2017 OMAH History Awards Gala

Recipients and nominees were celebrated at the 2017 OMAH History Awards Gala on Thursday, November 9, 2017. These awards are offered biennially (starting in 2015), for historical research or heritage presentation involving Orillia and area.  Orillia and area includes: Chippewas of Rama First Nation, City of Orillia, Townships of Ramara, Severn and Oro-Medonte. Congratulations to all involved in this year's awards presentation. 


General Heritage Preservation

Recipient: ALDA McMAHON 

Intrigued by the history of her new surroundings, she created a website compiling the area’s history, featuring a movie, captioned photos, copies of newspaper articles and stories about Couchiching Point’s fascinating past. Alda has set this website up so new information can be continually added. This site offers Orillians new and old a chance to learn about this interesting neighbourhood.


A non-profit operation that opened its doors in 1965, the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum's first exhibit was a log home of the pioneering Woodrow family built in 1832 on its original site on the Coldwater River. The CCHM has evolved since then to form a historic village with heritage buildings rescued from Coldwater and the local area that are filled with donated artifacts, antique equipment/carriages and machinery that have been restored and are often in working order. 


Historical Publication and/or Research

Recipient: DAVID TOWN

Town has spent three years researching and writing his books, The Brechin Riot, The Orillia Riot, Orillia’s Civil War and The Two Jacks. He also contributed 17 stories for Mariposa Exposed, a compendium of local tales and anecdotes. In 2014, he published Hot Foot, a 514-page biography of Orillia athlete Walter Knox. He staged a live television debate on “Who is Orillia’s Greatest Athlete?” in collaboration with the Orillia Heritage Committee. 


Richmond's first edition of The Orillia Spirit was published in 1998. Dundurn Press invited him to revisit the publication with updates in celebration of Canada’s 150 Anniversary. The Orillia Spirit highlights some of the most significant historical events, stories and achievements of the City of Orillia and its residents. Randy’s book has created a wonderful tribute to Orillia that will serve as a sound reference book for current and future generations.


Heritage Performances and Events


The annual Pow Wow event has taken place for 32 years. Turtle Island’s finest singers and dancers come together each year at this special cultural event. Each day of the Pow Wow, there is agrand entrance with participants in beautiful, colourful and intricately patterned native regalia. Traditional art, food and crafts are available. The Pow Wow is a wonderful way for the Chippewas to celebrate their heritage and provide an enjoyable venue for non-native visitors to learn about their fascinating culture.


Fournier has been the creative mind and driving force behind Orillia’s annual Streets Alive event, which began in 2007. Starting with themed banners, Leslie stepped it up in 2010 by creating three-dimensional art pieces that depicted the life and scenery of Orillia and Canada in themes that included Guitars on Parade, 60 Sailboats, Leacock Chairs, Letters of Orillia, Art Grows Here, Downtown Doors, Story Poles and, this year, Maple Masterpieces. 


Historic Reconstruction

Recipient: BOB WILLSEY

Willsey opened Mariposa Market in 1987 at 109 Mississaga Street East. He envisioned an old-fashioned general store, and the rest is history. Mariposa Market has become known far and wide for its ambiance and attention to detail in creating a homey, general-store atmosphere. In 2016, the success of Mariposa Market led to an expansion that paid homage to the 106-year-old main building using much reclaimed material and the same style of heritage signing. The renovations continue to create a heritage atmosphere and offer citizens and visitors a great place to gather.


Judges Sesquicentennial Recognition

Recipient: JIM LEWIS,

A playwright and composer at heart, Lewis wrote the book, lyrics and music for the musical play Orillia is Born that delighted audiences at St. Paul’s Centre in January, 2017. This work of fiction captures life in Orillia in 1866 and is an imaginative representation of how Orillia was incorporated in 1867. Jim was involved in the research, writing, composing, re-writing and editing of the production and also supported it by playing in the band for each performance. It was resounding success, playing to sold-out crowds.



In collaboration with an advisory committee, Rizzo and Greenwood compiled the book Mariposa Exposed, a collection of histories, anecdotes and personal remembrances written by Orillians about their city. The book, launched on Oct. 1, 2016, was the culmination of three years’ work promoting, organizing and collecting stories and illustrations. Mariposa Exposed serves as a diary of our community in celebration of Orillia’s 150th anniversary. It is animportant addition to our collective memory and was a collaborative project that drew on the experiences and memories of many gifted local writers.


As guest curator for OMAH, Mainprize designed, collected, installed and presented the 150th-anniversary exhibit, The Spirit of Mariposa. It celebrates the roles of four famous Orillians who put their stamp on the cultura identity that defines our city — Stephen Leacock, Gordon Lightfoot, Arthur Shilling and Elizabeth Wyn Wood. Launched in the fall of 2016, this exhibit runs until December, 2017, at OMAH.


created the Canadian Choral Panorama in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary after a subcommittee of OVE had successfully applied for an Ontario150 provincial grant. On June 3 and 4, OVE staged the musical extravaganza in Gravenhurst and Orillia. Conducted by Roy Menagh, the performances featured opening celebrations by Aboriginal drummers and singers as well as local and regional musical talent and a children’s choir. The concerts raised funds for Children’s Advocacy Centre for Simcoe Muskoka.


Established in 2004 by a group of local volunteers, the Ramara Historical Society has researched, documented, collected, classified, preserved and edited material illustrating the founding, settlement and development of Ramara Township and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. It helps the residents donate and lend their private collections of artifacts for display. On July 29, 2017, it hosted the Yesteryears event held at St. Columbkille Church in Uptergrove. This day-long celebration of Ramara’s history featured displays of vintage vehicles, farming and construction equipment, hands-on demonstrations, music and a market square.


Lifetime Achievement


A long-standing member and twice chair of the History Committee of OMAH,  Wally was also chair of the Speaker’s Series and acted as master of ceremonies for many years. Wally joined the Sir John A. Macdonald dinner committee in 2002 and acted as chair for ten years. Wally created the Mac 200 Committee in 2013 to organize the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth, which resulted in a number of events and programs. Wally has been involved in many heritage and cultural events and activities over many years and has contributed greatly to promoting the history of our community.


Qennefer wrote the history segment of OMAH’s Muse News for many years, created the concept of the Carmichael Lecture and chaired the lecture committee for 11 years, and also created the OMAH History Awards, which began in 2012. She was a driving force behind the Sir John A. Macdonald 200 Exhibit held at OMAH in 2014/15 and was the designer of the Sir John A door for Orillia’s 2015 Streets Alive. Qennefer is the daughter of Emanuel Hahn and Elizabeth Wyn Wood and has for many years been responsible for curating their legacies as artists and sculptors. As a long-standing member of the Historical Society/History Committee and OMAH, Qennefer contributed greatly to telling Orillia’s stories.


A Special Sesquicentennial Honour was presented to Gordon Lightfoot by the History Committee of the Orillia Museum of Art and History in grateful recognition of his contributions to the legacy of Canadian History as expressed through music.