’s met from other Stratfords for the 2012 festival.
“We do have good friends from Connecticut who have stayed with us twice before and I’m sure they will again. It’s just a matter of moving the bed from downstairs to upstairs.”
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