Billy Bishop Museum opens its doors for heritage festival

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The Billy Bishop Museum opened its doors and grounds and welcomed the public in on Saturday for its heritage festival.

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Gloria Habart, chair of the board of museum said during Saturday’s event that they have traditionally held an event in the spring when the annual Honouring our Local Veterans plaques are returned to the individuals and their families, but this year they decided to split it up and have a festival where people could enjoy the museum, its memorabilia and more. The plaque return ceremony will be held Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the museum. All are welcome to attend.

“COVID played havoc with all of our events, so it is good to have the people back here and enjoying the museum,” Habart said Saturday. “We are starting to get back to it which is nice to see.”

Last year, the museum was able to hold some events, including Victorian Teas and Ghost Walks, but there were restrictions and safety measures in place because of the pandemic, and numbers were down. They recently had their Fire and Ice Fundraising Gala after it was replaced by an online auction last year.

Habart said since the pandemic began in 2000 the museum has had to pivot and adapt. They have a stronger presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter and have updated their website to include so much more information. All the past profiles of those featured in Honouring our Local Veterans are available online now, along with information about past and current exhibitions. They are adding an online version of their collection as well. It is all available at

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“I remember when you would go into a museum and everything was in cases,” Habart said. “Even now, in our new exhibit we have some hands-on stuff. You have to have that because people have a different approach to museums now.”

Habart thanked the local businesses and sponsors for continuing to support them through the pandemic.

“They have had trouble too, and yet they have kept supporting us,” she said. “I think that is just indicative of the whole area. People help each other.”

On Saturday, the Grey and Simcoe Foresters were in attendance and had some of their equipment on display, including a truck, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, gear and firearms. A military tent was set up in the front yard of the museum, while members allowed youngsters to try on some of their gear and check out a couple of the firearms they use.

Classic and antique cars belonging to members of the Bluewater Region of the Antique and Classic Car Club of Canada lined 3rd Avenue West in front of the museum, while in the backyard, the attendees enjoyed lunch while the Silver River Band performed.

Members of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters Regimental Pipes and Drums march in at the beginning of the Billy Bishop Heritage Fest at the Billy Bishop Museum in Owen Sound, Ont., on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Members of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters Regimental Pipes and Drums march in at the beginning of the Billy Bishop Heritage Fest at the Billy Bishop Museum in Owen Sound, Ont., on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Photo by Rob Gowan The Sun Times

The Grey and Simcoe Foresters Regimental Pipes and Drums who paraded down the street to start the afternoon, played periodically throughout the afternoon as well.

People were being invited inside on Saturday to browse the memorabilia on display in the museum, and to check out the newest exhibit, Ground Truth: Stories of Canada’s War in Afghanistan. The exhibit, which is expected to be up for about a year, features the stories and belongings of veterans of the war.

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“To me that is one of the most important and the most spectacular one we have done to date,” Habart said. “It is incredible that these people have shared these stories with us, because it is very personal.”

Habart said the museum is working more and more with the community to share their stories. She said the museum is exploring other possible exhibits on local people of colour and local Indigenous people who served in the military.

“We have to keep the history alive for our future generations,” said Habart. “We have to remember that we make veterans every day. People think of veterans as the First World War, the Second World War and Korea, but the people we have here today from the Foresters are veterans. It is very important to maintain that.”

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