Canadians' Centennial enthusiasm flabbergasts pessimistic officials

By Gerard McNeil, Canadian Press staff writer

MONTRÉAL (CP) - Some elemental Canadian appetite evidently was awakened by the centennial celebrations.

The hunger for things Canadian has been expressed in a trail of shattered crowd estimates.

Color has flooded into the grey old image as citizenry not only seeks, but provides, fun.

In a country where nationalism was always regarded as a foreign disorder, a song called Ca-na-da is suddenly the all-time best-seller.

The delighted self-regard has flabbergasted officialdom who spent public millions to generate it.

As late as last Christmas, centennial planners were pessimistic. But no more.

The reason is that everything has clicked, including the turnstiles. Evidence was turned up in a Cross-Canada Survey by The Canadian Press.

In winter, westerners lined up in numbing weather to visit the Confederation train, whose drawing power had been considered dubious by some.

Big Crowds

Incredible crowds began to hit Expo 67 the day the world's fair opened and continued through the coldest May on record.

Ballet, theatre and folk companies touring on centennial subsidies have run into overflow houses.

With summer here, the fun has just started.

The voyageur canoes are sprinting east, leaving a trail of celebration along the 3,500-mile water route from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., to Expo.

Winnipeg is preparing for the Pan-American Games, perhaps the biggest sports event in Canadian history.

An international balloon race begins at Calgary July 6, taking over from the fabulous Stampede.

Rodeos, old home weeks, pioneer days, clan gatherings, blueberry festivals, ox pulls, dory races, company picnics all have the centennial tag this year.

About $90,000,000 worth of cultural centers, parks, arenas, municipal swimming pools are being opened, all concrete hometown mementoes to the Centennial.

Caravans on move

The eight Confederation truck caravans now touring regionally are the basis for many a small-town holiday when they arrive.

What fascinates the centennial planners most is the degree of individual involvement.

Residents of Rathnelly Avenue in Toronto, for instance, beat the blue laws by declaring themselves independent and establishing The Republic of Rathnelly. They seceded from Metropolitan Toronto, set up barricades, and held a picnic.

The Sarnia Observer claims to have made centennial history -- and undoubtedly did -- by delivering a live tree with every paper May 9.

Enlightening excerpts from issues a century ago grace many newspapers across Canada.

A western pilot put the centennial flag on the North Pole. Similar antics are on schedule for the summer.

Gravelbourg, Sask., for instance, is spearheading a 130-mile centennial wagon train journey along the old Wood Mountain Trail.

First Ferris wheel

In the North, a Mackenzie River barge will-carry a Ferris wheel into the territories for the first time.

Dozens of climbers are preparing to assault a series of towering Yukon peaks, which will be named, if climbed, after the provinces.

The University of Saskatchewan will hold what it calls the first university class -- a field course in the study of Eskimos -- within the Arctic Circle.

Saskatchewan is billing the July 20-22 official opening of the multi-million-dollar Gardiner Dam as the nation's second largest centennial event.

In the Maritimes, Prince Edward Island is greeting summer visitors with folk singing and lobster dinners.

Naval squadrons from the seven seas are visiting ports from Halifax to Nanaimo.

Great tides of movement have laden scheduled flights and added to the length of trains.

Expo alone is throwing thousands of visitors weekly to cities like Ottawa and Québec.

The visitors this summer will include Queen Elizabeth who will be in Ottawa on Dominion Day, and President de Gaulle of France, who comes later.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Harold Wilson and other luminaries from around the world already have visited Canada for the Centennial.

- End of article. Copyright by the Canadian Press, June 30, 1967. All rights reserved.