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Old 07-12-2023, 04:59 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,853
Default Highway 400 re-naming suggestion...

'Timeless': Fans want to rename Hwy. 400 in Lightfoot's honour
Orillia native and ardent Lightfoot fan is hoping the province could follow Quebec's lead, where a highway was recently named in honour of Guy Lafleur

A group of passionate Gordon Lightfoot fans from Orillia and around North America hope to commemorate the late balladeer in a big way – by renaming Highway 400 the Gordon Lightfoot Memorial Highway in his honour.

Douglas Walkinshaw, who grew up in Orillia around the same time Lightfoot did, recently spent time sharing memories with friends from Orillia and beyond about the folk singer after his passing in May. The group hopes to see his legacy shared with generations to come.

“One of them said that balladeers like Gordon are few and far between, and we're just lucky to have been alive when he was,” Walkinshaw told OrilliaMatters.

“The way I think about (his music), conveying messages which are timeless, younger generations would benefit from hearing them – not only benefit in learning and understanding their own feelings a little better, but it also might encourage them to work a little harder and a little more successfully, and aim for the top like Gordon did," said Walkinshaw.

After a discussion with his cousin in Quebec, Walkinshaw came up with the idea for the memorial highway.

“He reminded me that Quebec has just named a highway after a great hockey player, Guy Lafleur,” he said. “They have a technique for doing it (in Quebec, and) I thought, wow, a highway would be great.”

Highway 400 was selected for its connection to the singer’s hometown of Orillia and Toronto, where Lightfoot spent much of his career. The idea behind the memorial is it might encourage new people to look the singer up and then, ideally, begin listening to some of his music.

“If you're on the Guy Lafleur autoroute, you're going to Google Guy Lafleur … (and) you're gonna get his statistics, but that's it,” he said.

“But if you Google Gordon Lightfoot ... you're not only going to learn about where he grew up and … the names of songs, you're going to start playing them, and they have a lot of meaning," said Walkinshaw.

“You can't watch TV … while you're driving down the highway, but you can listen to and enjoy music and learn from it, and that's why the highway just grabbed me and my friends.”

With more than 40 people now advocating for the name change, Walkinshaw and his friends – from around Canada and the U.S. – sent a joint letter to the premier, and have since sent letters to the prime minister and other elected officials pushing for the Highway 400 name change.

However, Walkinshaw said the group has been redirected to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, who informed them they would need to gain the permission of each municipality along the highway, First Nations, and that they would need to foot the bill for the signage changes, as well.

“I was hopeful that the (Ministry) has a process to really make this happen, but they don't, so that's where I’m at,” he said, noting the group is still pushing to make the name change happen.

At the heart of his idea, Walkinshaw said he has a deep appreciation for Lightfoot’s music, including his way with language and storytelling, which is a legacy he hopes to see passed on to others.

Speaking about Lightfoot's hit Sundown, Walkinshaw noted a “timeless” quality to Lightfoot’s music.

“What is it that he's saying about creeping down my back stairs? Is it sunlight fading, or is it his lover sneaking out?” he said. “His use of metaphors is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. He does so much that his songs are timeless.”
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Old 07-16-2023, 12:10 PM   #2
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,853
Default Re: Highway 400 re-naming suggestion...

The following letter is in response to 'Lightfoot fans want to rename Hwy. 400 in late singer's honour,' published July 12.

I just saw a post from OrilliaMatters. It was about renaming Highway 400 after Gordon Lightfoot.

Highway 400 is nowhere near Orillia, and it is many miles south.

Highway 400 splits near Barrie, not Orillia. This is nowhere near Gordon’s hometown — Orillia.

Wouldn’t you think it would be more appropriate to rename Highway 11 after him? It goes right past Orillia and very close to where Gordon was laid to rest.

Highway 11 renaming in honour of Orillia’s son makes more sense than the 400!

Orillia has statues of Gordon Lightfoot, too.

Rest in peace and God bless him.

Christina Hucker
Ramara Township
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Old 07-25-2023, 07:04 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Re: Highway 400 re-naming suggestion...

