By Terry Hughes
It’s 1982 and Billy Joel who had recorded many hits sees one of his songs hit number 17 in popularity called Allentown. The lyrics tell the story of how this place in Pennsylvania was in a state of economic decline because their steel factories and related industries were closing, leaving many families who had generations of people working there now finding themselves unemployed.
Ironically, the same thing was happening across the eastern United States and here in Ontario and specifically in Welland. Almost all of our industries were extensions of these firms and were closing, the last being John Deere. The forecast of better things to come with the Welland Canal Bypass opening did not happen and the mood here in the city was becoming negative. Earlier on with the opening of the Seaway Mall, downtown Welland reflected that mood.
A group of responsible citizens having concerns about the status of the community set about looking for ways to create a more positive image and feeling within the city.
From the year 2001 a number of steps were initiated but with little success. After some careful thought, the idea of bundling a number of positive events and holding them in key locations including downtown were initiated. Along with city hall who brought fire and police vehicles to Cross Street and closing East Main Street for local merchants to put out their wares, Welland Museum hosted cultural activities for children. The opening of the Court House and Jail with tours proved to very popular with community. Live entertainment was held in the Market Square until the late hours. The accompanying poster lists the many events of that Saturday.
Whether this event marked the beginning of change here could be argued but what lay ahead was the initiating of a program that would bring to Welland concerts on the canal and international activities that would harness our recreational waterway with many aquatic events.
Next column: Some Untold Stories About The Forkes Road Bridge in Dain City.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)