ANNIE SILVESTER/Bullet News
A cold and snowy morning was no deterrent for Port Colborne’s 55th annual top hat ceremony in the park pavilion of Lock 8.
The event which brings local dignitaries and residents together, officially celebrates the first downbound vessel to pass underneath Bridge 21 and float into Lock 8 as the start of a new Welland Canal shipping season begins with the presentation of a top hat.
This year’s recipient was Lieutenant Jerry Smith Junior who hails from Rockland, Maine and is the commanding officer for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thunder Bay. He and his crew have been deployed in the area since Dec. 1. Smith says they have been through Port Colborne twice in total and have enjoyed spending time there a lot. They also made a trek to the Falls. But today was the icing on the cake.
“This was quite a surprise…but a wonderful one and just a real honour. You can see how the community came together for this and I just think it’s wonderful. What a tradition to have. I really jumped for joy when I found out this morning. I mean, how cool is this?”
Smith adds that he will wear the hat all through the rest of the lock system and it will be a great when his wife and son get to see him at home in his hat.
On hand for the ceremony as well was Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey who chatted to Bullet News about the significance of the day emphasizing that the marine industry is paramount in the area as “we try to keep the Port in Port Colborne.”
“This is just simply our way as a community, as a region, to ensure that the industry understands how much they mean to us in respect to their contribution to our overall economy as well as giving them blessing as well as the best in prosperity for the 2013 shipping season.”
Please watch for video highlights of the event this upcoming week on Bullet TV.