LETTER: Highway should be renamed in honour of 'remarkable' Lightfoot
Honour 'is principally intended to recognize his prototypical contributions in defining and demonstrating what he believed to be Canada, physically and philosophically'
Letter to the Editor

Since the May 1 death of the famous Ontario singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, the author and co-proposers of this project have been seeking an appropriate highway renaming in his honour, to permit Canadians to remember what he aptly contributed in defining and characterizing Ontario and the people and country of Canada that he much loved and portrayed so profoundly through a number of his creations.

Following his note of May 3, 2023 to an Ottawa cousin expressing the idea of naming a major highway (400 or part of 401) in honour of recently deceased Gordon Lightfoot, Arthur Plumpton, resident of Île d'Orléans, Quebec, a onetime resident and often seasonal resident of Ontario, wrote to Premier Doug Ford to request that dedication of Highway 400.

The Premier's office replied on May 8, acknowledging the original request and suggesting that the further step should be to contact the Ministry of Transportation highway naming committee.

This was done on May 13 with 28 fellow co-sponsors and updated to include a part of Highway 11 as an additional and equal alternative to highway 400.

Following several attempts since May 8 to contact the Ministry of Transportation, a letter from the Senior Issues Advisor, Regional Services and Relationships Office, Central Operations, Operations Division of the Ministry of Transportation Ontario was received on June 23 with the information that demanders are required to seek support from several bodies situated along the proposed routes and also to absorb the eventual costs of producing and maintaining in future such signs.
Gordon Lightfoot is shown at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Photo supplied by the OMAH History Committee

Following discussions with the same Senior Issues Advisor, I was not convinced that this rather stringent requirement was common to all past highway naming in Ontario.

Among the examples that mentioned in contacting the Ministry on June 30 were the "Terry Fox Courage Highway", that is part of Highway 11 near Thunder Bay, and a portion of Highway 401 (officially known overall as, the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway) from Trenton to Toronto that was subsequently renamed or co-named the "Hero's Highway" in honour of deceased military persons. I acknowledged to the Senior Issues Advisor that the naming of the new bridge (2027) between Windsor and Detroit as the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which we had previously cited, is a matter of federal and not provincial responsibility.

In the neighbouring province of Quebec, the costs related to highway name designations are wholly supported by its government and taxpayers, including that for singer-songwriter Félix Leclerc (325 km of autoroute 40) and hockey player Guy Lafleur (autoroute 50 from Gatineau towards Montreal).

As for Gordon Lightfoot, both of these former Quebec citizens had excelled in their respective professional lives and were much loved by their fellow citizens. Notwithstanding their professional achievements, it is in large part their considerable dedication to their homeland, to its culture and its values, for which they are honoured, and by the manner which those values have inspired others and continue to do so when driving on the highways dedicated to them.

Will Ontario accept this opportunity to inspire its citizens by the naming of a highway or a part thereof for the thoughts of a remarkable Ontario artist for his country, its character and its values that he so often expressed in his music.

We believe that a dedication for the late Gordon Lightfoot should be actively supported and facilitated by the Government of Ontario and the citizens and would enhance the perception of the province as a desired place to live.

Why recognize Gordon Lightfoot in this way, as someone who has already received numerous professional and national honours for his music?

Following our original request in this sense to the Premier of Ontario, some 40 former fellow Orillia school alumni of Lightfoot and friends have accepted my original suggestion of highway naming and have sought to specifically recognize Lightfoot's immense talents as a singer and composer, including his output of more than 425 original songs.

Our request of early May to the Premier is also founded on Lightfoot's remarkable musical career, but it is principally intended to recognize his prototypical contributions in defining and demonstrating what he believed to be Canada, physically and philosophically, and inciting Canadians to reflect on the nature, values, character and identity of the country he much loved and from which he could not separate himself.

Lightfoot’s gift for capturing the essence of Canada’s landscapes, people, and history through his lyrics is what has led to his greatest contribution to Canadian music and Canadian identity. He expertly reflected the Canadian experience with songs like "Shadows" and “Canary Yellow Canoe” from his canoe trips, that describe the beauty of Northern Canada, or the tragedy of a real-life maritime disaster on Lake Superior, in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", following which he maintained personal contact with the families of those who perished.

“Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” written for Canada's centennial year, is an ode to the development of the Canadian Pacific trans-Canada railway in the 1880s. One of Lightfoot’s many prototypical songs, the resplendent epic provides a vivid portrayal of the adventure, resilience in the face of hardship, and triumph of constructing a nation.

