Mayor pays tribute to swan keepers in new book
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Dec 18, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Mayor pays tribute to swan keepers in new book

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

The latest in the long-running and hugely successful Chicken Soup for the Soul book series includes a short story about the history of Stratford's world-famous swans and parade written and contributed by Mayor Dan Mathieson.

"O Canada, The Wonders of Winter: 101 Stories about Bad Weather, Good Times, and Great Sports" is available in stores and online now. In it you'll find amusing and encouraging stories about weathering the cold, creating warm memories with family and friends, and playing great winter sports.

As co-author Janet Matthews writes in her introduction, “When Canadians are confronted with extreme winter weather, it brings out the best in us!”

Mathieson told the Gazette he was inspired to write the story, entitled The Swans of the Avon River, after he was contacted by another of the book's contributors – Pamela Goldstein of Amherstburg, Ont. – who wrote about coming to Stratford and watching as city workers gathered the swans for their winter quarters.

In her story she recalls one of the workers telling her, "If you enjoyed this day you'll have to come back in the spring for the Swan Parade when they return to the river. That's the real celebration. These swans are special to our town. Some people think it's the actors who are the big draw here, but we all know it's the swans. They're royalty."

Mathieson said he thought the history about how the swans are released back into the river each year, and how the parade came to be, was worthy of a few pages of its own.

"There are really two people who are responsible for how it all started, and I thought now would be a good time tell that story," he added, noting finding out his story would be published in the book was "one of those pleasant surprises."

The story includs tributes the late Robert J Miller, who for almost 50 years was recognized locally as Stratford's "keeper of the swans," and the late Ted Blowes, the former mayor who along with the Civic Beautification and Environmental Awareness Committee organized the first-ever parade.

"This is a magical date when we, the people of Stratford, watch our beloved swans return to the water," the mayor writes. "The excitement level goes up the moment we hear the first screel of the pipes from the Stratford Police Pipe and Drum Band, which adds a suitable royal pomp and tongue-in-cheek circumstance."

The parade, the mayor notes in his story, is purposely simple.

"There are no floats or speeches from politicians – just the simplicity of a small parade of our majestic swans heading back to the river.

"To Bob and Ted, from my family and many others, as well as future generations to come, thank you for this simple gift."

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