Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dispatch from the Sussex Corner Winter Carnival

I submitted this as a column in the Feb 21, 2012 Kings County Record.  I wrote it the evening of my deadline because I really wanted to get word out about the Sussex Corner Winter Carnival.  Since writing the piece, the Carnival has ended with a joyful bang and honking horns.  I will provide more on that in a follow up blog.  Enjoy.
During the Corner Cup Hockey Tournament play was, at times, humorously impacted by ice conditions.
The first night of the 4th Annual Corner Cup has just wrapped up.  The outdoor ice was slow and choppy but the cool night air was great for the occasion.  The players cursed the ice when it worked against them while everyone else laughed politely knowing that the next time it would very likely be them who fell over or missed the break away.  As we tidied up the ice for the night the coyotes yipped off towards the Bluff and I started thinking about the trek I will be taking out there tomorrow night.
Back to the hockey though, after all it was pure Canadiana around Sullivan Park tonight.  From the Tim Horton's coffee steaming in cold hands to the red maple leaf design toques being worn by the team calling them selves the Isotopes.  The St. John's Ambulance volunteers were there and so were a few true hockey fans.  Straw bales, lawn chairs, snow banks and the odd cooler provided the seating for players and fans alike.
The hockey was competitive but relaxed.  Players quickly realized that, with the poor ice conditions, it was better to play with control than with reckless, competitive abandon.  Young kids played on the snow banks around the ice surface while young and not so young men played like kids on the ice. 
Worth playing for.
The ice didn't only impact the pace of the play but it also impacted the players.  Simply to skate on the ice tonight required twice the effort it would if you were skating at the 8th Hussars Arena.  The snow and the bumps forced you to keep more weight on your feet and thus you couldn't glide like you would on artificial ice.  Many times the puck jumped and hit players in the shins or they would trip on one of the many ruts and no doubt they left with bruised elbows and knees.  When they fell though they quickly got back up and at that moment you could see their true competitive nature flash in their eyes.  You could see they were proudly Canadian and hockey was their game.
Likely the most interesting aspect of having a chipped and rutted ice surface was the manner in which it evened out the play.  Those that could normally stick handle in a phone booth, tonight, had to learn all over while, those who usually struggled to push the puck ahead of them, were still simply struggling.  
As one of the organizers of this event it was great to see the players having fun.  Being outside during the winter and taking advantage of one of its great offerings.  I'm excited for tomorrow evening and all the events planned for Saturday.  I hope I get to see you there and I hope you get to enjoy our great Canadian outdoors.  If you didn't make the Sussex Corner Winter Carnival then I hope you are out somewhere else building snowmen, digging quinzees, throwing snowballs, snowshoeing across a scenic ridge, or sliding down a great hill.  Don't just think about it.  Take your family and do it, my son and I tonight stayed out well past not only his bedtime but mine too and it was so fun. 
See you on the ice or in the woods.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Small Village Canadiana

The Sussex Corner Winter Carnival is fun for everyone, not just skaters and skiers.
There is a modest Village in the southern part of New Brunswick.  It's tree lined streets are typically quiet with comforting light shining from the tidy homes.  During a weekend in February, this year it will be the 18th, this small Village of just over 1400people gets a bit rowdy as they celebrate with pure Canadiana.  The Sussex Corner Winter Carnival is a growing event where people can come and participate in various outdoor winter activities.  From pond hockey to snowshoeing, from sculpting to sliding, games to sleigh rides.  Of course what is a Canadian winter carnival without maple candy made right on the snow.

I know where I'll be on the 18th.  How about you?  Why not sign up a team and compete in the Corner Cup, or come out Friday night and take part in an evening snowshoe trek to the Bluff, hosted by Outdoor Elements.  This is a great evening event that is topped off with some laughs and hot chocolate while watching the pond hockey games.

There is lots of snow in Sussex Corner right now so snow sculpting will make a great family experience, as will the snow man competition or the Amazing Race on Saturday.  For food connesiours there will be our fireside chowder and a barbeque canteer offering hot dogs and hamburgers.  At the end of the night the entire Village anticipates the fireworks display and I hear this year's event will not dissappoint.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Music Memories

My music, nowadays, is heavily influenced by my kids and I listened to songs that sing about a father's love and role for his children.
 I'm not sure what it is lately?  There has been something pushing at me from inside.  It is a positive force that has been making me feel like laughing or brings a smile to my face for no apparent reason.  It usually strikes when music is playing.  I'm confident that the music has something to do with it.

Growing up in a rural community known for its rolling fields and silos, it was hard to avoid the influence of country music.  Some of my peers tried.  Me...well...I embraced it throughout most of my life.  I listened to other music, mainly rock from the 80's and 90's hair bands, but I always came back to country.  My Mom always had it playing loud during the summer months.  When I hear Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's version of "Islands in the Stream" the faint smell of pledge wafting through a slightly dusty screen door, across the dirt driveway, as it mixes with the exhaust from the "Bluebird" school bus.  That is a comfortable and idylic memory of returning home from school during a warm early June day.

Country music takes me places in my mind and lately there have been some great songs put out that have taken my to great places.  Fishing with my late grandfather (miss you gramp and I'm still spitting on worms.) Sitting on a buddy's tailgate while we hang with friends along a back farm field.  Six kids, travelling two hours, one way, in the back of a camper van, to a hockey game while the country music was drowned out to laughter and wrestling.  Back in those days seat belts were optional, but honestly, I wouldn't promote that risk.

Music lately causes me to swell and want to sing out loud.  There is one problem with that, I'm not that gifted of singer.  When I'm in the kitchen however, doing dishes, I can't help it and I'm sure that if you walked by the house during one of those moments you would hear how poor of singer I truly am.  Driving long distances also gives me reason to sing outloud, at least when I'm alone.  Today was a sunny winter day and a few times as I sat in my office, I was singing to Luke Bryan's "We Rode In Trucks."  So much in the song I can relate too and that is what makes country so great.  With digital capabilities now you can go way back and pull songs forward and videos just give the music that much more.

I still listen to other music.  A lot of kids tunes lately thanks to my children.  I enjoy christian rock too but I always come back to country when I need to smile or need a reminder of who I really am.  It's not the music so much as the memories tied to the songs and I want to hold on to and cherish them for a long time to come.  Hopefully I'll pass down to my kids the memories and music that my parents were gracious enough to pass down to me.  My Mom's country music will always be comforting and will always sound like home.