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Centennial Celebrations - 2004

The Barons Centennial Organizing Committee celebrates the success of this major event which over 400 people attended. Descendants of Estonian  pioneers were instrumental in planning and organizing  a higly successful celebration In 2004, Barons celebrated 100 years of heritage and homesteading, highlighted by the establishment of a proud and dedicated Estonian community. From July 30 until August 1 over 500 participants participated in a celebration of Estonian homesteading and heritage. The organizing committee consisted of Martha Munz-Gue (program director), Perry Kotkas (program director), Dee Ryrie (treasurer), Betty Ann Turner (director - heritage and displays), Barbara Gullickson (director - marketing), Alan Fraser (director - arrangements), Deanna Fraser (director - social events), Toomas Pääsuke (director - finance), Helgi Leesment (secretary), Mary Bishop (Barons and District Historical Society liaison) and George Andrekson (director - registration).

A Friday night reception started the festivities on a positive note. Speeches were delivered thanking all of the volunteers for their tireless efforts. An ad hoc choir, having only practiced a few times before their debut, entertained the crowd. Some of the distinguished guests at the reception included Avo Kittask, president of the Estonian Central Council in Canada and Laas Leivat, Honorary Head Consul representative from Toronto. Government officials and local businesses were also in attendance.

Young Estonians racing toward the finish line at the Barons Centennial Celebration in 2004. A Saturday morning breakfast presented an ideal opportunity for friends and family to exchange pleasantries and stories. The opening ceremony featured a presentation made by the provincial government awarding five area farming families for their contributions as they had been farming in Alberta for 100 years. The afternoon focused on traditional Estonian games, appreciated by the young and old alike. Displays of Estonian art, craftwork and literature were prominent throughout the entire venue. For instance, the agricultural machinery display featured a plow invented by Victor Erdman in the 1950s.

Speeches highlighting Barons' homesteading history were heard on the Saturday afternoon. Distinguished Estonian guests also prepared speeches thanking everyone for their commitment in preserving and maintaining Alberta's Estonian heritage. Eda McClung and Helgi Leesment were individually acknowledged for their efforts.

In the evening a catered beef dinner was served to the delight of all in attendance. The evening also featured a program of theatre, song and dance.

Ralph and Oscar Erdman at the Barons Centennial, 2004. Sunday began at the Barons cemetery, once the property of pioneers Jakob and Mari Erdman. The ecumenical ceremony was lead by Reverend Don Koots, himself a descendant of Estonian pioneers. A rededication plaque was unveiled in the Sunday morning drizzle. Among the many highlights of the weekend were the well researched brochures highlighting the history of Barons and homesteading in the area. Most importantly, the Barons Centennial was a chance for Estonian descendants to connect with old friends and new ones too.

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