Muskoka To-DAILY

Celebrate Canada D-EH! by touring Vimy trench and enjoying cake at Bethune House July 1

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAILY.com

GRAVENHURST – You can’t miss it – the 150 party and celebration all across this great land.

Visit Vimy Ridge at Bethune House Canada Day and all summer, free of charge.

Visit Vimy Ridge at Bethune House Canada Day and all summer, free of charge.

From Bona Vista to Vancouver Island – this land was made for and by you.

So forget the rain and enjoy the start of summer – wet and wonderful as it is.

And in the middle is Muskoka, with dozens of events and activities everywhere.

Just look around at any park or open space.

With Canada’s national parks all being free this year, it’s a great day to visit the Bethune House in Gravenhurst.

The town’s native son is celebrated in grand style at his birthplace and with an amazing interpretive centre.

New to it this year – as it’s also the celebration of Canada’s efforts in the First World War with a victory at Vimy Ridge, is a recreated trench.

It’s a lot newer and heck of a lot cleaner, but if the weather Saturday is wet, it will give you a tiny speck of a look at what it was all about.

The Bethune guides have lots more to tell you.

But you can at least see some of the dimensions of this historic French warfield.

A very special, authentic artifact is a stretcher from the First World War – in remarkable shape and still spattered with blood.

Bethune was a stretcher-bearer as a young man, before going into medicine and advancing around the world saving lives in Canada, the U.S., Spain and eventually China, where he died and remains a national hero.

Thus the national historic site and park in Gravenhurst. And it’s free all summer if you’ve never taken the kids there.

A First World War stretcher like the one Norman Bethune carried, is a new part of the national historic site displays.

A First World War stretcher like the one Norman Bethune carried, is a new part of the national historic site displays.

Bethune actually served in all three branches of Canada’s military – the army, navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, says guide Colin Old.

But there’s much more to the story, so drop in, and have sliceof the two big slab cakes they ordered at 11 a.m.

There’s also a kids obstacle course next to the trench.

Elsewhere in Gravenhurst, Gull Lake Rotary Park also has events around noon, including entertainment on the Barge.

You can also start you day with a huge party in Huntsville, at their River Mill Park just after 9 a.m., where they serve Canada cup cakes.

There’s lots of entertainment, including the Muskoka Concert Band accompanied by a 100-voice Muskoka-wide choir singing four songs by Canadian music legends, including Leonard Cohen’s haunting Halleluiah.

Conductor Neil Barlow has an all-Canadian playlist, including the theme from Hockey Night in Canada.

In Bracebridge, it’s all day around town and on the stages downtown.

The highlight there is the gigantic Rotary Fireworks at dusk, followed by new lighting for the iconic iron bridge.

Back in Gravenhurst you can hop aboard the Wenonah II for $61 to go out to Walker’s Point and view their big fireworks from aboard the ship.

All across Muskoka, Canadians are celebrating and remembering 150 years of nation building, the good, the bad and the ugly.

We may not be perfect, but as the saying goes, we’re better than anything else.

All nations here and far would do well to remember that Tuesday.

Send us your thoughts and prayers, photos and memories to news@muskokatodaily.com and in the subject field write O Canada!

There's two slabs of birthday cake and lots of activities on John Street at Bethune House in Gravenhurst, one block west of the main street at Muskoka Road and Bay Street.

There’s two slabs of birthday cake and lots of activities on John Street at Bethune House in Gravenhurst, one block west of the main street at Muskoka Road and Bay Street.

It's not real, but it will cause you to pause and think about Vimy and the sacrifices of Canadians in 1917.

It’s not real, but it will cause you to pause and think about Vimy and the sacrifices of Canadians in 1917.

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