The Clifford kick-off

By Willa Wick in Places, Events, & History

Three years in the making, tensions are running high, fundraisers have been successful, and in a few more weeks it will all come together. The preliminary launching, or kick-off as it’s been dubbed, which takes place on July 1 is  not only a prelude to Clifford’s August Homecoming, but spotlights a former landmark at the south end of town, the Clifford Grist Mill – known over the last many decades as the Clifford Feed Mill.

Hoping to have sunny weather for this outside Saturday afternoon event, the homecoming committee planned an itinerary which is in line with celebrating Canada’s 150th.  Heritage plays an important role as we reflect on our country’s last century and a half, and the grist mill had a history of 140 years.  On July 1, 1867, a community of Clifford’s citizens celebrated Confederation by organizing a “work bee” to put rafters on the grist mill.  When completed the festivities lasted for two days. The mill’s first owner, George MacDonald, (ironic surname for the time) called it The Dominion Mills (again appropriate).
It is difficult for us to realize the difference this new mill would have made to the locals.

Situated near what is now Coon Creek, farmers no longer had to walk to the other side of Mildmay or to Mount Forest to have ground meal or flour milled from their bags of grain.  One hundred and forty one years later the landmark mill was dismantled.  A video will be playing during the afternoon to show how a grist mill worked.

The highlight of the July 1 kick-off will be at the site of the old mill at 2:00 p.m., the unveiling of two plaques and a mural.  One is a local heritage marker consistent with the design as initiated by the municipality’s cultural roundtable.  The second plaque is from the federal government through the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program.  A newly created mural by Cliff Smith of Crawford will also be unveiled.  The mural will be on location until the August Homecoming, then later mounted on the wall of the northeast building in Clifford at the stoplights.

Keeping with the theme of the afternoon, plans are to have the emcee talk from the back of an antique truck. Musical entertainment will be supplied by the local Grey/Bruce Queen’s Belles (the collaborative 24-voice female harmony singers under the direction of Sharon Machina).  Four of the former mill owners will be on hand so there should be lively discussions and memories shared.  Clifford the Big Red Dog, will also woof around.

Because the actual Clifford Homecoming is still two months away, there will be tables laden with souvenirs.  Recent additions to the already available lineup of t-shirts, cookbooks, caps etc. are outside decorative pieces such as front door wreaths, rail bunting, pom poms, and long-tailed sunflowers – all in the homecoming colors of black, golden yellow and red.  The newest souvenir, which hopes to make a debut by July 1, is a 100-page soft cover book Memories That Last 150 Years.

A perfect ending to the afternoon would be a stroll through Clifford’s parks.  Across the road from the mill site is the original Rotary Park which now sports a covered bridge, a riparian buffer to protect Coon Creek, and a rather incredible 600 stone labyrinth, a co-operative project between the Community Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) of Norwell District Secondary School, individuals, and several community groups.  In Memorial (Cenotaph) Park, 1,200 tulips bloomed along the walkway earlier this season.

And finally, wind up your afternoon at the 18-acre John Hobelman Rotary Centennial Park where the  truck show will be taking place
all weekend.