By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – About 170 “Welland boys” turned out for the annual Welland Boys Reunion Monday evening.
The event was held at the Croatian National Home on Broadway Avenue.
The modern-day reunion is an amalgamation of three or four neighbourhood groups that met individually over the years. The first was in 1997.
The groups coalesced into a single organization nine years ago to solidify the movement, which treasures Welland roots, friendship, camaraderie and nostalgia.
It also recognized the importance of bringing in “young blood” in order to boost membership and keep it going. It accounts for an influx, in recent years, of 20-somethings and 30-somethings in the mix with older members, some of them in their seventies and eighties and beyond.
Michael Blazetich, founder of one groups was in attendance last night. He is soon to be 94.
Members who passed away since last year’s reunion night were remembered, their names and photos shown on large screens that were set up in the hall.
A Welland trivia contest was held. The prize to the winning table: complimentary tickets to next year’s reunion.
Guest speaker Terry Hughes, a local historian, gave an informal address that included flashbacks about Welland neighbourhoods, schools, teachers and community organizations like Boys Town.
He also touched on the venue for last night’s gathering, Croatian National Home.
Hughes said the cultural hall celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday night. He said the site was once occupied by the Feeder Canal. The building was originally headquarters of a transport company. Hughes traced the hall’s evolution over the years into the showcase gathering place that it is this day.
Gary Talosi, one of the organizing committee members, offered a grace before dinner that was in essence the spirit of the neighbourhood groups and today’s reunions.
Talosi said he composed the prayer a few minutes before he was called to say grace. It is reprinted here in its entirety:
“Bow heads and ask for God’s blessing.
Heavenly Father. Thank you for this opportunity to gather as a group of Welland Boys.
Bless our families and those who came before us, those who gave us the wonderful example of living together and looking out for each other. Every ethnic group, every colour, every faith. We pray that our world can learn to get along like that.
Bless the food we are about to eat and those who prepared it. We ask all this in your Son’s name. Amen.”
The next reunion is planned for October, 2017.