On the weekend of August 28-30 2015, the Ottawa Citroën Club welcomed Citroen enthusiasts from all over Ontario, Quebec, and New England to Jaro and Betzy’s farm in Cantley Quebec, about 20 minutes north of downtown Ottawa.
Folks started arriving on Friday night, and by sundown there was already a small group of Citroëns, as well as 16 hardy camping fans who were getting settled in. Friday evening was taken up with hotdogs and marshmallows on the campfire.
Saturday dawned warm and bright. Throughout the morning and into the early afternoon Citroëns arrived singly and in groups. The largest single contingent was from the Montreal area, and included Michel L and Danielle, Josée and Marc, etc etc.
People greeted old and new friends, before most folks tucked into lunch at a variety of picnic tables, scattered around Jaro’s yard in front of the charming century farmhouse. Check the photos to see at least one personalized picnic set up.
After lunch, still more Citroëns arrived, including George D and Simon W in George’s gorgeous SM. That car seems to have becomes George’s favoured ride for the 4 1/2 hour trip from Toronto to Ottawa.
Eventually there was a total of 24 Citroëns, which is a very strong turn out for this long-standing event. We had 1 traction Avant, 1 CX, 1 Méhari, 3 DS, and the rest were 2CVs. We also were visited by a Volkswagon Thing (Kubelwagon). We did not leave the Thing and Paul’s Méhari alone, for fear that they might run off together.
Soon enough, announcements began regarding the Citroën Games, which would be held in the vast fields beyond the show area where the Citroëns sat in a sparkling arc.
Spectators for the games settled in even before the participants had chosen their Driver/Co-pilot teams. They were expecting a real show, and they got one this year.
Bob McL addressed the participants, and explained the five-part challenge that they faced. First was a run through a demanding slalom course. At the end of that segment, the driver had to stop in the “garage” of cones, and the co-pilot had to run to the Skills Table. Once there, he or she had to have a steady hand to drop 2CV seat rubbers over the neck of a wine bottle (French wine, of course). Each successful drop was worth three seconds deducted from the team’s overall time.
Once done with the ring drop, the co-pilot jumped back into the car. The driver now had to negotiate a rough but relatively quick figure-eight lap around two stands of trees (well, actually one stand of trees and a clump of weeds!). Then back to the cone garage.
Now both team members had to jump out. The co-pilot donned blacked-out glasses, while the driver handed him eight coloured nuts that he had to drop unseen on the table top. Also on the table was a long bolt. It was up to the driver to give verbal directions to the blind-folded co-pilot, to correctly thread a blue, a white, and a red nut onto the bolt to represent a French Flag. Once completed, back in the car for a final run through the slalom course and on to the finish.
Competition was hot, and tactics played an important part. For example, Sam H decided to save time on the ring drop by simply dropping all five rings at once! Bob quickly put a stop to that nonsense, by handing out the rings one at a time for subsequent competitors.
Driving also became steadily more and more daring, with times falling from around 03:10 to end the first round at 02:50. Incredibly, after the full round, we had an exact tie for first place at 02:50.1.
This set up our first-ever tie-breaker runoff, between Eric deH & Steevie L, against Jaro D & Paul R. Incredibly, each team knocked over 20 seconds off their best times, to finish only 0.9 seconds apart, with Eric and Steevie claiming the top spot. What a show!
After the official games were completed, Bob set up for what was supposed to be a Demonstration Sport, the Kinky Drags. He set up two parallel but opposite slalom courses. Jaro and Bob lined up their 2CVs for the race. Under the watchful eyes of George D, who was starter and judge, they raced side by side down the straightaway, then turned in opposite directions outward, to run through the individual slalom courses. At the end of the slaloms, they again turned outward (safely away from each other) for a final drag race to the finish markers. Then the drivers would switch courses for a second run.
To take a victory, a driver had to win back-to-back races in opposite lanes. This removed any question of advantages to one course or the other.
Jaro handily eliminated Bob in two runs. We thought that was the end of it. But not with this crowd. Soon more pairs of drivers had challenged each other, and we had a full-blown competition on our hands. Bob hastily arranged an “Elimination Ladder”, like in drag racing. He and George established some basic safety and judging rules, and the show was on!
