When the sun rose on the last day of their Newfoundland vacation, Raimonda and Patrick Kelly knew little of the history of Woody Point.
But before noon, the Toronto, Ont. couple had stood near the spot where a fire broke out in 1922 and quickly leveled every building within 500-metres, and they’d listened solemnly at the town’s war memorial as Fred Sheppard read a poem honouring the town’s fallen soldiers from the First World War.
This crash-course in the town’s history was all part of the Writers on the Town event hosted by the Writer’s at Woody Point literary festival, which wrapped up Sunday.
The Kelly’s and dozens of other participants joined author Anthony Berger as he read from his book “The Good and Beautiful Bay: A History of Bonne Bay to Confederation and a Little Beyond,” during a walking tour along the town’s waterfront.
The event started at the local lighthouse and ended on a wharf overlooking the bay. Berger was joined by Sheppard, as well as musicians Mike Madigan and Charlie Payne, for the event which blended words, music and history into a vibrant, moving experience for the Kelly’s.
“It’s a nice way to learn about the history by walking around in it,” Raimonda said Sunday. “If you look at the crowd, it ranges from young to old, so I think it appeals to lots of people.”
Her husband admitted the poetry reading at the war memorial was particularly touching.
“It was very moving and having the music to go along with it really fleshed it out,” he said.
The couple happened upon the festival by chance during their planned two-day visit to Gros Morne National Park and said they enjoyed the experience so much they might book vacations in the future to coincide with the writer’s gathering.
Berger said he relished the opportunity to read from his recently-released book and educate his audience about a history he’s spent decades uncovering.
“It’s lovely — just a thrill,” he said. “I think particularly standing at the war memorial and seeing those names, or at the lighthouse trying to picture what it must have been like for the first aboriginal people here thousands of year’s ago, is a great pleasure.”
He said his book was an attempt to preserve the area’s history, while continuing the work done by his mother Ella Manuel in her own written history of Bonne Bay. Berger said he believes his mother would be pleased with his book and would of relished to “have learned” as much as he did through the process of penning it.