Heritage Week: 90 Ideas for Celebrating Heritage in B.C.

Heritage Week is celebrated in communities throughout the province every year. The theme for Heritage Week 2016 in British Columbia is Distinctive Destinations: Experience Historic Places. The week kicks off in just over a month with the national Heritage Day on February 15, 2015, as designated by The National Trust for Canada.

British Columbia's Distinctive Destinations are as varied and abundant as the province, from the Haida village of Skidegate, to the Gold Rush town of Barkerville. Heritage and cultural tourism provides unique and authentic visitor experiences and British Columbia's historic places play a central role in these experiences.

Heritage Week themes open up a myriad of possibilities to recognize community heritage buildings, places and history, organize special events and celebrations, and forge partnerships with local business interests. 

Check out these ideas!

Use your heritage expertise:

1. Hold a children's "The way we used to do it" workshop. Ask seniors to show a typical day when they were children, and include props, costumes and activities.

2. Hold a workshop featuring a speaker on a topic of heritage interest to your community, such as rehabilitation of industrial buildings for community use, or restoration of Victorian gingerbread architecture.

3. Hold an old-time craft workshop, focusing on quilting, metal working, butter churning or bread making.

4. Conduct a "What is it?" workshop. Invite community residents to bring miscellaneous antique or period items for identification by an expert (e.g. museum curator, or elder).

5. Arrange a lecture on a specific aspect of local history.

6. Hold a "How to..." session on genealogy, to assist people in tracing their family tree.

7. Set up a "summit meeting" of heritage-interest groups in your community, such as museums, historical groups, Native Sons & Daughters, genealogical groups and others. Give each a short period to "show and tell" the other participants about their activities, and allow time and encourage ‘networking' after the presentations.

8. Have a murder mystery weekend with a period theme and costumes.

9. Stage a music recital or other performance, featuring traditional themes, folksongs, and ideally some older kinds of instruments.

Use your heritage buildings:

10. Hold a traditional tea or meal. Servers could dress in period costume and old-style entertainment may be offered.

11. Unveil an early photograph of a heritage building, putting it on display in a window or foyer (note this should be a replica copy-print, keeping the original protected and away from bright light).

12. Arrange a workshop or demonstration of traditional construction, such as arch masonry, wallpapering, woodworking or decorative crafts.

13. Sponsor a Heritage Show Home. Refurbish an old building for a community purpose, using the services of designers, heritage professionals, antique dealers and others, and charge admission as a fund-raiser. Contributions of expertise and materials should be given visible acknowledgment during and after the project.

14. Hold an auction, a party or a reception in a historical location, with special mention of being made of its history and earlier significance as a place of business or other community service. Perhaps a local scholar or historian could deliver a brief talk about heritage in your town.

15. Have a contest for the Best-Maintained Heritage Building, and contact local media about the competition. Local suppliers involved with building materials and services may be willing to donate prize incentives in return for publicity. Be sure to let your media know who wins, and have a ceremony on the site of the winning building.

Use your local museums:

16. Have a "Museum Day" to highlight your local museum(s). Do some combined promotional materials such as flyer, media release, and an 11 x 17" poster, and perhaps provide a local radio station with some give-away admission tickets during Heritage Week.

17. Stage a live historical interpretation using replica costumes or displays.

18. Host a party at a museum with a particular theme, or several related ones, displayed.

19. Have a museum tour especially designed for children, and another for seniors. Include one or more ‘behind the scenes' opportunities to demonstrate the background preparation that is needed to create displays.

Use your merchant organizations:

20. Merchants could wear costumes during Heritage Week.

21. Create heritage-theme window displays. Long-established businesses could feature the story of their beginnings and early role in the community.

22. Ask merchants to sponsor a Heritage Treasure Hunt. Clues can be placed in various locations downtown to attract pedestrian traffic (and sales!).

23. Propose an "old-time prices" promotion during the week: offering a five cent cup of coffee to anyone in costume, or a 99-cent special on a basic hardware item, or...?

24. Ask merchants to acknowledge Heritage Week on ads, shopping bags, paper placemats, bookmarks, etc.

25. Offer old-fashioned entertainment (barbershop, dixieland, etc,) in-store.

Use your local schools:

26. Sponsor a Heritage Poster contest. You may want to let any topic be chosen, or suggest a certain set of possible subjects to help focus the creative energy! Do specify the dimensions (say, 38x50cm/15x20"). A thin art board will be more durable and easier to display than works done on paper. A display venue should be chosen - in a library or other publicly accessible indoor space.

