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Day 21

We came. They saw. It rained.

I’d been looking forward to the Montreal event. This is a great city, and I was sure lots of people would come out. We were so certain of ourselves that there was nothing that could dampen our spirits.

Except the remnants of Tropical Storm Isidore.

When we’d set up this morning, we were prepared for rain. We laid down tarps, hung the tent walls, and Roger even went out and purchased two large bags of disposable ponchos. We planned the whole day around the rain. And for a time, we were successful.

Je ne suis pas bilingue. Luckily, this was well-known ahead of time. Radio-Canada stepped in with Archives staff in Ottawa, for which I’m eternally grateful, and when we arrived this morning, Radio-Canada was there armed with signage, posters, video tape loops, and bilingual volunteers aplenty. Once we finished setting up the tents and equipment, we had little else to do.

Our setup this day was in Vieux Port ("Old Port"), the old shipping port on Montreal’s waterfront. Some shipping (mostly passenger) still runs out of here, but mostly it’s for touring and viewing the river. A freight rail line still runs through the area, which is what our train sat on.

The schools arrived early, as expected. Into the museum, and around through some of the tents they went. Organized and quiet, I saw little of them -- I’m not even sure they came by the Nouveaux Médias tent.

The buzz on the walkie-talkies soon turned to Sheila, specifically Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. I had expected to see her in Ottawa. Instead, she made her appearance in Montreal. Her first visit was to the museum, not totally unexpected. I hovered around outside, waiting for a chance to take a picture. Ms. Copps travelled with an entourage that was a little difficult to shoot around, but not impossible. I followed her from the train to the Children’s tent, to the New Media tent, over to the Boutique, then through News (although I couldn’t get a decent angle for the picture), and finally to Sports.

Light rain was falling by the time I got back to the New Media tent. It wasn’t yet something to worry about, just something to watch. We did partially close one of the walls as a precaution.

The Radio-Canada staff and volunteers were running the tent like they’d been with us from the start. I had little to do. Most of the people coming up to us were Francophone, and they wanted to talk to Francophones. My French is too poor to be of use, so I kept my distance. No one seemed to mind.

The downside of not speaking the language was that I couldn't hear any feedback. Normally, I’ll talk with visitors and hear what they liked and disliked. I felt quite awkward asking Radio-Canada staff questions in English, let alone our guests. I learned from others, such as Ivan, that those who did come were thrilled with the presentations.

This was a good thing. Just after noon, Isidore paid a visit to Vieux Port. The rain fell harder, and things started to get wet. The partially-closed wall in New Media was sealed shut. Other tents drew walls as needed. The Children’s tent put the mural away for fear of damage. (It later came back out under shelter.)

People kept coming. While I spoke with none, the Radio-Canada staff made them all feel welcome. Giveaways always seem to bring out the best in people. The Archives site remained the big feature, as expected.

The rain continued to fall. Debbie came around asking what state the New Media tent was in. The Boutique had closed before lunch -- the ground it sat on gathered into a pool right under the tent. I wasn’t worried, at least not aloud. The water concerned me, but the event was going too well to stop it.

By 3:30, it was officially over. Water was now almost under the tables, and there was no sign of the rain letting up. The call came over the walkie: "Strike New Media." While I wasn’t happy about it, I knew there was no choice. By the time the last computer was loaded back on the baggage car, water had crept under the tables.

Shortly after New Media started coming down, the other tents followed. By 5 p.m., the tents were coming down. By 6:30, the only thing left standing was the one tent appropriated by Canada Now for a broadcast. Only the museum cars were still open.

We were soaked. Not as badly as we were in Windsor, but it was a deeper soaking -- sort of like leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight. We were cold, wet, and wanted to go back to the hotel. Once the last tent was down, just after 7:05, and the last of the items packed back in the cars, we broke for a hot shower.

Isidore left town before midnight. With the rain gone, Montreal glistened like a gem. It would have been perhaps our best event were it not for the weather. It’s days like these when I wish we had more than one public event in each city.


In the Old Port
Sheila Copps
At the Children's tent
A look at the Archives
The rain is back
Enjoying the displays