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Waverley Park to host 150th anniversary party

Roy Coran Big Band and Rodney Brown will perform on Sunday, June 23 at the park.
Waverley Park Coalition chair David George Noonan says the park will host a 150th anniversary party on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Leith dunick,

THUNDER BAY – Waverley Park is throwing a party.

On Sunday, June 23, the Coalition for Waverley Park will host a 150th anniversary party for the park, which has been serving the public as green space since just after Port Arthur received its name and some three decades before the city was officially incorporated.

These days – ringed by Magnus Theatre on one side, the former Port Arthur Collegiate Institute on the other, and home of the Waverley Park cenotaph – the park is seeing a bit of a revival, which suits David George Noonan just fine.

Noonan, the coalition chair, said it’s wonderful to see the green space, noted as the second oldest public park in Ontario, still a popular spot for residents and visitors to Thunder Bay alike.

“It’s wonderful to see this green space here used actively and often. We want to continue to see the development of this park. We want to see more action in this park and ways for it to be used,” Noonan said.

“It’s a wonderful heritage mark in this city. It’s a great way to introduce people to the downtown, where they can see this wonderful old park, with beautiful old trees here. We’ve got this bandstand, through the hard work of the coalition, to be used on a regular basis in summer. It serves quite an amazing purpose.”

Historian Keith Nymark said the park has been a fixture in the community for a century-and-a-half, serving as a marching ground for the military a century or more ago, adding it was created when surveyor Hugh Wilson realized it was too tough to get horses to climb the hill on what is now Waverley Street.

Wilson decided it was better to travel along Red River Road, and recommended to MP Simon Dawson that the green space remain as parkland.

It was officially designated a park in 1871.

It’s a great time for the park and city’s downtown north core, Nymark said.

“It’s amazing. With all the work on the waterfront, the streetscaping that’s going on downtown, it’s natural Waverley Park just follows into that whole little movement, you might say,” Nymark said.

Noonan said the anniversary picnic will take place on June 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the park, and will feature performances by the Roy Coran Big Band and Rodney Brown. There will be displays, cupcakes and clowns too.

The Waverley Park Concert Series is also scheduled to take place this summer, starting on July 8 with J. Philp and the Derivatives kicking things off. Mood Indigo, Daylin James, the Danny Johnson Trio and Rage and Ruin are among the scheduled acts. The concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays through Aug. 26.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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