London Ontario residents, Paul & Barbara Gagnon, were not just hosts of the Maples for Vimy Fundraiser March 17th, 2019, but were instrumental in creating the Maples For Vimy Living Memorials of Honour Canadian Legacy Program© that saw 500 Canadian Maple trees planted in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 2017, by 100 Canadian volunteers consisting of the 1st Nations youth, Barb Robinson and her Girl Guides troop, Larry Fleet and his Canadian Scouts and Cadets. The varieties of maple were selected foremost to be
They planted these maples along with their French counterparts in 17 Northern France communities that were heavily trooped by Canadian and French soldiers. These majestic trees will stand as Living Memorials to the 100,000 bravely trained Canadian troops that went to battle and of those 14,000 who were wounded or died in heroic action in “The Great War” –during World War I. Maples for Vimy Canadian Legacy Program began in 2011 and has raised over $140,000.00 thanks to contributions by the Canadian and France Governments, City of London, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Veteran and Military organizations with the help of private donors as well
This was their 1st annual fundraising style gala for Maples for Vimy held on St. Patrick’s Day inside Cowboys Ranch in London, Ontario. Hundreds in attendance enjoyed the sea of green surrounded by many displays ranging from a pair of original Vimy soldier boots to The RCAF Association display with Rene (brother to Catherine McKinnon) and the ‘Sopwith Camel’ which was a single seat biplane and 1 of the best-known fighter aircraft during WWI. Additional displays were from the Royal Canadian Regiment RCR, the First Hussars H1, and Canadian Legendary entertainment photographer John Robert Rowlands (seen below with performer, singer, songwriter Esther Widmann).
Quality entertainment fueled us all afternoon starting off with the retired Michael Flatley’s Riverdance superstar Nora Corrigan and her Corrigan Dance Association’s traditional Irish dancers who perfected the art and culture of Irish, set, step and Ceili dance.
Followed by a unique entity, The Universe Featuring Ray (Ray Stern) who is an internationally recognized multi-award nominee and
Rock Royalty was in the house with a 50-year music veteran, award-winning producer, singer, songwriter and guitarist, the extraordinary Dale Russell (you may remember him with his notable 17-year stint as the lead guitarist of The Guess Who from 1983 until 2000). Dale collaborated with Artemis Chartier, a lovely female flute player, singer-songwriter, and session musician, who co-founded with Dale, the School Alliance of Student Songwriters or (SASS) based in Oshawa since 2003. They co-write & perform together their Spirit of Song as the OM “Original Music” duo, sharing their magic was a refreshing creative spark, especially on Dale’s original like Every Now and Then. Stay tuned at
Irish spirit oozed from the talented and humorous percussionist and MC, Julian Leeke from his shamrock suit to his displays on the hand drum Bodhran. Julian put on a fantastic showcase featuring Sigmund (Sig) Martin on fiddle, displaying traditional Irish Jigs and Reels. Buffet dinner was a mess hall style flavoured delight of beans, pulled pork, fruit, veggies and an array of scrumptious
As dinner reared down, the stellar country boy from Brussels Ontario, mounted the stage with his warm caramelized vocal sound from his acoustic set of stellar covers and originals like Dirt Road, from his
Veteran, lifetime achievement and Hollywood Walk of Famer,
Local LIFC the London Irish Folk Club celebrated St Patrick’s day with a Ceili filled with traditional Gaelic folk songs and storytelling culture. A Canadian treasure, internationally acclaimed singer, actress & 2-time RPM Award (
The next artist, Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Esther Widmann all the way from Alberta, brought a rich flavour to the festivities with her intriguing, mystical and mind-blowing poise, you could have heard a pin drop in the audience as she hypnotised while projecting her outstanding version of the 1918’s Soprano Aria–O Mio Babbino Caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. This was an emotional performance for Esther as she wore her heart on her sleeve dedicating her original Let It Go to her mom who passed on a few years ago. In the zone, she expressed her Dumb Me Down hit with great applause. Stay in tune with Esther as she will be releasing both those hits and so much more on her future EP. Facebook, Youtube, Reverbnation are great ways to keep up to speed with this stimulating entity as she just released an industrial electronic original, Problematic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CohJ9HTUxp0
Last to perform was
Between the silent auction and event fundraising, this cause honourably raised $4,500 to add to its 6-year grand total of over $140,000.00 that goes towards new maple trees being cultivated, shipped, planted and maintained in Northern France to commemorate the WWI fallen heroes of Vimy Ridge. Special thanks go out to the owners of Cowboy Ranch who donated the delicious meal and the largest club in London Ontario for this prestigious all aged event that raised funds for Maples for Vimy. All in all this event was invigorating, motivating, inspiring and left me in the rock n roll state of mind.
We will remember them.
Written by 6 year volunteer photojournalist Deb Draper