Sweet Bay’s youngest and oldest residents – three-year-old Connor Dooley and his great-great grandmother 94-year-old Jane Dooley.
SWEET BAY, N.L. — What started as a casual text conversation between an uncle in British Columbia and his niece in Nova Scotia has turned into one Bonavista Bay community’s first ever Come Home Year.
Both Terry Dooley and his niece Roxanne Whalen are from small but picturesque Sweet Bay.
It’s expected that the community’s population of less than 80 year-round residents will more than triple as people make their way back to their roots for the celebrations slated to take place Aug. 4-6.
Dooley said it’s not unusual for him and his niece to text message back and forth while enjoying their favourite beverage.
“It may seem odd for a niece and uncle to be that close, given a generation separating us. But, really only two-and-a-half years separate us and we grew up together in Sweet Bay so that is the main reason we stay in contact fairly regularly,” he said.
About two years ago, Dooley said, he and Whalen were “having a drink together via text message across Canada.”
“We were reminiscing about old times and started talking about how great it would be if we could all get together for an old-fashioned garden party. After a couple of drinks across the miles, we said, ‘Let's put something out there for Feedback and maybe start a group on Facebook to poll the viewers.’”
Feedback “started rolling in like capelin on Nolan's beach,” Dooley said, mentioning the much-loved beach near the end of the road in Sweet Bay.
Over time, and “in true Sweet Bay fashion” Dooley said, people starting pulling together offering help and suggestions to make the event a reality.
With less than two weeks to the celebrations, people have started their journey back to their home community and are anxious to reacquaint with friends they haven’t seen in many decades.
Dooley and Whalen will be home this weekend and are looking forward to the activities that kick off with a meet-and-greet in the Parish Hall on Friday evening.
The fun continues on Saturday with a community breakfast in the Parish Hall. There will also be boat rides across the bay and a hike up a historic landmark in the community known as Nut Head. Saturday afternoon events also include games for the children and bingo for young and old alike.
There will be live music throughout the weekend and a fish fry on the Sweet Bay Harbour Authority Wharf on Saturday evening as well as a social at Little Harbour beach. Those who can’t make it to the beach have an opportunity to socialize in the Parish Hall.
Mass on Sunday will be held in the RC Cemetery followed by tea, coffee, muffins and other treats in the Parish Hall – the social is spearheaded by Dorothy Maloney – a senior in the community.
“We have our garden party Sunday afternoon like we had years ago... And right now, I feel just like the kid I was many years ago, just waiting for the garden party,” Whalen laughed.
Cold plates will be sold at the Parish Hall late Sunday afternoon and the festivities will conclude with a card game in the hall on Sunday evening.
Whalen said she is overwhelmed with the support organizers have been getting from individuals and businesses in various parts of the province and as far as British Columbia and Alberta.
The support is not only monetary but also in-kind donations, she said.
“Judy Maloney visited businesses in Clarenville and received many donations for us,” Whalen said.
“And people have been there to donate prizes and to make salads and other food that we need,” she added.
While it’s impossible to name all volunteers, Whalen said Tish Maloney Williams and Kim Maloney Wheeler have put in many volunteer hours with Williams looking after all the finances and Wheeler taking care of the t-shirt orders.
Tom Philpott has also been helpful in organizing events including an initiative that offers residents an opportunity to have their old photos scanned to digital format as a means of preserving the community’s history.
Both Dooley and Whalen said organizing an event — when you live outside the province — wouldn’t be possible without help from family and friends who still live in the community.
“Credit goes to all the people who are working so hard to make this happen for all of us,” Dooley said.