Capitalizing on culture

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A plan aimed at making Stephenville a cultural destination is now starting to come to fruition. Representatives of the Stephenville Cultural Destination Committee announced some of the plans that will unfold at a Bay St. George Chamber of Commerce meeting this week.

The first of two 2014 events will be an air show featuring the Snowbirds Aerobatic team on June 21-22. The second is an event called “Please Forget Me Not,” taking place Aug. 2-4, based around the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Those are just the launch pad towards a bigger celebration in 2016, which marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville.

Some might ask, “Why celebrate the closing of something that had such a significant impact on the town and created a profound loss to the municipality when it closed?” The celebration is really more about recognizing the positive effects the base had on the community while it was in existence, along with the many friendships that were forged during those years.

With 50 years gone by, many younger people know little of the former base, other than the names of the streets, the former military-style homes and barracks, and the static displays of the F-102 Delta Dagger fighter jet by the town hall and globe in front of the former Harmon Headquarters building.

It’s all about keeping that history alive, along with other cultural history — including the French, the Mi’kmaq and those who went to war.

Six locations in the town have been identified to build on the cultural destination theme, with plans to have events take place each year so visitors will have something to do when they visit the town.

Even more ideas around the theme will be examined and people who want to help out by joining in on a subcommittee are welcome to do so.

Maybe by 2016, some of the former Americans who were teenagers when they lived on the former base or in the town, as some of them did, will want to return.

While some believe the past should be left in the past, there is nothing wrong with the line of thinking by this committee in trying to capitalize on the rich history of the community. It’s done in many other areas.

Organizations: Stephenville Cultural Destination Committee, Ernest Harmon Air Force Base, Delta Dagger

Geographic location: Stephenville, Stephenville.Some

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