It was in the year 2000 that Fabienne and Christian T organized the first Citroën gathering on their farm in Winchester Ontario, near Ottawa. Fabienne was looking to recreate some of the ambiance that she had witnessed at 2CV gatherings in her native Switzerland. Relying on a tiny network of local Citroën enthusiasts, and the power of word-of-mouth communication, she was thrilled that year when the fields began to fill with Citroëns from all over Eastern Canada. In the years since then, Fabienne, Christian and a core of volunteers from the Ottawa Citroën Club have continued to organize this event, adjusting the date as required to suit the busy schedule on the dairy farm, and to accommodate various worldwide Citroën events like ICCCRs and the 2CV World Meeting. This year marked the 10th anniversary, and the Ottawa Club made a special effort to ensure it was memorable. As usual, Friday saw the core group of volunteers setting up the marquis tent, preparing the camping ground, stacking wood for the campfires, and getting registration organized. The team included Jim and Beth McCollum, Cor Baars, Michel Landry, Bob McLeod and Christian T. They were ready just in time to welcome the first out-of-towner to arrive, Dave McAuley from Guelph. Due to previous commitments, Dave was not able to bring his current 2CV, but he shared many tales of his student days, driving new 2CVs purchased in southern Ontario. Before night fell, the group was joined by the ever-reliable Dan Burns, after a 550 km journey from Sudbury. Dan’s arrival also allowed us to start a lively game of “How many Citroënistes does it take to set up a camping tent?”. It winds up that the answer is three: one to scatter the parts, one to misread the instructions, and one to hold everyone’s beverages out of harm’s way.
The remainder of the evening was spent around the campfire, sharing stories and watching shooting stars. Saturday morning dawned gloriously. We almost could not believe our luck, during this year-of-the-summer-that-wasn’t. As the bleary-eyed campers began to get their bearings, there was a steady stream of new arrivals. A large contingent of folks from the Montreal region had organized into several small convoys, and as each wave arrived, the greetings became grander and grander. There were the usual debates about the correct etiquette of La Bise (cheek kissing). Contrary to some opinions, it did not seem to be related to what you were driving. The group included 2CV, DS, SM, XM, and even a lone Peugeot 203. It seems that it depends on which country and even which region to know the correct number of pecks (2, 3, or 4). “Vive la différence!” Another welcome arrival was Ruth and Neil Bryson, from Wolfe Island near Kingston. As always, they buzzed down the farm lane in their lovely AK250 camionette “Titine”. The Brysons are well known for their warm and indomitable spirits, and this year was no exception. Neil always tells us that he has to take his time, in deference to Titine’s tiny 425 cc motor, but one doubts that any 425 has ever been driven more sportingly. This was a year of either very bad or very good mechanical Karma (would that make it “Car-ma”?), depending on your point of view. Bad, because we witnessed three major mechanical problems. Good, because the High Priests of Citroën repair were present to conduct the necessary exorcisms. First, the Brysons throttle linkage had dismantled itself progressively along the route. Amazingly, using a magnet on a stick, Bob McLeod managed to find all the parts still wedged in and around the motor and belly pan. Then Michel Landry’s DS21 developed a priapic condition, where only the nose of the car rose to full suspension height. Amid various helpful suggestions to stop putting Viagra in the gas tank, André Ménard and Michel spent a couple of hours replacing a blocked height regulator, which restored the DS to a less excited condition. Finally, Ian Craib’s right-hand drive 2CV tried to remind us of its British origins by having a charging system failure. Now, what are the odds that Michel Larouche would have brought a spare alternator with him from Montreal? The transplant was accomplished in record time.
Before we knew it, a multi-coloured and joyfully honking convoy had formed up for the outing. As a special feature of this 10thanniversary gathering, the club had arranged a lunch at a local vineyard, La Domaine du Cervin. First, who knew that there were active vineyards in eastern Ontario, less than 70km from Ottawa? La Domaine du Cervin is run by the Gutnecht family. It combines a vineyard with a winery, as well as a Red Deer ranch.
After a short drive through the countryside,
the convoy arrived at the site, and filled the parking area to overflowing.
We were warmly greeted, and escorted into the winery for a tasting of several of the wines produced by the family. Reds and Whites were both much appreciated by all, and as a special treat, we also tried a dessert wine that many thought was similar to the renowned Ontario Ice Wines.
After a variety of good-natured toasts, we retired to the lobby, where a delicious buffet lunch had been prepared. The plat du résistance was a wonderful venison stew. Having filled our plates, we headed out to the picnic area, where we were able to enjoy our meal, and the excellent company of a cosmopolitan group of Citroënistes. Rich and joyful conversations ensued in French, English, and some interesting mixes of the two. It showed us that communication only depends on the desire to make it happen. People made their own way back to the Farm in the late afternoon. When they arrived, they found that they were about to enjoy another edition of the Citroën Olympic Games. The Games, modeled on the Jeux Deuchistes played at European 2CV gatherings, became a feature of the Winchester meeting in 2001. We believe this was a first in North America, and it has since spread to the annual Saratoga Springs Rendezvous. Over the years, the games have seen many incarnations, including: Driving a course blindfolded, the ball-balance slalom, Citroën croquet, 2CV Basketball, and “La Course des Sommeliers” which involved glasses of wine on a tray. This year we paid homage to the original “cahier de charge” for the 2CV (or TPV, as it was originally known). Teams had to negotiate a slalom course, while using a ski pole to pick up and successfully deliver the following objects, one at a time: a basket of eggs, a sack of potatoes, and finally, a pig! The spectacle was, well… spectacular, with teams using a variety of interesting (and at times mildly alarming) techniques to shave valuable seconds off their time.
As competition continued, and tight battle evolved among examples of the three great modern French marques: Citroën, Peugeot, and Renault. Peugeot was represented by Christian Noël in a very capable 1961 203 model. Renault’s weapon of choice was Dominique Vincent’s R4L. Citroën’s honour was defended by a squadron of 2CVs from the Ottawa club. The eventual order of finish was Yaro Dvorsky / Christian T in Yaro’s 2CV, Christian Noël /Daniel Baragiotta (aka Bara) in the Peugeot 203, and Dan Burns/Yaro Dvorsky in Dan’s 2CV. Each team was awarded “Tin Snail” trophies. As well, Dominique was given a special award for repeatedly being such a good sport in the face of 2CV opposition.
As the competitors continued to swap good-natured barbs and jabs, the dinner crew was hard at work. To mark the 10thanniversary, the club had made this year’s dinner something special: a méchoui-style BBQ, prepared by Gilbert Beck, Michel Larouche, and other members of the Montreal contingent, who had transported the elaborate rotisserie cooking rig from Montreal in a 2CV camionette. The sumptuous meats were accompanied by home-made salads prepared by local members Carla Baars, Fabienne T, and Claudine McLeod. Things were topped off by a wonderful Swiss cake xxxxxxx.
After dinner, and the prize-giving, the group was entertained by James Azola, an African-Canadian artist who played several sets for listening and dancing pleasure. Conversations continued long into the starry night, around another blazing campfire.
On Sunday morning, a French-style continental breakfast was provided by Cor and Carla Baars. Eventually, good-byes and “au revoirs” were exchanged, before people took to the wheels of their Citroëns for the return home. The Ottawa Citroën Club thanks all those who, by their attendance or their efforts made this anniversary year such a great success. Evolution being the hallmark of successful events, the Ottawa Club’s gathering will begin its second decade next year with a new location, and a new format. Stay tuned for more news.