New centre puts Harcourt back on the map
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 24, 2018
When a fire ripped through Harcourt’s community centre two-and-a-half years ago, it dealt a devastating blow to residents.
“It was so difficult for the community to lose the old building,” recalled Cindy Baumhour, secretary and treasurer of the rec board. “It was used every day.” An electrical fire was to blame for the complete loss of the 50-year-old building, which was located in the heart of Harcourt on Midway Street. But the community didn’t let the blaze keep them down for long. Volunteers joined forces to raise $8,000 at a benefit dance for a new centre. The insurance company paid out about $975,000 and the Municipality of Dysart pitched in $200,000 of taxpayers’ money. Other contributions included $20,000 from the rec board and $3,600 from a memorial fund for Donna Burroughs.
Together, it was enough to build a 4,000-square-foot, $1 million facility right where the former centre was located. It features a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, wheelchair accessible washrooms and a large gathering space. It was built by Beacon Construction of Bancroft. On May 19, local politicians, residents and volunteers celebrated its grand opening. The event featured a silent auction fundraiser, snacks and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Those who enjoyed the former hall reminisced about the good times. They also looked to the future.
“We used to come and dance at the old hall,” said former Wilberforce resident Lee Martin, adding her memories are “quite good.”
“They had good country music here.” She was disappointed to learn about the fire and donated to the new building. “We need halls like this, where communities can get together and enjoy themselves,” said Martin.
It was a particularly joyous day for those who have been part of the long rebuilding process. “Today, we’re here to have fun,” said Connie Rees, president of the ladies’ committee. “We hope it [the centre] gets used like it should.”
“It’s fruitful,” smiled treasurer Andrea Carr. The old hall was a mainstay for bingo, art classes, quilting and special events, such as weddings and birthday parties. Ward 3 Coun. Tammy Donaldson hopes residents will create many more memories in the years to come.
“I’m looking forward to working with the community and committees to make sure this hall gets utilized to its full potential,” said Donaldson at the opening. “The community centre was built for the people, and I encourage everyone to be active, participate and enjoy.”
Dysart Mayor Murray Fearrey said there were some bumps in the road, but the outcome was worth it. “I think Harcourt’s back on the map,” said Fearrey. MP Jamie Schmale and MPP Laurie Scott also extended their congratulations to the community. There are a few final touches to be done, including the installation of a stage, signage and ground work.
The centre will be open whenever someone wants to rent it, said Baumhour. A concert, featuring Timber Tom and the Crosscuts, and Wescali, was held in the evening.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.