Last week in Innisfil residents, some of whom had only met on Facebook, pooled resources to fight to preserve the town's name.
Largely organized on Social Media and with a somewhat surprised though not reluctant leader found in the person of Dean Bracko, creator of 'Innisfil Connex' a FB page dedicated to connecting residents and businesses in Innisfil.
Petitions were quickly circulated, and posters were created and put up around town in a scramble to get the word out - there was only a week until the next meeting - rumour had it the Council was going to vote on the proposals then, and the newspapers would not have time to publish this shocking news!
Midge Malcom, local dance instructor and long-time resident, and myself found ourselves joining the conversation as did others, and a rally was called to protest in front of Town Hall for the meeting scheduled only one week later. Posters were miraculously created and Emily and I put out a call for a studio to rehearse in.
Jennifer Muher of The Dance Centre, where my daughter Maggie takes dance was generous enough to offer her space, so we spent afew hours on Sunday there. I hadn't picked up my guitar in over a year, so was a little rusty, however Emily's voice was in top form, as she studies singing at the Arts school she attends, having just completed the school production of Rent, in which she played the bag lady.
I tuned my guitar and played as best I could, even though it sounded a bit twangy. The acoustics in the dance studio were amazing.. Our voices sounded great together! We were pleased, but still needed a musician. I just didn't have time to get in form on guitar before Wed night - your fingers need to build up callouses.
A frantic phone call to TJ's Music Studio on Monday and we had a guitar player. We managed a quick rehearsal the hour before we were to go on...Emily having just arrived off the GOfrom in Toronto after her mad dash from school to travel the hour and a half trip northbound to Innisfil. Talk about a quick study! TJ had the song learned and ready to go almost immediately - what a talent! He had to teach a class and would meet us at the town hall in half an hour.
The song we were singing was called 'The Place I Live', and we had written it ten years ago for the Innisfil Summerfest Talent Show. Emily was only eight years old at the time, and we were honoured by the town for writing it by being awarded a special plaque and certificate. We also were asked to come and perform it for the Town Council, which we gladly did, and our pictures were in the newspaper.
The song, which talks about all the little towns within our greater Town of Innisfil, couldn't be more appropriate for our protest against this sudden and unexpected push to change our Town's name. One of the reasons the consultant had come up with this novel idea is because he said people didn't identify with the name Innisfil, but rather were attached to the tiny hamlet they lived in within Innisfil, such as Lefroy, Alcona, etc. Our song belied that idea in the nicest possible way. Here are the lyrics.
"The Place I Live"
I live in a place called Innisfil
It goes from Stroud all the way to Churchill,
Where the cross stands so high,
Touching the sky,
We live in God's country
I play in a place called Alcona Beach
Where the lake and the beaches
Make us so rich!
From the winter to the summer,
There's so much to discover!
I would live in Innisfil if I were you!
I love this place called Innisfil,
Where there's Cookstown, all nestled
In the valley of the hills.
You can shop or go for tea,
At the theatre you'll find me!
I love to live and play in Innisfil!
And Belle Ewart - we haven't forgotten you!
And the men who worked those long days on the ice.
And the way they raised their glass,
As they cut the ice at last,
To send out on the railroad to
Toronto and Michigan.
If you live where I do,
You're an Innisfillian too!
From Big Bay Point to Guilford and Lefroy!
Sandy Cove let's not forget-
Though I can't live there just yet!
Oh Innisfil - It's a place for young and old!
Innisfillians! Gather All Around!
It's time to sing the praises of
Our great big happy town!
From the farmlands to the cottages
On Lake Simcoe's loving shore...
Every day I love it more!
by Emily and Michelle Devlin
As we waited to go up and sing, we listened to the voices of our townspeople passionately expressing to the Council all the reasons why we needed to keep the town name of Innisfil. Financial reasons were cited - it would cost a fortune to change all the businesses in town using the name - upwards of 80. But the most striking comments spoke about the history of the name, first given to the region by Irish settlers over 170 years ago. People were upset about it, feelings were stated that this was a big waste of time, and 'if it 'aint broke, don't fix it."
Well our moment finally came to go on, and as we looked around at the hundreds of people before us, I suddenly realized that I felt like I was in my own living room. TV cameras were on us, the entire Town Council behind us, yet I felt no fear or nervousness, only elated and happy. Emily introduced the song with a short explanation about when we wrote it, and we started to sing. Again, our voices blended beautifully with the sounds of TJ's guitar, and the acoustics in the hall were amazing. I remember smiling as I sang, and feeling as though the crowd was with us in heart and soul. Although the Mayor of Innisfil, Barb Baguley, had repeatedly admonished the townspeople for clapping throughout the meeting, when we were finished the whole place erupted! Barb tried to look stern about it but in her heart she was applauding and celebrating with us all, she later told me.
The big-city consultant was seen leaving the building moments later.
In a unanimous vote, the Innisfil Town Council voted down the proposal to change the name of Innisfil. The vote was not supposed to happen until the following meeting, but Mayor Barb said they (the Council) insisted on doing it immediately, voting her down when she reminded them of that.
I had a call from Mayor Barb the very next day, asking us to come and sing 'the Innisfil song' at the upcoming Family Day, June 25th at the Innisfil Rec Centre. "We would be delighted!" I answered, thrilled to be able to sing the song again, now with a little more time to rehearse it!
More exciting news to follow - we met with the Mayor this week and plans are underway to have the song produced, complete with banjo and mandolin players, professional musicians and some of the town schoolchildren choirs accompanying us. A local videographer, Rikki from Lovejoy Productions is going to shoot a video of the whole exciting process. TJ's Music will provide the recording studio, and 'The Place I Live' will become the town song, featured on the town website! Emily and I have a whole CD full of other songs we have written, so we are hoping that this may lead to having a full album produced...so if you know any rich record producers out there....please tell them to come visit a little place with big heart and lots and lots of talent called Innisfil! Or keep a look-out for the upcoming video - soon to be appearing on a You-Tube Channel near you!! More to follow....