Bus tour on July 3, 2010 to Danville, Quebec, fondly remembered
|Danville Dignitaries: l to r Toby Balivet, Jane Kitchel, Denise Briggs (hidden, but waving), Alice Hafner, Dorothy Larrabee, and Paul Chouinard, got a rousing cheer from the Vermonters, who enjoyed watching some of our own in the parade.|
By Sharon Lakey, Director of the Danville Historical Society
It was a somber morning as the tour bus to Danville, Quebec, loaded in the early morning of July 3, 2010. If one didn’t know already, it was whispered that Mary Prior, past President of the Danville Historical Society, had passed the evening before. She had been a part of the planning stages of the trip before Town Meeting, bringing out the archival photographs of the 1960 Twinning of the Towns event and talking it up excitedly. We rolled smoothly out of her beloved Danville right on time with passports, enhanced driver’s license or birth certificates tucked away, ready for the border crossing into Canada. What would we find in Danville, Quebec, our twin town that was now celebrating its 150th birthday?
With sunshine and green hills, more flat-looking than around here, Danville, QC, presented itself nicely to us as our bus rolled through the outskirts, then through the center of town. People sitting in an outdoor cafe over coffee must have wondered what a tour bus was doing in town. They looked at us quizzically. We were earlier that expected.
The driver, equipped with GPS, knew to take us to the fairgrounds. A large, white tent was set up there and small food booths circled a common area. The fairgrounds were adjacent to the English-speaking high school to which the driver parked us near the doors. There, a vigorous-looking older gentleman, nicely dressed, was standing to greet us. Paul Chouinard, new President of the Danville Historical Society was our tour guide, and he stepped off the bus to meet him.
When the gentleman stepped onto the bus, he announced in French-accented English that he was Hertel Boisert, 84-years-old, that had made the trip to Danville, VT, in 1960. He was the one, who with his wife and two children, had driven the wagon and team of horses from Danville, VT, to Danville, QC, in honor of the original settlers who had taken that same trip in 1806. He told us he would be our guide until the Town Hall opened, located at a lovely lake and nature preserve near the high school. So began our day of fun in Danville, QC.
The lake, which is named Burbank Pond, is large. Mr. Boisvert explained that it was originally a mill pond that has been turned into a nature preserve. It didn’t take long for some of our tour participants to find some nature trails and take the opportunity to stretch their legs. Mr. Boisvert brought his book of memories with him and shared some of his Danville stories and photographs with us. He told us that his wife, who kept a daily journal of their adventures in 1960, had passed, but her journal was now being made into a book. A baby racoon, part of a rescue program, entertained us as well, by running after its handler.
Soon, other dignitaries arrived, one in a tuxedo and bowler, and the town offices were opened. We were ushered into the council chambers where a woman in a long gown smiled and handed out small glasses of apple champagne while another dignitary gave us lapel pins with the Town’s insignia. A guest book on the table was presented for all to sign. Two of our group had been at the previous 1960 celebration: Alice McDonald Hafner and Dianne Smith Langmaid (six-years-old at the time). Toby Balivet, as a boy, had also attended some events with his father, Hank, who was instrumental in the planning of the 1960 tour. The rest of us were first-time celebrants.
The man in the tuxedo was the mayor of Danville, QC. We were to see more than one tuxedo during the day. For the celebration, the town officials wore traditional garb, making them easy to spot. The mayor was French-speaking (francophone), so his speech of greeting was translated for us by an English-speaking person (anglophone). In this case, Mr. Boisvert served the role. (We were to find simple kindnesses throughout the day, where communication was a collaborative effort between interested parties.) It was here that an exchange of flags took place: Danville, QC, gave us one of their town flags and Paul presented a Vermont flag to them.
After the exchange, we were back on the bus with an anglophone historian, who gave us running commentary about the town as we drove to the center “green” to a farmer’s market. It was a small market, much different than ours. The green is different, too, as it is more like a business center than our green. The vendors were inside a large brick, cooperatively owned, cafe. Some in our group sat for coffee and French pastry, while others looked over pamphlets and other things that were offered there for sale. Paul met a man here, a local historian, who offered to take him to the cemetery to see the grave of Simeon Flint, a settler who arrived in 1806 from Vermont and was the first Governor of the new Danville, QC.
Back at the school, the tour members went their own ways to view an historical exhibit, check out an ancestry computer tool if they had Canadian roots, and peruse the food offerings in the fairground area. Lunch was on our own and most partook of the fair food offered. Several tried poutine, a French fry item covered with gravy. “Very filling,” was the most common response for those who partook.
At 1:30, the parade was to begin. We lined our chairs along the route and our own “dignitaries” were whisked away to ride on one of the floats. It was a sunny route and we thoroughly it–cheering loudly as our Vermont flag passed, and later, as our Vermont dignitaries rolled by: Toby Balivet, Town Attorney: Denise Briggs, Town Selectman; Jane Kitchel, Vermont State Senator; Alice Hafner, 1960 celebrant; Dorothy Larrabee, standing in for Kate Beattie, 1960 celebrant; and Paul Chouinard, President of the Danville Historical Society. Ken Linsley, President of the Danville Chamber of Commerce, took photos throughout the day.
At 4:30, the group gathered for the final event of the day in the big tent on the fairgrounds. Here the celebration was brought to an end, with exchanges between the two Danvilles and good wishes given all around. Alice and Dorothy were presented gifts, Paul presented a large photo of George Cahoon’s winter picture of Danville, VT, taken from behind the McDonald/Beattie farm, and Senator Jane Kitchel thanked the town of Danville, QC, for their kindness during the day and received a gift of the history of Quebec.
Back on the bus, Stephen McDougall, a journalist, thanked us profusely for attending. As the bus pulled out of the lot, Toby Balivet came to the front with an open sack. “I’m taking donations,” he said, “for the new tuxedos for our Selectmen.” We laughed, which was the intent, but couldn’t help but remember the Mayor fondly in his traditional garb. A wonderful dinner in Derby at the Cow Palace completed the day, and, as we drove back through the night to our own Danville, the sky was lighted in places with fireworks shooting into the sky over darkened hills.
To see Ken Linsley’s photo album of the trip, click here.
This article was first published in the August issue of the North Star Monthly.