Small in size but mighty in spirit, Baysville is finding unique ways to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Home to Winterfest, the Great Easter Egg Hunt, the Baysville Walkabout, and the Antique and Classic Boat and Car Show, to name just a few, Baysville typically bustles with events 12 months of the year.
“We’re a small town with big thinking and we have a lot to offer under normal circumstances,” says Judy Vanclieaf, whose father was a police officer in town during the 1950s and 1960s, and whose family can be traced back seven generations in Baysville. “Baysville’s a tight-knit community with very deep roots. We’re a community that supports and looks out for each other, and we’re a community of people who like to make things happen.”
The community is aptly named, with four bays in the immediate vicinity, and was the second community founded on Lake of Bays behind Dorset. Although the rocky ground proved unsuitable to early settlers for any substantial farming operations, it was a significant hub of the lumber trade. Multiple hotels sprang up and steamships made it their most southerly stop on the lake, helping to make the community a bustling area in the late 1800s. While the lumber trade faltered in the 1900s, the tourism industry continued to grow and is now the lifeblood of Baysville.
“There are families here that have been living in Baysville for seven and eight generations,” says Vanclieaf. “Our founder W.H. Brown’s great-granddaughter Shirley Burton still lives here, in the family home her great grandfather built in 1871.”
Vanclieaf says she and her friend Jacqueline Godard are “fanatics” of local history and one day in September 2019 when they were kayaking Godard mentioned that Baysville’s 150th was coming up. Just over a month later a committee had been formed and the planning had begun.
The group had anniversary events planned for the entire year, from opening ceremonies in January, to a graveyard walking tour, to a photo of the entire community gathered on the dam, as they had done 25 years earlier for Baysville’s 125th.
“Then March  came,” recalls Vanclieaf. “We weren’t allowed to meet anymore, so we put everything on hold until things lifted. I don’t think any one of us knew what we were headed into. I personally thought it would be all over by summer.”
Outdoor meetings and Zoom sessions followed and eventually the group had a plan.
Light-up signs to celebrate the anniversary, an opening ceremony recorded and posted on Youtube, and a self-guided walking tour of the graveyard were just some of the ways the group made the COVID pivot.
They held onto their monthly speaker series, albeit in an adapted form.
“Every month, David [Ferguson] creates a video on the history of Bayville, with each month being a different theme,” says Vanclieaf. “For March’s video he interviewed three young families who grew up in Baysville and have chosen to stay here and raise their children. Each of these families ranges between five and seven generations of living in Baysville.”
You can find that video here.
While they would one day like to host an in-person event to mark the occasion, for now they’ll make the most of what they have—much as Baysville has done these past 150 years.
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