Eventually, Jaro (2CV) eliminated Bob (2CV) in two rounds. Bruce G (425cc 2CV) eliminated Paul R (Méhari) in three rounds. Among the big cars, Christian T (DS21) eliminated Marc (ID19) in two rounds.
That set up a 2CV final, pitting Jaro against Bruce. The racing was incredibly close, requiring four rounds before Jaro eliminated Bruce. Remember that Bruce was giving up at least 30% on horsepower.
To end the day, we had a race for Top Eliminator between Jaro’s 2CV and Christian’s DS. Racing again was very close, but Jaro came out on top in just two rounds.
No sooner had racing finished than a light rain began to fall. This send the large crowd of Citroënists under several protective tent structures to enjoy an aperitif before dinner. The rain was never heavy, and let up just before dinner.
Since mid-afternoon the garden area had been bathed in the gorgeous aroma of a lamb slowly cooking over a charcoal pit. The light rain led to a quickly organized and successful effort to protect our dinner from the weather. Soon enough, the lamb was carved, and gorgeous salads and bread appeared. A line quickly formed (50 people in total) and happy diners began to tuck in to their meals. Conversations were many and varied, as were the languages being used.
After dinner, Gerard Larochelle serenaded us with the beautiful songs of the Canadian bard Félix Leclaire. Before each song, Bruce G would set the scene, telling us in English the story behind each song. Gerard would then introduce the song en français. Two Solitudes? No, I think not, just two cultures melded together for every one’s pleasure.
Following Gerard’s performance, it was time for the prize giving. Bob McL awarded prizes for the Citroen Games, distributing the gifts as far down the finishing order as possible. Full results are here, in PDF form. Prizes for the games were 6-packs of Kronenbourg 1664 beer, generously provided by several local members (Bruce G, Cor B, Ian C, Jim McC, Jaro D, and Bob McL). Bob also awarded the Top Eliminator prize to a beaming Jaro.
Fabienne then took the floor, to thank the many attendees for making the event such a success. She cited the large contingent who had come up from Montreal, thanks to the support of Michel L and Danielle, and Josee and Marc. Jim and Lorraine R were mentioned for their exceptional 9-hour trip from New Hampshire. They have been among our most loyal attendees over the years. We also welcomed Richard B and Louise who arrived from Montreal Saturday evening in their stately Traction Avant 15/6-H. Of course the biggest round of applause was for Betzy and Jaro who generously opened their home and their farm to us. Door prizes were drawn, and many people were happy with their treasures, including diecast Citroën models, donated by Eric de H.
Music continued into the evening with a lively set from James Azola, an Afro-Canadian musician who we had enjoyed previously at our 10th anniversary event in 2009. Later, both Fabiene and Jaro played tunes on the accordion and harmonica respectively. Of course the camp fire burned long into the night. Folks continued to sit and chat until sleep came calling, and they retired to their tents, campers, or accommodations. A few had to head home.
On Sunday morning more than 35 people gathered in bright sunshine to restart the wonderful ambiance that had persisted through the weekend. There were new visitors and we even had one more Citroën (Bara and Francoise in a black and yellow 2CV Charleston) show up, just for the day.
Jaro and Betzy were back at work, preparing fabulous omelettes over the camp fire. The eggs had even been freshly collected on the farm. What a treat! Folks were also pleased to find a selection of fruit, muffins, and the ever-important coffee! Everyone clearly enjoyed their breakfast.
Michel L had arrived for the weekend in his newly-finished service vehicle, a fabulous red 2CV pick-up. Throughout the weekend, he had worked away repairing various customers’ cars. Sunday morning saw him finishing up the last jobs, under the watchful and admiring eyes of several attendees.
All too soon, people began preparing for the trip home. Good-byes and Au Revoirs were exchanged. Citroëns roared into life one by one and slowly rolled onto the roads of Cantley.
Honestly, this was one of the best annual gatherings we have had, in our 16 year history. The Club thanks everyone who attended. We genuinely appreciate your participation and your support. The biggest thank you this year goes to Betzy and Jaro for their huge effort and their gracious hospitality.
Please also have a look at the excellent photos taken by George Dyke, for Citroënvie.
We also invite you to check out Sam Holman’s photostream on Flickr (multiple pages).