27. Inform your local paper about the poster contest and be sure the winning entry is available for publication.

28. Visit local museums and collect ideas for a school play or series of skits.

29. Send invitations to teachers, schoolchildren and parents to help plan and attend your events.

30. Do a parents-and-children costumed walking tour.

Use your local government:

31. Stage a re-enactment of your community's founding or some other important historic event, using the City Hall or other traditional setting.

32. Encourage council and staff to get into the ‘heritage spirit' by hosting a best costume or hat contest.

33. Suggest your local government holds a Heritage Open House featuring displays of archival materials about its evolution as an administrative service, including early photos.

34. Stage an outdoor public event with local leaders, such as a torch lighting, ceremonial event, ribbon-cutting, gun salute, ice-skating party, or...? Use your imagination to tie in with other planned events.

35. Arrange to have government staff celebrate the week by honouring key participants with civic awards.

Use your heritage landscapes:

36. Conduct a landscape walking tour.

37. Go for a hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, jog, horseback ride or ice skate along a historic trail or corridor. This could also be organized as a pet walk!

38. Re-enact a historic outdoor activity, like a sleight trip from homestead to town, an ice-fishing festival.

39. Referring to historic photos, go and find the photographer's original viewpoint and see what has changed. Take new photos, trying to match the early view as closely as possible - and then plan on a show!

40. Hold a heritage Winter Garden or landscape festival.

41. Put on a fireworks display (expensive but a crowd pleaser; encourage some local sponsors).

Use your historical facts:

42. Have a Street Names Contest, where the origins of old street names have to be guessed (for example, Sparkle-plenty Road, for the first suffragette).

43. Hold a Heritage Trivia Contest: invite a cross-section of the community and divide participants into teams. They guess the answers to questions about local history. Prizes or trophies add to the fun.

44. Set up a Matching Contest, with participants attempting to match old photos with present-day ones (this could include viewing the results of doing Idea 39!). Trees, houses, pioneers, monuments, etc.

45. Arrange special radio, local cable TV or newspaper interviews during Heritage Week.

46. Organize a special tea party with reading excerpts taken from local histories.

Use your community pride:

47. Organize a clean-up spree at a heritage site, or elsewhere in your community.

48. Hold a meeting to plan a warmer-weather work bee to accomplish a special project, such as painting a community-owned heritage building, landscaping an important site, or making a replica item for use in a local museum display.

49. Make plans to plant trees in the spring at a special site commemoration the pioneers or other ancestors of your area. Different individuals can do the research into stories, tree species that would be best to use and their costs, fund-raising, generating media interest in the project, contacting local officials about a site, etc. By the time the next Heritage Week arrives, you'll have a new location to use for special presentations!

Use your costumes in your attic:

50. Have a Costume Ball, with proceeds for a worthy cause.

51. Hold a Heritage Fashion Show. It could be either "fun" using made-up costumes, or "serious" using accurate reproductions based on museum items. Consider a specific era.

52. Have a Heritage Dress Up day at school.

53. Put on a Heritage Fashion Contest, with ‘theme' prizes.

54. Arrange a Heritage Fashion Swap meet.

55. Invite a portrait photographer with a costume inventory to set up in a special venue such as a mall or heritage site.

56. Have a guys-and-gals Heritage Bathing Suit Contest (at the local pool?).

57. Do a Heritage Hat Contest.

Use your large indoor spaces:

58. Set up a multi-museum display featuring local museums, historical associations and other heritage-related groups.

59. Hold an antique sale, inviting antique shops to participate and gain publicity.

60. Arrange a display of vintage cars or older farm equipment.

61. Set up a Treasures from the Past Flea Market. Invite seniors, in particular, to select items from their attic they're willing to let go. Ideally they can be on hand to chat about what they bring.

62. Hold a Heritage Homes event. Feature restoration displays, replica items, antiques, salvage goods, etc. Invite shops and tradespeople doing restoration, sales and services.

63. Hold a heritage Winter Garden or landscape festival.

Use your community talent:

 64. Have an Art or Photography Contest using heritage as the theme. Display the entries in a secure, accessible place. Adapt appropriate liability clauses and other details from other contests, and have a designated coordinator.

