Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

Canada's 150th at Dinner

VIA Rail Canada live auction trip was one of popular highlight items at Conservation Dinner.

Canada’s 150th anniversary front and centre at Conservation Dinner

Feature artist Iceculture Inc. creates Canadian-themed ice sculpture at centre stage of 28th gala charitable auction fundraiser in support of community projects in watershed

The bold red of the maple leaf was visible as four hundred people filled the South Huron Recreation Centre on April 6, 2017. A giant flag of Canada and a finely-detailed 14-foot-wide ice sculpture, with a Canadian theme, greeted the crowd at the 28th Conservation Dinner. The impressive, intricate ice sculpture, with artistic representations of maple leaves and logs etched into the design, was created by this year’s feature artist, Iceculture Inc. Red-iced cupcakes were incorporated into the ice sculpture.

South Huron District High School students, directed by Kate Milner and Isaac Moore, sang O Canada.

Ben Lobb, Member of Parliament for Huron-Bruce, was one of four volunteer auctioneers at the charity event. He made the toast to Canada to begin an evening where linen serviettes on the table were bright red in colour and the Canadian flag was on centre stage, as other Canada flags were beside the stage and at the back of the room, and small flags and pins of the Canada flag were on the tables. The guests toasted the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation with Ontario wine, from Dark Horse Estate Winery Inc., in shot glasses made of ice, courtesy of Iceculture.

The Huron-Bruce MP mentioned, in his toast, the importance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Lobb noted the 100th anniversary of that milestone battle was only days away – on April 9. That date is the 100th anniversary of four divisions of Canadian infantry having stormed Vimy Ridge, in northern France, during the First World War. The Canadian infantry advanced, under heavy fire from machine guns, even when officers were killed. The battle has been called a “defining moment” in Canadian history. “We’re so close to April 9 … the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge,” Lobb said. “So close to April 9, in our 150th year, what a truly fitting tribute,” he continued. “There is no other country like this one, no other country with the natural beauty ... the only thing I feel that surpasses the beauty of the country is the people who live in this country. That is what makes this country Canada and what makes it the best country to live in, bar none. God bless Canada and God bless all of you.”

There were other anniversaries to celebrate as well at the Conservation Dinner. Exeter Lions Club President Craig Hebert noted that Lions Clubs International is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017. Lions Clubs International is described as the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members and more than 46,000 clubs. The Exeter Lions Club, chartered in 1937, is celebrating its 80th anniversary of community service, said Hebert. The Conservation Dinner and the projects it supports help to create the same “sense of community” that Exeter Lions Club members foster with their other efforts, as per their motto, ‘we serve.’ “Thank you very much from the Lions Club of Exeter,” he told the crowd. The Exeter Lions’ President made the club’s service work in the community more personal by recounting the story of a student whose eye condition prevented him from fully taking part in classroom learning. “There was a piece of equipment that would allow him to participate in his lessons,” Hebert recalled. The Lions bought this piece of equipment. The boy’s parents came back to a meeting a little later and “they were so happy their son could participate in the classroom activities every day.” He said examples like this show “what we’re all about” at the Lions Club.

The auction event on April 6 was also an opportunity to congratulate Hensall’s Iceculture as a Canadian success story – an international success story, in fact. The family-owned business has served markets all over Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and has completed projects in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Iceculture’s world-wide impact has been shared in 58 countries either through the artistic expression of its ice sculptures or through specialized machinery, equipment, and expertise.

“This year we have a spectacular ice sculpture behind us,” said Bob Radtke, Chairman of the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation, as he welcomed guests to the Dinner. Conservation Dinner Co-Chair Janet Clarke thanked all the donors and sponsors, guests, artists, and volunteers who make the fundraiser possible. She also thanked the feature artist. “We are honoured to have Iceculture as our featured artist,” she said.

Iceculture founder Julian Bayley thanked the Conservation Dinner committee for having chosen his firm as the 2017 Feature Artist. “To be chosen by the Committee is an honour,” he said. “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to showcase Iceculture and tell you a little bit about our business.” He said Iceculture’s craftsmanship is a little different than the art of some other feature artists selected by the Dinner Committee over the event’s 28-year-history. He noted that the firm’s work “doesn’t hang on walls” and that an artistic creation at Iceculture is the product of the work of many people. Accordingly, he recognized the talented and hard-working staff of Iceculture whose ice art makes a lasting impression around the world.

Two feature art packages were auctioned during the live auction – one was a package for a local ice carving team-building experience at Iceculture for up to 25 people; and the second was a visit to the Chill Ice House in Toronto (Canada’s only permanent ice lounge) for up to 15 people.

The Dinner Committee estimates that the 2017 Dinner is likely to have raised close to $60,000 for community conservation projects. The Conservation Dinner has raised more than $1.1 million in net proceeds over its 28-year-history for projects in the watershed community since the fundraising event’s beginnings in 1990. The charity event is a fundraiser of the Exeter Lions Club and Ausable Bayfield Conservation. Net proceeds are split evenly between the Lions Club and the Foundation to support parks and recreation; nature education; accessible trails; youth programs including bursary awards and job opportunities; and other local community conservation projects. 

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