October 13, 2020
We had a great day for the last day of our summer on Sunday, October 4 with over 1,000 members, residents, and first-time visitors on hand for the final Free Sunday of the year.
With the help of Quebec’s ministère de la Culture et des Communications and Hydro-Québec, our lead sponsors since 1999, this new program allowed us to welcome 6,459 visitors from Quebec free of charge on the first Sunday of July, August, September and October. What a success! And what a gift to the community!
With our organization celebrating is 25th anniversary this year, it was a wonderful new way to share the Gardens with visitors, old and new, young and olf, from the region and beyond and remind us all how important the Gardens are and what magic they hold.
On Sunday, the first families began arriving at 8.30 am and the last toured until dusk, leaving at about the same time as the snow geese made their final flypast. The sound of the geese made their final flypast. The sound of the geese in the bay was only drowned out by the sheep in our lambmower pasture who so enthusiastically greeted visitors all day, begging for attention and a light snack. Both the children and the sheep seemed to share the same big smiles.
Les Amis et Anciens from the Conservatoire de musique de Rimouski gifted more than 150 enthusiasts a fabulous concert by saxophonist Guy Lavoie and pianist Jérémie Pelletier on the lawn behind Estevan Lodge. Annie Vanasse, director of the Conservatoire spoke to the special magic of music in the gardens. It was the first live music event for many in the audience since the middle of March and the beginning of COVID confinement.
The wistful sounds of Fauré and Debussy hit the right note of calm and serenity.
It was a great conclusion to a summer without many events and perhaps a sign of hope that we can rise above the difficulties the pandemic has brought. Offering small events in safe, outdoor settings by local artists is one way we can show solidarity with each other and provide artists with encouragement and they audience they need and deserver.
Like every other cultural organization in Quebec, our springtime was dominated by anxiety and concerns as to whether we could open. And one we opened, we where all worried about whether anyone would come. To add the anxiety was the wish to offer a generous welcome to every visitor as well as providing them with a safe and secure environment.
We are thrilled to have welcomed nearly 58,000 visitors and to have done so safely. Our staff were great, engaged enthusiastic, collaborative and generous when asked. We owe them a lot.
It was a tough summer for the culinary team led by chef Frédérick Boucher. 1,500 sandwiches is a record and a real achievement, but also a disappointment difficult to digest given the enjoyment our creative culinary crew derive from offering special meals, tasting events and curating celebrations for newlyweds.
The summer provided them with many learning opportunities and a great opportunity to trial new things and a challenge to find profitability in extraordinarily difficult times.
They hope to be able to offer a return to dining next year. One way or the other, they will be innovative, imaginative, of that you can be guaranteed.
The Gardens were beautiful all summer long.
In spite of a late start, the summer drought brought the bloom up to speed. This provided lots of extra work for the gardeners to water and care for fragile plants, but also some of the most gloriously warn summer evenings in recent memory. The first frosts of last week left enough flowering until the final few days. Now the work begins to ready the gardens for the winter and repair, restore and resuscitate the flowerbeds and forest to make them event more beautiful for near year.
If proof were needed, the summer of 2020 illustrated more than any book or television documentary the special value of and outdoor oasis like Elsie Reford’s gardens. Her gardens proved their worth time and time again. They showed their value to many, particularly those anticipating the coming months of darkness (real, political, economic and more) with considerable dread.
Each and every day, we saw smiling people leave with a sens of what magic lies outside.
Hopefully the happy memories of a visit to the Gardens and its many wonders will provide hope in the coming months. It certainly provides hope to me and the many staff who are now already hard at work to ready the Gardens for next summer.
Thank you for visiting. Thank you for giving. Thank you for your support.
By Alexander Reford and the board of Les Amis des Jardins de Métis and the International Garden Festival