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Family Fun Weekend now in its 13th year

As the Kin Club of Woolwich’s West Montrose Family Fun Weekend gears up for its 13th year, founder and Kin Club member Bill McBay charts the event’s evolution.

Certainly, the event has expanded since its first installment in 2001, but one thing has remained consistent: its use of the West Montrose Family Campgrounds (6344 Line 86). The annual festivities were inspired by a weekend canoeing and camping trip McBay took with his son, father-in-law, and brother-in-law. McBay felt the scenic area deserved to be experienced by more people.

“We had such a good time I said, ‘We should do this again,’” McBay remembered. “So the next year we had, I believe, nine father-son combos, and that was the beginning of what started as the big-person/little-person canoe trip, and then turned into the family weekend.

“We’ve been everywhere in that park,” he continued. “It’s probably the nicest piece of property on the Grand River, and it’s just a huge field the size of three football fields, and it’s framed in by the Grand River. Just a stunning piece of property.”

Members of the Woolwich Kin Club – Warren McNeil, Tina Littler, Kassandra Wallace, Bill McBay, Brenda McBay, Earl Cabana – at the West Montrose Family Campground, where the Family Fun Weekend takes place June 19-20. [will sloan / the observer]
Members of the Woolwich Kin Club – Warren McNeil, Tina Littler, Kassandra Wallace, Bill McBay, Brenda McBay, Earl Cabana – at the West Montrose Family Campground, where the Family Fun Weekend takes place June 19-20. [will sloan / the observer]
For the first few years, participating canoeists raised money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region. After adding Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region in 2006, the weekend began incorporating carnival rides and other festival activities. But it was 2007, when the festival entered into a $125,000 pledge to the capital campaign of Women’s Crisis Services, that it became the festival we know today.

“It became so much more than canoeing,” said McBay. “And when we entered the $125,000 pledge, it wasn’t just to raise some funds for whatever – it got real very quick.”

The final stage in the event’s evolution came in 2011, when the Grand River Amazing Race adapted the popular TV game show to the water, mud, and marsh of West Montrose. To date, the Amazing Race has raised more than $60,000 for Women’s Crisis Services.

Other activities include barbeque lunch and dinner, a silent auction, carnival midway, casino, and live music and comedy.

So, with a 13th outing imminent, McBay offered, “Our niche right now is: charitable individuals that are willing to go out and run a race and have a great afternoon of fun. … It’s not going to cost you anything to get in, and you can get free entertainment. You come down, watch, and enjoy.”

The Family Fun Weekend takes place on July 19 and 20. To reserve a campsite, call 519-669-2129.

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