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This article first appeared in the July 8, 2020 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Wakefield Raft: 2003-2020, end of an era

The Editor,

With Wakefield's Canada Day over, we are given an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the past years of celebration in our village. The Wakefield raft will always be a memorable icon for Canada Day, as it is a monumental piece of our history.

Wakefield Raft
''Watch Your Step'' was the name of the 2005 Wakefield Canada Day raft that carried partiers from Alcove down the Gatineau River to festivities in the village. Photo courtesy Andrew Ryan.

How could I forget Canada Day 2005 when the first giant two story, 50 foot by 60 foot raft roared through the rapids into Wakefield. We barely cleared the covered bridge (apparently someone measured the clearance, but no one is really sure) and, as we entered the village, the drumming, the howling and the laughter got louder. More and more people came on board, the party was just getting started.

After floating around the bay and getting stuck in back eddies, we finally got towed to the Black Sheep. We arrived just in time for the parade; we were sunburnt, restless, hungry, but full of energy. The 40 some young, rowdy Wakefielders and friends began to sing "O Canada", the crowd joined in, and it was a beautiful moment.

"Watch Your Step" was the name of the 2005 raft, one of 12 that would float down the river from Alcove to Wakefield to meet its destiny. It was built by the youth of our community, for the community. It was the coming together of generations; everyone was always welcome. It didn't discriminate, cost anything, or have rules, it was simply there to host and have a good time. It didn't come without its problems, dislikes, or liabilities, but eventually everyone came to like it or at least tolerate it.

As we come out of the first wave of COVID-19, we can look to the raft for inspiration; the raft shows us how strong our community can be. We can really make things happen when we work together, it's not perfect, but when it works, it's beautiful

In the next upcoming months, I will be sharing with you a brief history of the Wakefield raft; I hope you enjoy it.

May the spirit and memories of the raft keep us together and strong.

Andrew Ryan
Alcove, QC
More photos can be seen on Ryan's Facebook page: facebook.com/andros.ryy