Canaliversary on Tuesday Caps Off Centennial


Fireworks set off from the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge will be one of the highlights of the Canal Centennial Celebration over the next five days.

Cape Cod’s Canaliversary

BOURNE – Three million people a year visit the Cape Cod Canal. But the Centennial Celebration for the waterway over the next four days promises to be perhaps the biggest splash the region has seen in years.

For Marie Oliva, president and CEO of the Canal Region Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the event committee, this weekend’s celebration is personal.

“My grandfather came here to work on the canal. A lot of people immigrated from Italy and that evolved into Sagamore Village which is the village in Bourne where I grew up. I’m a lifelong resident of Bourne,” she said.

Learning about the history of how the canal was built has left Oliva in awe.

“It was unbelievable, the impediments and the dangers and the boulders and how this actually happened. It was to prevent loss of life through many shipwrecks,” she said.

The person behind the canal was August Belmont and Oliva credited his leadership in shepherding the construction of the canal through what seemed at the time as insurmountable odds.

Events for the centennial celebration will serve to honor that achievement.

Fireworks, bands, a parade of lights and a tugboat parade are among the many activities scheduled for this weekend as the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebration kicks off.

Another of the event organizers, Sue Wentworth, said the goal is to celebrate the history of the canal and also to bring people into the area of Buzzards Bay near the canal.

“People tend to just want to get over that bridge and get on with it when there is so much to offer right there,” Wentworth said.

The festivities begin today as the T/S Eagle, the US Coast Guard sailing ship, and the Charles W. Morgan, the restored historic whaling vessel, will be open for public tours at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The academy is also allowing the public to tour its training ship, the T/S Edward Kennedy.

Visitors to Mass Maritime can also tour the academy’s library where there is a historic display on the history and construction of the Cape Cod Canal. The collection draws from the archives and memorabilia about the canal. The display includes a timeline on the history of the canal beginning in the 1600s.

On Saturday, July 26, the Cape Cod Canal celebration goes into high gear with numerous activities throughout the day.

On the Cape side of the canal in Bourne at the Bourne Historic Society for Preservation will be the Canal Music Fest, with a half dozen bands playing music representing the past 100 years. The music festival begins at noon and there will be parking on the society grounds.

In addition to events linked to the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebration on Saturday, the Sandwich 375th Anniversary Committee is putting on SeaFest, an all-day series of events taking place at the Sandwich Marina. Seafest includes ship visits, activities, crafters, and at dinner time, a clam bake.

CanaliversaryOn Saturday night at 9 p.m., 30 to 40 boats are expected to participate in a maritime Parade of Lights. The parade will begin in Buzzards Bay in front of the Mass Maritime Academy and travel through the canal, past Sandwich. The boats will then turn around in Cape Cod Bay and travel back through the canal.

People can find parking on either side of the canal to see the Parade of Lights, according to Wentworth.

Wentworth says spectators on both sides of the Canal should have great views of the Parade of Lights.

On Sunday, July 27, the Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game will be held at Upper Cape Technical High School. A day’s worth of family activities will take place in conjunction with the game. The gates of the field open at 2 p.m.

The annual game usually brings in about 5,000 people but with the Canal Centennial, even more people are expected.

At the same time on Sunday, July 27, the Friends of Scusset Beach will be holding a Family Fun Day on the mainland side of the canal.

Tuesday, July 29 is the actual date of the Cape Cod Canal’s anniversary and is being called the “Canaliversary.”

The day’s activities on Tuesday will begin at 1 p.m. with an official ceremony with dignitaries.

The Cape Cod Youth Symphony will perform a special piece commissioned for the centennial. The members of the symphony, youths from Cape Cod and Plymouth areas will be staying at the Mass Maritime Academy in the days prior to the Canaliversary to learn the special commissioned piece of music.

The symphony will perform with guest artist and American Idol finalist, Siobhan Magnus of Marstons Mills.

Among the other events on Tuesday, the Boston Engineering Society is setting up a tent for activities that are engineering-based as a tribute to the canal. There will also be games and roving entertainers.

One of the sponsors of the Canaliversary is Stop and Shop supermarket, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The grocery company will be providing cake for those assembled for the occasion.

Throughout the day there will be bands playing all types of music, an antique car show featuring cars from the year 1914 and, at 4 p.m. a tugboat parade on the canal.

The evening will be capped off with fireworks and a special pyrotechnics display over the canal.

Parking for the events on Tuesday, July 29 will be tricky, according to Wentworth. “We are going to have a lot of people in the Buzzards Bay, Onset area.” She said people should come early in the day in order to be sure to find a space.

canaliversaryThe fireworks will be fired from the Railroad Bridge as well as from two barges positioned in Buzzards Bay in front of Mass Maritime Academy.

Wentworth said the most frequent question she hears from people is can they watch the fireworks as a pedestrian from the Bourne Bridge. The answer is “no.”

The most popular parking will likely be on and near Main Street in Buzzards Bay. Churches and other private properties near Main Street will likely be charging for parking.

There are 30 to 40 handicapped parking spaces at the Canal Region Chamber headquarters near the railroad station in Buzzards Bay.

There is also a 300-car parking lot at the US Army Corps of Engineers headquarters next to Buzzards Bay Park, but that is expected to fill up early in the day.

Philanthropist David Mugar and Mugar Foundations has donated money to pay for the fireworks and pyrotechnics display. Mugar traditionally donates the funding for the Boston July 4 fireworks display.

“That will be gorgeous,” Wentworth said of the canal fireworks display. She advised that people will be able to see the fireworks from anywhere with views to the top of the railroad bridge.

The planning for the Canal Centennial began three years ago.

In organizing the events, Wentworth said, officials from Bourne, Sandwich and Wareham have joined in to create a logistics committee, including the harbor masters, the police departments, the fire departments the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.

The group has been meeting with regard to public safety and handling emergencies, Wentworth said.

Oliva said centennial committee co-chair Mass Maritime Academy Rear Admiral Richard G. Gurnon played a major role in ensuring the fireworks and pyrotechnics display would happen using the railroad bridge.

She recalled the first meeting of the planning committee  three years ago when six people sat around a table at the Beachmore, a former inn on the Mass Maritime Academy property. At that point, they had no sponsors and no funding and no volunteers.

“I called up Rick and said ‘would you be the chair/ It’s just an honorary position’,” Oliva said with a laugh.

“When I think of where we were then and where we are now, it’s been a tremendous organization to where we are today,” she said.

Wentworth said the centennial has been marketed internationally and the website has received hits from Taiwan, Japan and Alaska, among other far flung destinations.

She said she is looking forward to many of the events, particularly Tuesday’s full day of festivities. “It’s a community event, but it’s bigger than that,” she said.

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