“No dress rehearsal, this is our life.” In Kingston, Ontario this was certainly the case. There couldn’t possibly be any way that anyone could anticipate the magnitude of what went down on August 20th, 2016 in downtown Kingston. While many locals and professionals did an impeccable job in making all the preparations, this was above and beyond anyone’s expectation.
I haven’t been one to write about events on this platform. However, what strikes me about this iconic and historical event for Canada is the nature of it all. Approximately 25,000 were expected to show up to celebrate. What it all boils down to is the fact that this was not only a music event, but it was also a health and wellness event. It shows how a debilitating disease can cause so many ripples for a community. 2016 has been a year in which we have lost a number of talented musicians whose gifts have touched many. These losses so far were unexpected and have left us feeling shocked and sad. When Gord Downie announced his brain cancer diagnosis, fans were left with the same feelings of shock and sadness. Time was on our side to say our goodbyes. We were blessed with the time acknowledge and digest that the end is near. But it’s not a time to be sad. It’s a time to celebrate. Even though it was next to impossible to see this concert live at the K-Rock Centre on The Tragically Hip Way in Kingston, the City was innovative enough to provide live coverage of the CBC TV special at Market Square, which is steps away from the concert itself. There were no commercials or no interruptions, just us and the Hip as if they were playing at the Square itself.
My friends came to visit us in Kingston for the first time. They saw Kingston like they’ve never seen it before. Kingstonians saw Kingston like they’ve never seen it before. I couldn’t envision seeing Kingston as crowded as it was. Even when I was relentlessly running my own telethon of contacting 7 restaurants to book a table for dinner downtown. Even when people told us not to bother bringing lawn chairs because you won’t have room to sit down. Even when I heard that people were marking their territory at 4:30 pm for an 8:30 show. All this information couldn’t possibly lead me to fathom or believe Kingston would be crowded as it was. I thought people were overreacting. I thought that most people would watch it on TV. I honestly thought the evening would be like going to the Market Square for an outdoor movie. No no no. When we got close to the square at 8:20,and I saw the purple lights and the crowd my jaw dropped completely and I said “whoa!!” I was floored. It was indeed a block party like no other.
This entire area was blocked off from public entrance. But being a local has its perks. When we found an alternate entrance through the haunted alleyway in Rochleau Court, we were able to get in no problem. Normally, I’m not into big crowds because they’re hectic. I’m a small town girl after all. It was however no surprise to me that people were courteous as you tried to pass through and get closer to the screen. Simple phrases of “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “thank you” were exchanged in true Canadian fashion. I guess everyone remembered why they were there.
Thank you Kingston for being such a gracious host to one of the greatest events in 2016 Canadian history. Thank you for ensuring that people had a great time while maintaining their safety. Thank you to The Tragically Hip for sharing your irreplaceable talents and voice with the world. You’ve connected many with your songs, your lyrics, and above all, your soul. Although this was a bittersweet time, we all cherished the evening. I can say on a personal level that you’ve fulfilled my husband’s wish to see you live in Kingston. This is as close as we could get and we wouldn’t have asked for anything better. The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem tour ended off with a polite and poised bang.
All of this begs the question, if you knew you had one last chance to make a performance or do what you love one last time, how would you do it? I’ll leave that for you to chew on. Feel free to share your comments below or share your experiences of a Hip night if you happened to be there! I’d love to hear from you!
*Also, if you’re reading this and you’d like to make a donation to cancer research, please do so at the Canadian Cancer Society, the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook Hospital, or any other cancer related non profit organization. Let’s all fight cancer together.
“Are you going through something? Then I- I am too.”