Busy day of festivities in Harbour Grace Sunday

By Olivia Bradbury / Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If you’re wondering what all the excitement is in Harbour Grace on Sunday, well, there’s a lot planned.

The events will start at 11 a.m., that morning with the official reopening of the Otterbury School House.

Built in 1884, the building served as a one-room school for Roman Catholic students from the Otterbury and Riverhead areas of Harbour Grace. In the 1990s, by which point the building had fallen vacant, the Harbour Grace Historical Society did some renovations. Some years later, however, a new challenge arose as to the future of the structure when the owners of the property on which the building was situated decided to sell the land. The buyer wanted to demolish the schoolhouse, but its destruction was avoided due to the intervention of then municipal councillor Albert “Bud” Chafe. 

In 2010, thanks to the efforts of Chafe and volunteers, the schoolhouse was physically shifted from its original location on Water Street to the nearby municipal park. The building was placed on logs and rolled to the park with a backhoe. 

“If it wasn’t for Councillor Chafe and his family, his friends, some other families here in the town, and staff, that building wouldn’t exist, so we really wouldn’t have anything to celebrate,” said Harbour Grace Economic Development Officer Matthew McCarthy.

The relocation of the Otterbury Schoolhouse saw it transformed into a period museum, of sorts. People could visit and see what a schoolhouse used to look like. However, as time went on, various councils in the town thought the space could be better utilized. Now, with the help of funding from the provincial and federal governments, Harbour Grace has fully converted the building into a multipurpose space for its seniors’ group, the Earhart 50+ Club. The Town has plans to increase accessibility by adding a ramp and deck, but with the renovations completed as of now, council will officially open the restored schoolhouse this morning.

Then later, there are plans to honour a native son who contributed much to Harbour Grace during his celebrated business career.

The late Roger Pike will be celebrated for his business exploits and philanthropy with the unveiling of a plaque in his honour. Pike is the person who in 1993 donated the Douglas DC-3 airplane, known as the Spirit of Harbour Grace which graces the entrance to the community and which has become as much a symbol of the town as the SS Kyle which it overlooks in the harbour.

In 2007, Pike followed up with another donation, this time a bronze statue of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, whose early exploits made Harbour Grace famous around the world. Pike’s donations remain popular tourist attractions in Harbour Grace, drawing several thousand people to the town each year. 

At Noon, the Town, in partnership with representatives from the Pike Group of Companies, will unveil the plaque honouring Pike at the municipal park. Mayor Don Coombs described the event as a way to celebrate those, like Chafe and Pike, whose actions helped to keep the spirit of the town alive.

Festivities will continue at the park following the plaque’s unveiling. Avalon MP Ken McDonald has arranged a flyover by COPA Flight 97, the group which maintains the historic Harbour Grace airstrip. There will be live local entertainment from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., with performances by Paul Stevenson and Brenda Hunt-Stevenson, Danita Power and Paula Brushett, Jack Smith and Benny Lewis, and Chad Hunt. Harbour Grace is partnering with the Conception Bay Museum on the staging and is bringing chairs from the arena to the park so people can relax and enjoy the performances. There will be a community barbecue, and other refreshments including hotdogs, cotton candy, soda, tea, and coffee. Stickers will be available for children. Mayor Coombs said the event is free and all are welcome to attend, especially families.

“That’s what it’s about,” said Coombs.

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