June 24 to 30 is Legion Week in British Columbia, and Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Branch #113 in Ashcroft will be holding its annual open house on Friday, July 1 in celebration.
“We usually hold the open house on the Saturday of Legion Week,” explains Branch #113 treasurer Darlene Quesnel. “But last year we held it right after the Canada Day event on July 1, and it was so successful—we had people at the Legion all day and night—that we decided to do that again this year.”
A Colour Party from the Legion will be at the Canada Day event in the Heritage Park on Railway, and afterwards the Legion will be open to all, with free hot dogs, juice, and pop; karaoke; and face painting. Participants are also encouraged to BYOB—bring your own banana—to make a banana split.
“It’s so we can bring people into the Legion, and let them see what we can do,” explains Quesnel. Children are welcome to attend: “As long as we’re serving food kids can come in.”
In Clinton, Legion Branch #194 will be hosting a free burger barbecue on Wednesday, June 29 starting at 6:00 p.m. “It’s a free community barbecue and everyone is invited,” says entertainment coordinator Marian Nelson. “Children and families are welcome, and you don’t have to be a Legion member to attend.”
Legion Week celebrates the history and achievements of the Royal Canadian Legion, which was founded in 1925 to assist veterans of the First World War. Since then the RCL has become a cornerstone of many communities across the country, sponsoring sports teams, investing in their communities, developing affordable and assisted living housing for veterans and seniors, and offering contests for youth.
Membership in the RCL is open to all Canadian citizens. Branches have forms available for anyone interested in joining.
Darlene Quesnel says that a new initiative the Ashcroft branch has just started is the Legion garden behind the building. “It’s where the horseshoe pits used to be,” she explains. “They were taken out a few years ago, because there was concern over the windows of the bakery [beside the horseshoe pits] getting damaged. We had all that open space no one used, and wondered what to do with it.”
After toying with the idea of reinstalling the horseshoe pits (“But the bakery windows were still a consideration,” notes Quesnel), the idea of a garden was born, with Koppers donating untreated railway ties to be used to create a U-shaped raised bed. The garden is planted with vegetables—spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and onions—and an assortment of herbs, which will eventually be used for the dinners held every Friday night. The garden was planted, and is tended, by Legion members.
Quesnel expects the Legion to be bustling for the whole week, and not just because of the open house: she has 80 members of her family, some from as far away as Ontario, coming to Ashcroft for a family reunion at the end of the month. “We haven’t got together as a family for more than 15 years,” she laughs, “so it was time!”