Under The Big Top In Hawkesbury With ‘The Great Benjamin’s Circus’

Vankleek Hill Amateur Photo Club

Hawkesbury is a small city of about 10,500 people, roughly 10 minutes from Vankleek Hill. It’s not known for its Festivals or Events… but they’re working on it.

Founded in 1859, Hawkesbury sits on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, roughly halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. Eighty-five percent of the city’s population speak French as their first language, making it the largest concentration of Francophone’s in North America outside Quebec.

Hawkesbury was once a thriving mill town. It was The Economic Powerhouse of the region. For nine generations kids quit high school to go work in the mill, if they bothered going to high school at all.

But the last of the original twenty-two pulp & paper mills shut down in the early 80’s when they ran out of trees to harvest, and it just became cheaper to move the mill up river than it was to bring the trees to town.

Then there was the hundreds of manufacturing jobs lost during the 1990’s, taking millions of dollars more out of the small city’s already devastated economy.

…all that to say Hawkesbury has had it pretty hard over the past forty-years — in 2012, some random magazine called MoneySense actually ranked (rather viciously) Hawkesbury as one of the worst places in Canada to live (1).

But it is getting better — the unemployment rate in Ontario currently sits at 5.7% (2), in 2018 the unemployment rate in Prescott-Russell, which includes Hawkesbury, was 6.3%, and nationally it was around 5.6% (3). Hawkesbury itself currently hovers in the mid 8% range (4), which is down nearly 3% since 2011 (5).

You can tell things are improving by the quantity and quality of local festivals and events that have popped up over the past five or six years (6).

From 2014 until 2018, Bike Fest alone brought in nearly 40,000 people to downtown Hawkesbury, including 20,000 in 2017 (7).

But there have been smaller Events as well. Like kids movies at the parks, an Annual Fall Fair, independent wrestling, and even the Circus (8) came to town… which was great, because it gave me something to do with my son.

(1) Cultural SN:AFU [link]
(2) Ontario Gov’t [link]
(3) The Review [link]
(4) AreaScore [link]
(5) Hawkesbury Gov’t Demographics [link]
(6) The Review [link]
(7) The Review [link]
(8) Great Benjamin’s Circus [link]

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