Earlier this year I was appointed to serve on the Amherst 125 Committee, a working group made up of members of town council and several other citizen appointments. I would guess that the reason for my appointment is because I was also on the Centennial Year Committee in 1988-89, serving then as Chairman of Special Events & Entertainment.
While a celebration of 125 years of Incorporation as a Town is not anywhere as important as is the 100 year milestone, it still deserved our attention. Furthermore, we need an excuse to celebrate ourselves as a community and this is as good a reason as any. There is no question that the plans for this celebration are somewhat late in getting off the ground, but it is the hope of the committee that we can plan some events that will both attract your attention and provide some interesting entertainment.
I’ll venture to bet that you didn’t know that the great magician, escape artist and spiritualist debunker Harry Houdini spent time in Amherst! Well, he did, for about a week, in the early part of the 20th century, and while he was here he spent time investigating the Esther Cox mystery. Her experiences with a nasty spirit took place in her home, which was located in the area where the old legion building was located. The events with her were witnessed by very credible people of the day. Esther Cox was not living in Amherst at the time of Houdini’s visit, but, as luck would have it, she was back in town for her wedding while he was here. I don’t think anyone is aware of what he found during his investigations, or if he and Esther even met, but the Amherst 125 committee is working to bring some of that time in Amherst’s history to you. Under the guidance of local author Bruce McNab, it is going to be a highly unusual group of events for this community, as well as a lot of fun for all. It looks like it might well be taking place in August during a week we are designating as Come Home To Amherst Week. If you have family who live away and come home to visit only on occasion, then I would say you should start encouraging them to consider that week as the time they should plan their visit for 2014.
By the way, Bruce McNab’s book, on the topic of all things Houdini, is published by Goose Lane Editions, and should be an very interesting read. I’m hoping to find it in electronic format, but have had no luck yet.
While I’m on the topic of books, you might also wish to check out a book titled Haunted Girl - Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery. Written by local ladies Laurie Glenn and Barbra Thompson, it is published by Nimbus Publishing. I would also like to see this book available in electronic format. Or maybe my dear wife will read it to me!
Some years ago I was part of a group brought together to look at whether or not Amherst should continue to host a multi-cultural event as we had done in that year. The general consensus was that a multi-cultural event is, of course, a good thing, but, as a community, we need to set up a more active and permanent committee to work with immigrant families settling here, and to work to attract new immigrants to Canada to come here to live. It’s a bit of a daunting undertaking, but I think in this Amherst 125 year this community should undertake such an activity as a way to establish something memorable and worthwhile as we strive to celebrate our existence over the past 125 years.
While I think we are doing a little better than many towns in Nova Scotia, the fact remains that we are losing numbers, and our population is dropping. If we could put together a group of interested citizens who will work in proactive ways to attract new citizens to come here, and stay here, we could perhaps stem the loss. It may be that we could also discover immigrants looking for a place to establish a business, which would also be of considerable value to the town. While the Amherst 125 committee would not be the place to take on a project such as this, it might be the place for a pro-active group to get things started. Bring your ideas forward to this group by contacting Jeff MacNeil, Marketing & Communications Officer, Town of Amherst, at 902-667-6519 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Randall is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.