Monday, February 24, 2014

From Regattas to Combat

Canoe race

One of the highlights of summers on the lake is the annual regatta. These friendly but often fierce competitions encompass sports such as canoeing, swimming, and sailing, and also quirkier events such as canoe tilting, as shown in the photo below.

Canoe tilting or jousting
The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) Regatta was already so popular prior to The Great War that people travelled up to Lake Rosseau from Toronto just for the day, with special steamships and overnight trains to ferry them home again. Hundreds of private boats sat at anchor or were moored many deep at the docks and islands within view of the activities. At the end of the day, various resorts held dances because even the largest of them, The Royal Muskoka Hotel (mentioned in a previous post), couldn’t accommodate all the revellers.

MLA Regatta at the Royal Muskoka Hotel
Canada’s Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, was vacationing at the luxurious Royal Muskoka Hotel in July of 1914, and was supposed to award the prizes at the MLA Regatta. But he had to rush back to Ottawa just days before Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th, when Canada was also plunged into war.

The young men who had fought to be the toughest or fastest on the lakes would now battle on a far different and distant playing field.

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