Four Day Chi-Cheemaun Festival Kicks Off June 13th

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The “Emerald Ash Borer” finished the course at the Chi-Cheemaun Weekend Cardboard Boat Races. Many other vessels capsized. Photo taken 2019.
By Joanne Rodgers, Bruce Peninsula Press

The four-day Chi-Cheemaun Festival starts on June 13, 2024 and continues until June 16 at Tobermory.

One of the largest festivals on the Peninsula, the event features the popular Cardboard boat races, fireworks, a parade, a fashion show, slo-pitch tournament, pickleball, pancake breakfast, fish dinner, beer garden, live entertainment, displays and much more. The family fun-filled event has something for all ages. For a full schedule see here.

The first festival, a one day event, was held on June 18, 1975. The idea for a festival came from a series of conversations recognizing that the ferry was a focal point in Tobermory, and a festival would be a good way to promote the area. Ferry passengers, dignitaries and media were invited to the inaugural event. CKCO-TV had hosted the “Name the Ferry” contest, and the name Chi-Cheemaun (Big Canoe) was selected. The winner Donald Keeshig of Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker), was presented with a watch by the television station. Shirley Johnstone, one of the members of the first planning committee, has prepared an exhibit (including the history and photos) which is displayed at the St Edmund’s Bruce Peninsula Museum in Tobermory. Be sure to drop by and check it out.

From its humble beginnings in 1975, the festival quickly evolved into an annual three-day event. This year, the four day festival kicks off with a Fashion Show at the Tobermory Community Centre on 13 June.

Eight members make up the current organizing committee for the Festival. The Committee is tasked with obtaining all necessary permits, securing sponsorships, setting up the beer garden and baseball diamond, organizing the cardboard boat races, the slo-pitch tournament, the parade, the fireworks, the silent auction, the children’s events, and advertising. All other events are run by the respective organizations with assistance and direction from the committee as needed. 

“Our committee, as well as all the organizations involved in the festival, begin dedicating their time and efforts to organizing the event months in advance, as it is quite the endeavor. Our committee starts meeting in January, and even then we seem to still be scrambling as we get closer and closer to the date of the festival.” states Committee Member Aman Sohrab.

The festival is funded purely by donations and profits made at the beer garden, and it is run entirely by volunteers. 

Sohrab says “Our committee is very grateful for the help from our dedicated volunteers, though we could always use more! We are also grateful for all who support our community organizations and their fundraising efforts. Chi-Cheemaun weekend truly is a festival run by our community, for our community, and gives back to our community.” 

Johnstone sees the festival as an important community event for Tobermory. Sohrab says the event is the biggest fundraiser for the local associations and community groups. He encourages everyone to come out for a weekend of fun and participate in the activities and support the local organizations.