Mount Albert Sports Day: A Joyous Summer Tradition
With the advent of extremely warm weather this week, we now know that summer is almost here! What represents summer better than the in-person reintroduction of the annual Mount Albert Sports Day event, taking place this weekend from June 3rd to the 5th? This week, we are looking into the origins of this joyful community event and how it came to signify the start of summer for residents of Mount Albert.
Sports days used to be common in small towns to bring people together for mutual fun and enjoyment in the community, usually in a public park. It was recognized that a community park was needed in Mount Albert; so, in 1924, the Women’s Institute in Mount Albert decided that they would raise funds to purchase land for a park. However, they were told that they could not own property, so they went to the municipal leaders of Mount Albert to get them to buy the land for the park. After some initial obstacles, the petition was taken to East Gwillimbury Council and the motion to make a public park for Mount Albert was passed. Soon afterward, the Town bought the land which is now known as the Mount Albert Community Park.
Volunteer labor was secured to make the park ready for the very first Sports day, which was held on June 3rd, 1925. It opened with a parade “which started from the school grounds and proceeded through the town to the new Park on Main Street. It was headed by the Women’s Institute decorated car and followed by floats from the schools in the community, business men’s floats, [and] decorated autos of all descriptions.” This parade was led by the Mount Albert band. Afterwards, there were friendly baseball games, horseshoe pitching, racing and other contests. An evening show showcasing local talent took place at the Old Mill.
The community hall was built in 1937 with funds from the Estate of Margaret Graham. Due to this generosity, the building was named “The Margaret Graham Memorial Hall”. The dedication service was conducted by Reverend R. V. Wilson, and the official opening took place on February 3, 1938.
Slowly, the celebrations at Mount Albert grew into the community event we know today. By 1949, the 25th annual sports day, it was estimated that there were about 6,000 people who attended the Sports day. Many events were added to the roster of entertainment over the years; for example, a beauty contest for the title of Miss Mount Albert, open to girls aged 15 to 20 who lived within 5 miles of Mount Albert (see figure 1 below).
Figure 1: Three young women competing for the title of Miss Mount Albert at the 1970 Sports Day. Jan Johnson won the title (centre), Betty Rose is on her left, and Linda Case is on her right. Photo from the June 12, 1970 issue of the Newmarket Era.
What has not changed in all this time is the spirit of generosity and giving which has allowed the organizers of Sports day to fundraise enough to maintain and improve the community park, to make sure that Sports Day will be celebrated for years to come. Go to their website at https://mountalbertsportsday.com/ to see all the wonderful things that you and your family can do there this weekend!
 Anon (1925, June 12). “Mount Albert Community Memorial Park”. Newmarket Era, retrieved from https://news.ourontario.ca/newmarket/2426445/page/1251415?q=Mount+Albert+Band.