Sunset Ceremony

(alright, I did promise I’d write more about our holiday. So here’s one! Hang in there, videos coming. Youtube just takes forever. I’m heading to bed, bloody thing’s only half loaded the first of two.)

We  spent an evening at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario for their Sunset Ceremony. In years gone by, Canada and the States weren’t exactly as close ‘friends’ as they are now. In fact, the US was seen as an immediate threat to the nation. The British Army (after all, Canada wasn’t yet even Canada as we know it today) built Fort Henry and four Martello towers at a strategic location, protecting the St.Lawrence waterway and a shipyard at first, then also the entrance to the Rideau Canal. It’s now been restored, and is open to the public as a ‘living’ museum, where people can learn about the lives of soldiers and their families, and about war (despite the Fort never seeing any real action at all) in the 1800s.

Cameron had gotten into the fife and drum marching that the event started off with, caught up in the beat of the booming drums and in the anticipation of cannon fire we’d promised. Around the musicians paraded, in complicated patterns with odd variations of marching technique, and Cameron climbed around the bleachers. It was tough to keep him quiet!

Eventually though, the display grew too long for a three-year-old’s attention span, and he got antsy. He played with the little toy cannon (gun? Help me here folks, there’s a picture later of the real thing. Big firing thing on wheels, field gun?), shooting random targets. Then things got interesting. With loud shouts and stamping of boots, soldiers in red rushed into the square – seemingly hordes of them! There were unintelligible, shouted commands, and in a whoosh they arranged themselves in three tight circles, facing outwards.

Another shouted command, and the soldiers loaded their guns – aimed – and each group in turn fired outwards as one. Cameron jumped, and considered crying for a moment (can you blame him?) but fascination and everyone else being okay with it (especially I think Grandpa Bill) won him over. This was just the beginning. The announcer narrated the soldiers’ performance, as the soldiers marched to and fro in formation through imagined battlefields. Squads demonstrated battle formations – the thin red line, keeping enemies at bay with either brief volleys of intense synchronized fire, or sustained shots as each took turns down the line.


By the time the firing was ten or so people away, a soldier was ready to go again. In the midst of a mock battle, more yelling, and out ran clusters of soldiers hauling the real-sized versions of Cameron’s gun! “That’s MY cannon, that’s mine,” Cameron shouted with excitement! He still talks with animation about how it fires with a big loud bang, fire, and lots of smoke.

Long before the time the show was over, Cameron had had enough I think. It was late, and that was a lot of loud noise for him! After the soldier’s demonstration, there was more marching and music, before they fired the enormous cannons up on the ramparts, and finished with fireworks. He was exhausted and teary, and ready for sleep. After a day around Kingston, exploring one of the towers, then the Fort and the Ceremony, he was so tired he was asleep before he’d had two sips of his hot chocolate in the car.

He’s had some awkward questions since then. Like, why were people burning houses?  Why were they shooting their guns? Why were those cannons? Some haven’t been too hard to answer. Others, like, “Why do we need soldiers,” and “why do there have to be wars,” have been trickier. But in all, it was a positive experience. He now knows what a gun looks and sounds like – which some of you might think isn’t a great thing, but given some of the nonsense I was hearing, it is! It’s solved some of the mystery of guns, of fighting, and of soldiers … for all that it’s raised more questions. And he now loves to watch the videos I took, and look at the pictures, from that evening.


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