65. Have an Essay Contest. Ask your local newspaper to commit to publishing the winner or to the best entries.

 66. Arrange a Heritage Model Contest, with different groups or school classes building models of how your community used to be, or interesting specific heritage subjects.

67. Have a Window Painting Contest, with a heritage theme and prizes for the best.

68. In consultation with local municipal advisors about locations and washable materials, have a Sidewalk Painting Contest (and take pictures)!

Use your written records:

69. Have a local author read excerpts and talk about their work

70. Your local library can feature local history books in a window or display case, possibly in combination with entries from a children's drawing contest depicting some aspect of local history.

71. Have a book exchange, perhaps with a focus on books printed over 50 years ago for example.

72. Sort through old family journals, diaries, photos and other material, organizing it chronologically and ensuring the items are safely stored away from humidity, temperature extremes or dust.

Use this opportunity:

73. Inventory the resources of interest to your community. Invite people to come and register special items, such as quilts, old farm equipment, fossil collections, items known to have been transported to your town by wagon, steam trains or Cape Horn clippers! Ideally the items-would be accessible, by arrangement, to researchers or during tours.

74. Publicize your group's activities and accomplishments on behalf of you town.

75. Join forces with other groups to hold a week-long festival. Each would take turns to sponsor a theme dinner representing traditional fare of the many cultures that have been established in the province.

76. Have a few spirited volunteers dress as historical characters to greet people on the street; one could be appointed as Town Crier.

Use your team spirit:

77. Coordinate a "for fun only" sporting event. Teams could represent a cross-section of the community, such as local government, heritage professionals, business people and volunteers. Players could be in older styled outfits or costumes; old-style entertainment could be arranged, and proceeds if any could go toward a specific local heritage project.

78. Organize a "Heritage Cup" sporting event, like a hockey game, soccer or volleyball match). Have appropriate ‘half-time' entertainment of a heritage nature.

Use your old-style hospitality:

79. Have a "Heritage Handshake Day" for neighbouring communities. Invite your neighbours to come and see how things are done in your community. Open houses, special business discounts and informal information sessions could all be part of giving your neighbours the "keys" to your town.

80. Hold a Pioneer, Elders or Seniors "Appreciation Day". Pay tribute to long-time residents by providing special discounts on this day, entertainment that will appeal to them, and other features. Ensure some special activities are held in community nursing homes. A simple skit re-enacting an important moment in local history may be something you can present and would no doubt be fun to do!

Use your culinary skills:

81. Hold a cooking contest. Invite entries for a ‘trademark' food item in which the winning entry will become the community's official recipe. Judging could be done by area pioneers or local dignitaries, and the food item could be given a special title, like the Anytown Heritage Hamburger! This could be expanded into a longer project to prepare a collection of heritage recipes for publication next Heritage Week, either as a booklet or through your local newspaper.

82. Hold a sale or dinner featuring the traditional foods of your community.

83. Put on a mutli-cultural Food Fair with the foods of the various ethnic groups that have populated your community over the years. The greater the diversity the better!

84. Coordinate an "old-time value" sale on traditional foods at local restaurants. Ask restaurants to feature one traditional dish itself is full-price, a five-cent cup of coffee or similar item may be offered.

85. Hold a pancake breakfast, a hot dog roast, or other community meal. Look for old-fashioned recipes especially, and use stoneground flour for the pancakes!

Use your historic downtown:

86. Organize a Heritage Parade. Encourage entries to have a heritage theme. Invite local heritage groups, clubs, bands, museums, and vintage car collectors to participate, in addition to the community at large.

87. Arrange a Costume Promenade. Invite the community to tour the historic area, with costumes on participants, and guides as much as possible, displays at various stops along the way, musicians, re-enactments on street corners or in town parks, and refreshments to help make a simple tour a ‘happening'.

88. If your local climate is practical for an outdoor concert during Heritage Week, feature a string quartet, jazz ensemble, or similar group playing some standard favourites!

89. Honour long-time family businesses with a community service certificate or similar award, and seek media coverage of their stories.

90. Stage a non-time "salute" to the community. Invite the local leadership to light a torch or cut a ribbon every year to open Heritage Week activities.

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