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150th birthday party replays little old Kazabazua's days as tourist hot spot
By Lucy Scholey
Kazabazua will revert back to the old days, when it was a bustling tourist hub..
Yes, that little Gatineau Hills community up the line, with a population of fewer than 900, was once a hot spot for visitors..
Oh yes, according to Alexa Pritchard, the author of "Celebrating 150 Years: Aylwin Township.".
She pinpoints the start of tourism as the year 1869, when Prince Arthur, the son of Queen Victoria, went up the line to visit Allan Gilmour, a prominent businessman..
"It was fit for a King!" the book reads. "Tourism flourished, fish and game clubs sprung up providing local employment for many who enjoyed hunting and fishing.".
An influx of cottages and hotels were next, and a special train line was created for summer visitors..
Fast forward to today, and Kazabazua is a sleepier community. Long gone are the days of a thriving logging industry or the excitement of the 1910 gold rush that drew nearly half the number of the then-200 peopled village (much of the hype was based on a "curious old Indian legend." Someone found gold on the Joynt homestead and in a creek, but most people only dug up fool's gold.).
In more recent years, businesses have closed and the population has dipped..
But Kazabazua will look like a different place soon. From June 22 to July 2, the village will be celebrating its 150th anniversary - its sesquicentennial - as a municipality..
The 11-day festival will include horse pulls, musicians, helicopter rides and more (see pages 18-19 for a full events calendar)..
Robert Bergeron, a councillor and organizer of the event, said he expects about 200 to 400 people will head to the celebrations every day, prompting him to joke: "Is that optimistic or pessimistic?".
Bergeron said Kazabazua has been declared a "shrinking" community twice, according to 2001 and 2006 Census statistics. In the 2011 figures, it had 847 residents, a one per cent growth rate from the previous Census..
So what's the reason for the dwindling population, one might wonder..
According to Pritchard's book, the decline of the logging industry is one reason, but it could be an accumulation of small factors, such as people leaving to study in Ottawa and once-thriving businesses closing..
In 1966, the owners of W.A. Kenney General Store went bankrupt. That building is now the Caisse Populaires Desjardins bank. The old Kaz Hotel, which boasted the renowned "Longest Bar in the Gatineau" mysteriously burned down in 2002..
"There were probably a good 50 businesses," said Bergeron, recalling Kazabazua from years past. "Now there are about 20.".
Kaz's 150-year milestone is not exactly accurate, according to Pritchard..
The first council was formed in 1861 under the name Aylwin Township, but pioneers had settled as early as the 1830s..
Want to brush up on your Kaz history in time for the festival? Visit Irwin's General Store on Hwy 105 for a copy of Pritchard's book..
You can also email Pritchard for a copy at alexapritchard@hotmail. com..
The book costs $60.