Buxton Homecoming receives Lieutenant Governor heritage award

A long-standing community event that draws visitors from across North America received high praise recently.

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Buxton’s 100th anniversary of Homecoming was recognized during the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards for Excellence in Conservation.

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Organizers were commended for “demonstrating community leadership by driving heritage tourism in 2023 to one of the province’s most significant historical Black communities, and for their commitment to doing so over the previous 100 years.”

Administered by Ontario Heritage Trust, the annual juried awards are the centerpiece of the trust’s annual celebration of Heritage Week in Ontario, showcasing the positive impact of heritage conservation.

Michelle Robbins, curator of Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, said the group was “thrilled beyond words and so honored” to receive the award.

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“Many of our ancestors wouldn’t celebrate their accomplishments and this award is truly for them,” she told The Daily News. “They started Homecoming 100 years ago, in 1924, under a pear tree on the Robbins farm as a picnic, which has grown over time into a four-day-long celebration.

“And as a community we are privileged to continue to pay homage to those who came before us, that created such a remarkable legacy for us.”

Robbins credited the efforts of many community groups, descendants and volunteers for giving countless hours.

“We are beyond grateful for each and every one of them who have stepped up to help make our Homecoming events possible,” she added.

“We always say, ‘It takes a village,’ and here this quote rings true for us. Without the many hands over the years, we wouldn’t have been able to make these events happen. We can’t wait to celebrate our 101st Buxton Homecoming with everyone.”

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Other projects receiving Excellence in Conservation awards were:

– The restoration of Metropolitan United Church, London, for the adaptive reuse of this historical place of worship, now transformed into a multipurpose performance space.
– The Fugitive Slave Chapel preservation project, London, for the successful preservation of the oldest building representing the city’s Black history, which was accomplished with extensive stakeholder engagement.
– Shadowpath Theater Productions, York Region, for its commitment to integrating heritage, the performing arts and deep community engagement.

Four individuals were also recognized:

– Jane Watt, Oakville, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her volunteer spirit, expert knowledge of history and commitment to researching the heritage of Halton Region.
– Maude Craig, Millbrook, and Adam Selalmatzidis, Sudbury, received Youth Achievement Awards for showing what is possible in the next generation of heritage. Craig integrates theater and performance into his exploration of history, while Selalmatzidis is a passionate advocate for Sudbury’s biodiversity.
– Dr. Ron Williamson, Toronto, received the Thomas Symons Award for Commitment to Conservation in recognition of his trailblazing impact on the practice and development of archeology in Ontario, as well as his leadership of numerous projects for more than 40 years.

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Lt.-Gov. Edith Dumont called it crucial to highlight those who made a difference in conservation efforts.

“I am so glad to join the Ontario Heritage Trust in celebrating this year’s exceptional award recipients,” she said in a release. “It is more important than ever that we take the time to recognize the people who are working to preserve our heritage, build connections, and unite Ontarians.”

Ontario Heritage Trust board chair John Ecker said the individuals and organizations made outstanding contributions.

“They also serve as role models to inspire others who will follow in their footsteps,” he said. “It is through their active and vigilant efforts that Ontario’s built, natural and cultural heritage will be preserved, protected and promoted for future generations.”

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