High Fives for Colonel By

A Highlight of the Rideau Canal Festival, Colonel By Day Offers Fun for the Whole Family

The colonel would undoubtedly be pleased.
Monday, August 6 is Colonel By Day in the nation’s capital. It’s a chance to tip your hat to Ottawa’s founding father and tell the kids about the legendary British colonel who – way way way back when – took charge of the building of the Rideau Canal.

While the canal is a now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, when the military engineer was called to Canada in 1826 to build the thing, it was a thankless task.

No fun at all.

You see, after the War of 1812, there were fears the Americans would attempt a takeover of Upper Canada. So the canal, a military defence project, was dreamed up to allow secure travel from the Great Lakes to Montreal without threat from the US of A.
It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it, and that somebody was Colonel By.

Poor guy.

Imagine bush, rock, swamp, bugs and major problems at “the office.” Scottish stonemasons, Irish immigrants and French Canadians provided a lot of the manpower  — and they didn’t always get along. Malaria and accidents also claimed many lives.
And get this: six years later, in 1832, when the canal was complete, Colonel By’s bosses weren’t too happy. They thought he spent too much money!

(No appreciation for quality…)

So Colonel By deserves at least an annual day in his honour. (Maybe two…)

Hosted by the Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa (CHOO) in partnership with the Bytown Museum, Colonel By Day is the finale to the Rideau Canal Festival., a four-day Ottawa celebration from August 3 through 6. Now in its fifth year, the fest is full of fun and family experiences and Colonel By Day is one of the highlights.

For one thing, there’s free admission that day at the Bytown Museum, located between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel. On-site festivities are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The schedule includes live musical performances, traditional dancing, heritage craft demonstrations, face-painting, costume characters, beautiful scenic heritage photo opportunities, crafts and games for the kids. For details, check www.choocopo.ca and www.rideaucanalfestival.ca.

*Pictures are from the 2011 celebration.

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