INNISFAIL – A moving sense of renewal prevailed on Nov. 11 for the Innisfail Remembrance Day ceremony.
It was the blending of past tradition and committed rejuvenation for future generations.
There was extraordinary colour from all sides of the downtown outdoor service area; punctuated by the 1,800 crocheted poppies on a 16-foot long by four-feet wide curtain that was draped over the Main Street cenotaph.
Across 49th Avenue on the exterior walls of the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 building the new poppy mural gleamed.
Along Main Street the 20 veteran banners from the legion’s new commemorative program fluttered gently and proudly from occasional gusts of wind.
And a young teen, Cochrane’s Turner Bates, the grandson of current town councillor Gavin Bates, was chosen to sing O Canada at the start of the 2023 service.
Perhaps most welcoming of all was that the usual deep freeze weather chill for Innisfail’s annual outdoor Remembrance Day ceremony was absent.
It was cool and at times windy but almost everyone was content with the unseasonably pleasant weather conditions.
“This year’s ceremony captured the essence of Remembrance Day,” said Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay, who proudly presented a wreath on behalf of the Town of Innisfail during the 40-minute ceremony. “The addition of the street banners, the poppy curtain and mural, Turner Bates performing O Canada, the fly-over, and all those participating in the parade from the pipers to the RCMP in their red serge, and the community who attended, made the day very special.”
As is the tradition, the ceremony opened with the Innisfail Legion Pipe Band leading the colour guard; a procession that included Innisfail RCMP members marching in their red serge, Innisfail firefighters and emergency service personnel in their finest uniforms, members of the 7 Penhold Air Cadet Squadron proudly participating, and distinguished members from other essential local and regional services attending.
Legion executive member Danny Rieberger delivered an opening message for the service, which was followed by a prayer from legion Padre Ralph Warnock.
“Almighty God as you have gathered your people together this day in hallowed remembrance, we give you thanks for all who laid out their lives for our sake, and whom you have gathered from the storm of war into the peace of your presence,” said Warnock. “Let the memory of their devotion ever be an example to us.”
He then introduced local artist Karen Scarlett to read In Flanders Fields, which was followed by the Roll of Honour reading by Stephen Black, president of the Innisfail legion.
And then there was the laying of the wreaths, a three-plane fly-over and a rendition of God Save the King by Turner Bates to end the emotional service.
An hour later inside the legion there was the official gifting to the Innisfail legion of the crocheted poppy curtain by Scarlett and Wilma Watson, president of the Innisfail Art Club.
The poppy curtain was a community-wide volunteer-driven project launched last July but completed just a day or two before Nov. 11 as more and more crocheted poppies kept arriving.
“As time goes on we get further away from the memory of the sacrifices made on our behalf,” Watson told the Albertan. “The (poppy) project brought a lot of people in the community together to honour the memory of Innisfail’s veterans.”