Long-lost tradition of New Year’s Levee restored

January 7, 2015   ·   0 Comments

The New Year kicked off at Orangeville Town Hall with the reinstatement of a tradition that has not been seen in many years  – the hosting of a Mayor’s Levee, in which the residents of Orangeville were invited to come out, meet the mayor, and any other town staff or council members who chose to participate.

“I thought this would be a good chance for people to come out and meet council, meet me, and just talk to us,” said Mayor Jeremy Williams. “This election was fairly contentious, and while it wasn’t a split vote, there were a lot of people who cast their vote for Rob [Adams]. I wanted to give them a chance to come out and see that I’m a good guy, the people who have been elected to council are good people, and just have that time to really connect with them.”

The roots of the Mayor’s Levee come from 18th-Century France, during the rule of King Louis XIV. The idea behind it was to show the people that the sovereign belonged to them, through the invitation of local gentlemen to enter the King’s bedchambers on New Year’s Day and watch him to wake, signifying the start of his service to the public for the year.

The Royal Governor of New France then brought the tradition to Canada, where he would sit on the doorstep of his residence in Quebec and greet the citizens, ushering in the New Year with them.

The last local Levee was held about 12 years ago, under Mary Rose’s leadership as Mayor. While this year’s re-introduction of the event did not draw a large crowd of residents, the Mayor said that it was well-attended.

“Any time you have something that hasn’t existed for as long as this, it’s almost like having a brand-new event,” said Mayor  Williams. “I think come next year, the attendance will be much better. But a number of people did show up, and they seemed to enjoy it. And so that’s the main thing.”

The residents who took advantage of the Levee had an opportunity to not just chat with Mayor Williams and tour his office and council chambers, but also enjoyed a variety of baked treats, hot cider and cocoa, and conversations with members of council in attendance.

Councillors Nick Garisto, Gail Campbell, Don Kidd and Scott Wilson attended the event, as did new Police Chief Wayne Kalinski, who took time to talk and shake hands with Orangeville residents.

“This was something I had really wanted to do, but the final planning didn’t really gel until maybe about a week and a half before,” said Mayor Williams. “That didn’t give people a lot of notice, especially with busy holiday schedules, so it was really nice to see that some of the staff and council members were able to make it.”

He added that for next year’s event he hopes to be able to provide more notice, as well as advertise it a bit earlier, so that more staff, councillors and residents will be able to attend.

One thing that helped make the event successful, despite the short notice, was the atmosphere present. The event didn’t feel stuffy or formal, but was more social, fitting with Mayor Williams’ philosophy of being more open to the community.

“I really wanted it to be a relaxed event, and I wanted people to be able to come in and see the council chambers, and see my office,” he said. “I wanted them to know that it’s here, see that it’s here, and know that this office is owned by the people and works for the people.”

Those who took the time to tour the council chambers were greeted with a display of council photos from the last 100 years of Orangeville’s leadership history. The photos, which used to be on display, were taken down during renovations when the new addition that was put on Town Hall, and had remained in storage ever since.

“I wanted to bring them out into the open so that people can see them,” said Mayor Williams. “I’m hoping that now that the councillors have been able to see them and see the condition they are in, they can understand the importance of us preserving and protecting these photos.”

Many frames or glass had broken, with different framing the whole way through, and the Mayor would like to see that changed. He’s hoping that not only could the town invest in properly framing and protecting these photos, but put them up and in view at Town Hall as well.

“These photos are also a reminder that many people came before us and there will be many that will come after us, so let’s do the best that we can while we are on council,” he said. “We’re only going to be here a short time, so let’s make the most of it, let’s work together, and let’s understand that the town is bigger than our own personal set of values. That’s why they’re a great reminder.”

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