The Kingston, Ontario, branch celebrated its 35th anniversary by accumulating dragon scales on its mirror, parading the Society’s mid-size dragon in its streets, hosting a week of activities involving all its locations, and organizing a two-day national workshop. The result was a re-energized membership, enthused by their dragon dancing, parades, picnics, demos, pig roast, and “aha” moments at the workshop led by Judy Millen.
The activities began with a 35-day Don Yu Thon. Since it’s the Year of the Dragon and the anniversary T-shirt had an artistic rendition of the Society’s dragon, a large outline of the dragon was drawn on the mirror in the main location. For every 35 Don Yus completed outside of classes, members were able to put one scale on the dragon. Excitement built as the dragon started to fill in and the anniversary neared—and then as the scales overflowed into successive layers of skin.
June 4 through 10 was declared Taoist Tai Chi™ Week in Kingston and other large municipalities in the area. The branch tends to have a large portion of its membership geographically divided into two groups about one hour apart, south and north, and so the week started with a bus taking members from the south, where the main location is and big events usually are held, to the north. The dragon was paraded a number of blocks to the town hall in Smiths Falls, followed by a special class looking at the dragon in the set led by the instruction committee, and a Chinese food luncheon. Councillor Ken Graham watched a set at a park beside the town hall, spoke on behalf of the town, and then helped to carry the dragon.
Tuesday to Thursday were devoted to picnics and demos at the various locations, as part of the attempt to get all members involved in the celebrations.
Friday was Awareness Day, and it began by taking the dragon and baby dragon to Kingston Mulberry School in the neighbourhood, to the delight of the young students (and giving us a chance to practice our dragon swirl). At noon, members flocked to Kingston’s downtown Market Square, where they pranced around with the dragon and did sets. They were joined by a prominent radio personality as well as the deputy mayor of Kingston, Bill Glover, who happens to be a club member. Glover formally read, with what he said was great joy, the city’s declaration. That was followed by a parade through the downtown area, led by a spontaneously formed drumming troupe of younger members, drawing lots of attention from shoppers, store owners, and patrons of the various outdoor cafes.
After a second late-afternoon gathering of members and the dragon downtown, everyone returned to the location for a pig roast and greetings from dignitaries, who cut the anniversary cake. That included newly-elected MP Ted Hsu, with his parents and children, and, again, Bill Glover, along with another city councillor, Jim Neill. Hsu mentioned that although this was his first visit to the club, he had become used to seeing members doing demos at many other functions he has attended in his first year in office. South Frontenac Councillor Cam Naish, who as it happened had been the bus driver for the trip to Smiths Falls, spoke about how he had watched the tai chi that day and it seemed almost a spiritual experience.
The weekend was a chance to be by ourselves and practise our tai chi. Introducing the workshop by saying she was a “mechanic,” Judy Millen worked on some of the basics of tai chi, starting with keeping weight in the feet, bum down first on the Don Yu, and alignment for sitting. Fifty-six members attended, including friends from Ottawa, Peterborough, and Whitby, setting a record for a one-day or two-day workshop at the location, and raising $11,200. At the end of the workshop, the branch presented our mechanic/instructor for the weekend with a large wrench, which will now sit in the club as a reminder of the wonderful workshop and the spectacular week.