FLASHBACK: KENTVILLE’S 100TH ANNIVERSARY (July 24/07)

“Having no distinguished name formally bestowed upon it (and generally known) by the absurd epithet of Horton Corner, it was unanimously agreed by those present (being most of the principal inhabitants of the place) that in honor of the memory of His late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, their village should be called Kentville.”

Edited some for brevity, this is a notice published in the Recorder on April 15, 1826, advising the public of Horton Corner’s new name. The notice was reprinted on May 12, 1926, in the Acadian Recorder during the 100th-anniversary celebration. The notice doesn’t tell us who the “principal inhabitants” were but the “High Sheriff of the County,” George Chipman, chaired the name change committee. It was noted that when Horton Corner became Kentville, the village contained “two grist mills, two manufactories for fulling and dyeing cloth and two buildings containing machines for carding wool,” and a flax mill that was “nearly completed.”

When it celebrated the 100th year of its new name in the summer of 1926, Kentville could boast that it had progressed well beyond the mill and manufactories stage. By 1926 it was one of the largest, most prosperous towns in the Valley. Thanks to the railway and its numerous retail stores and offices, the town had become the business and shopping centre of Kings County, and rightly deemed itself to be one of the most important communities in the province.

The 100th-anniversary celebration was a grand affair. Taking place over three days in August, the celebration began with a grand street parade with bands, “a large number of decorated floats with… historical and comical features,” and marching school kids. I was surprised to discover that anniversary celebrations included the selection of a “Queen of the Carnival,” with young ladies from three counties – Kings, Hants and Annapolis – competing for the honor. We can see that with this celebration, the format for the Apple Blossom Festival that was to come some seven years later was established.

After the grand street parade, a “racing meet” was held at Aldershot Camp. That evening the public was treated to a “grand musical revue” at the town arena. During the Revue the Carnival Queen was selected from a “bevy of beauties.”

On day two of the celebration, the town offered “miscellaneous amusements,” town-wide shopping bargains, a “farmer’s picnic” at the experimental station, and sporting events at Memorial Park. Competing in the five-mile race in the afternoon was famed runner Johnny Miles of Sydney. The second day of celebrations wound up with an evening “old Fiddler’s Contest” at the arena.

On day three of the celebration, the town was “beautifully decorated and illuminated” for a “dance and evening frolic” on Webster Street. “On the occasion of the street dance,” it was announced, “the Carnival Queen will appear in her decorated coach, and will be crowned Queen of the Carnival and presented with a handsome silver Loving Cup, a gift of The Advertiser.”

History buffs take note that the grand street parade with its floats, bands and marching groups, the musical programs, the crowning of a queen and other features of Kentville’s anniversary celebration – in fact, its entire format – would be incorporated into the first apple blossom festival in 1933.

Note: The scrapbook of the late Lucy MacInnes, who saved clippings from the 1920 and 1930 issues of The Advertiser and other newspapers was used for this column. My thanks to George Ashby who kindly let me read the scrapbook.

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