On the weekend of August 13-15, the Ottawa Citroen Club held their 11th annual gathering. This year, Neil Bova and Maureen Hannusch took on the organizers’ roles.
Neil worked over the winter with the town of Perth to integrate the Citroen gathering into several other events that were going on during the same weekend, including the famed Garlic Festival.
The base of festivities was Last Duel Park on the west side of town. As the name implies, this park is built on the site of the last fatal duel fought in Canada, in 1833. Neil and Maureen began on Friday morning to get the site ready to receive cars and drivers from all over eastern Canada and the US. They were joined on Friday afternoon by some of the regulars from the Ottawa Club, including Cor and Carla Baars.
By late Friday afternoon, cars had arrived from Guelph, Montreal, New Hampshire, and Ottawa. As old friendships were renewed, and new ones formed some people took the short walk or drive into the heart of historic Perth, to enjoy the many restaurants, pubs, and entertainment. Neil rewarded the early arrivers with a surprise BBQ dinner at the park. As evening drew on, some folks returned to their camp sites at the park, while others explored their accommodations in town.
On Saturday, cars continued to arrive throughout the morning, eventually totaling about 20 Citroëns. The selection ranged from a 425 cc Truckette, through many and various 2CVs, a Dyane, Paul Ricardi’s famous Méhari, one DS, three SMs, and an XM. Familiar faces included Ruth and Neil Bryson from Kingston, Michel Larouche and Danielle from Montreal, Raymond Boutin from Lac-Etchemin, Dave McAuley and Cindy from Guelph, Paul Riccardi and Laraine from New Hampshire, as well as Ottawa members such as Jaro Dvorsky, Bruce Grant and Diane, Jim and Beth McCollum, Cor and Carla Baars, Ian Craib and Margaret, Michel Landry, J-P Dubois among others. We welcomed the return of Volker Vollrath and Mary-Jane, with their immaculate SM. New faces included Angus MacDougald and Kaye MacInnes from Verona, near Kingston, with their lovely gold-coloured SM.
Unfortunately we were down one DS this year, because Michel Landry’s ever-present DS21 had experienced an electrical fire earlier in the summer, and was still recuperating. Michel made a valiant effort to find a substitute, and arrived in a Peugeot 505 from Mike Aube.
Around mid-morning on Saturday, several of the cars headed off to the Farmer’s Market, in the heart of Perth on the banks of the Tay River. Here, Neil had arranged for a dedicated display area. Within minutes, many shoppers from the Farmer’s Market had started coming over to examine this rather out-of-the-ordinary spectacle. Although there were a few “What are they?” questions, most of the visitors showed passing-to-profound knowledge of the cars and their history. Many excellent discussions, interspersed with “When I was a student traveling in Europe….” stories ensued.
Cars continued to arrive during the display, and by the time it ended, there was not a square foot of Citroen-free space to be had. Extricating the cars was performed v-e-r-y carefully. Folks returned to the park over the next couple of hours.
During this time, the setup was underway for the traditional Citroen Olympic Games. This year’s games put a much higher value on skill and precision, and less on raw speed. This reflected the fact that the games were held in a public park, and that we wanted to keep activities close to the heart of the gathering. Of course Yaro was disappointed that he would not get to use third gear!
Nonetheless, a small cadre of participants presented themselves, in five teams of two, all driving 2CVs. They were cheered on by a much larger contingent of spectators.
This year’s challenge involved negotiating a devilishly narrow and twisted course, both forward and reverse, while the co-driver picked up and delivered various objects, all the while safely seated in the car. The key really was to get the angles right the first time, because any error quickly was magnified as the course continued.
They say that quality floats (at least that’s one of the things that people say floats…) and sure enough, when all was said and done, Yaro Dvorsky emerged as a repeat winner, this year with Neil Bova as his co-driver. First-time competitors Dave McAuley and Cindy turned in an excellent second place performance. Jim McCollum and Jean-Pierre Dubois took third. The rest of the finishing order was: Ian Craib and Margaret in fourth, and the frequent former winners Fabienne and Christian came home in an unfamiliar last place. Top prizes for the games were provided by Jim McCollum, who had brought back various Citroen die cast models from his recent trip to France. Congratulation and thanks to all teams who were brave enough to participate. What will it take to improve participation next year, so the Games can continue?
At the conclusion of the games, attention turned that all-important subject: Food. Neil and Maureen had arranged for an excellent and varied selection of dishes, but first there was a community corn shucking session. Neil had equipped the park’s pavilion structure with picnic tables, BBQs and even fridges, so amenities were far from lacking. With BBQs blazing and pots boiling, soon there was a long line up of eager diners. As is always the case at the Ottawa Club gathering, conversations were rich, in either (or sometimes both) official languages.
Later that evening at the prize giving ceremony, Michel Landry surprised everyone by giving the owner of each Citroen a lovely wristwatch, bearing the classic chevron trademark. The watches were even engraved on the back, to mark the event. Everyone was thrilled with this generous gesture on Michel’s part.
Other prizes, from various local sponsors were awarded by drawing numbers, so that as many participants as possible went home with a treasure. The rest of the summer’s evening was dedicated to friendship, chat, and sampling of local beverages, again provided by Neil and Maureen.
On Sunday morning, Cor and Carla Baars provided a French-style petit déjeuner to everyone who was present and conscious. By the time breakfast broke up, it was late morning, and some of the folks who had traveled the farthest decided to begin the journey home, while others remained in Perth to continue their exploration and discussions.
This was the first time that the Ottawa Citroen Club gathering had been held at this new location, with a new format. I think everyone who was there will agree that Neil and Maureen did a fantastic job of organizing, and ensuring that everything anyone needed was looked after. The park location proved to be very suitable, not only for the activities, but also to offer accommodation to those who were tenting, trailering, or RV-ing. The close proximity of downtown Perth offered other options for accommodation, without feeling removed from the event, as well as providing easy access to non-automotive activities to improve variety. Overall, another success, in a long string of successes for the Ottawa Club.