'Everyone looks like they're having a good time'
Thousands of Sudburians packed Bell Park Sept. 3 for the first annual Labour Day Family Fun Fest.
The festival, largely organized and funded by United Steelworkers Local 6500 and 2020, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers, included music, children's activities, a car show and a barbecue.
While all of the activities were free, those attending the festival were asked for donations to the Human League Association's child and youth programs, including their breakfast program.
Families gave the event rave reviews.
Sylvia Cawte, who attended the festival with her three-year-old son, Dolphus, said she loved the fact that everything was free.
“It's great,” she said. “We're having fun. We've tried out the golfing, went to the car show, and he's gone in the bouncy house. Now we're getting cotton candy.”
Tanya Lapointe spoke to Northern Life while waiting in the long line for free soft drinks and barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers. She brought her three sons, Payton, Landen and Camden, to the event.
“We are going to try to listen to some music and hit up some of the attractions around and visit the car show,” she said.
“Things these days become really expensive, so have something to do with the kids on a very nice day for free, I think is fantastic.”
Richard Eberhardt, communications co-ordinator for the festival, said the organizers are pleased with the turnout.
“The real question was were there going to be people here to toss in a few bucks into to the donation box,” he said. “It looks like we've at least solved one of the problems. The park is packed with people, and everyone looks like they're having a good time.”
The idea behind the festival is reaching out beyond union members to all workers in the community, Eberhardt said.
“It's not just organized labour unions that are to be the beneficiaries of Labour Day,” he said. “Any worker should be honoured on labour day. That's most of the people in our city. Not everyone's unionized, but of course the unionized workers are a big part of that.
“We want to make sure that we can reach out to young families, almost all of whom have two workers involved in their families, and give them a day to have no expenses, and if they've got a few bucks to donate to the Human League so that kids can eat breakfast, then that's great.”
Speaking while flipping burgers, Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said the unions decided to hold a Labour Day festival this year instead of a parade because it reaches more people.
“Every year we have a parade and have all the unions that get together, but we've got to expand that to the community and have everybody join us,” he said.
“Obviously you can see the great turnout today. People need to know what Labour Day is all about. It's not just the last weekend before going back to school. They've got to remember about workers' rights. That's how it all started.”
He said he's thrilled with the turnout, and the union definitely plans to sponsor and help organize the event again next year.
Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault attended the event with his family, and also took a turn on the grill. “It's one of those events where I get to do my job and at the same time be with my family, so it's a win-win for me,” he said.
While he enjoyed the event, the MP said he hasn't forgotten the more serious purpose of Labour Day.
“A lot of the things that you see in our community has been thanks to labour, from unions supporting charities to all of the spending we see in our community,” he said.
“It all comes from people who work every day. Today is an opportunity to recognize those people that contribute so much to our community on a day in, day out basis.”