Who else wrote so poetically about the "navvies", the railroad manual workers of Canadian and Chinese birth, who crafted a challenging route that the surveyors proposed and which finally convinced British Columbia to become part of Canada?

Among his other compositions that reflect a love of Canada are "Steel Rail Blues", "Ribbon of Darkness", "Ten Degrees and Getting Colder", "Christian Island", "Seven Island Suite" and "Alberta Bound."

When notified on May 2nd 2023 of his passing, his friend Bob Dylan said that Gordon died “without ever having made a bad song,” and every time that he listened to one of them, he “wished it would last forever.”

We sincerely believe that not only is Gordon Lightfoot's contribution to Canadian music impressive, but his championship of Canadian values and his depiction of the physical and philosophical character and identity of Ontario and Canada merits the renaming of one of the two major highways that intersect or are close to his hometown of Orillia.

His well-known humility would suggest naming parts of Highway 11 or Highway 400 as the "Gordon Lightfoot Highway," perhaps even more simply, "The Lightfoot Way" in recognition of this brilliant and dedicated Canadian who has had a significant impact on our lives and well-being and was very humble in his activity.

In future, those travelling either of these proposed routes north of the GTR, or north of Barrie, will be incited to think not only of the person, but of the land, the values and the people to which he was so attached and depicted so well.

On behalf of the 28 other current co-proposers of this honour, I wish that all who support this request of the Ontario government take a few minutes to contact your local municipal or your provincial parliament representatives to express your agreement.

Arthur James Plumpton
(on behalf of the 29 current proposers)
Île d'Orléans, Quebec
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Old 07-25-2023, 08:22 PM   #4
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,853
Default Re: Highway 400 re-naming suggestion...

Local group planning November event to celebrate Lightfoot's legacy
'It's celebrating somebody who's such a Canadian cultural icon...
He lived most of his adult life in Toronto, but he never forgot about Orillia,' said event organizer
Greg McGrath-Goudie

A group of residents is bringing back Orillia Lightfoot Days this fall in memory of the late folk legend.

John Winchester, a lifelong Gordon Lightfoot fan, has been working with a group of residents to bring three days worth of Lightfoot music and festivities to the city from Nov. 3-5.

The original event began 10 years ago following the success of Gordon Lightfoot’s 75th birthday celebrations, but had since stopped taking place.

Winchester said former St. Paul’s minister, Karen Hilfman Millson, had the idea to resurrect it for what would have been Lightfoot’s 85th birthday.

“With everything that's happened in the last few months, it was thought by Karen (Hilfman Millson) to reinstitute it because this would have been his 85th birthday coming up on the 17th of November,” Winchester told OrilliaMatters.

Although the fall festivities are still in the planning stages, Winchester said the group has a number of events in the works for the weekend.

Pending final approval by the church, the plan is to host events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at St. Paul’s Centre, with tribute band, Classic Lightfoot Live, already booked by the group for Nov. 3.

On Saturday, the plan is to host a viewing of the four in-depth interviews Lightfoot had with Hilfman Millson between 2006 and 2013, projected onto St. Paul’s screens during the day.

Hilfman Millson is also thinking of hosting a Lightfoot-themed church service at St. Paul’s on Sunday, Winchester said.

Winchester said the group also has a tentative bus tour planned for Saturday, which would bring fans to various sites through the city, including the monuments at Tudhope Park and Orillia Opera House, Lightfoot’s final resting place, and other locations — such as the sites of Lightfoot’s former schools, as well as St. Paul’s — that were integral to his life.

Winchester said the group also hopes to work with local restaurants, merchants, and artists to add more Lightfoot-themed activities to the city over the weekend.

“The other idea we have is to have local restaurants, like they did 10 years ago, book artists in who might perform some Lightfoot songs on the Saturday night,” he said. “The idea being if we can attract people outside of the area to come up, go to the concert Friday night, stick around on Saturday, (it could) contribute to the local economy.”

Winchester said the group has begun reaching out to local businesses and organizations to garner interest in the event, and he said any would-be volunteers can contact him (

“There’s just a lot of ideas about things we'd like to put into place,” he said. “How effective we are depends on the level of interest and how many volunteers we can get to help us do these things.”

The idea is to, hopefully, bring the Orillia Lightfoot Days back as a local event, which Winchester says could both be good for the local economy, while also celebrating a folk icon who helped put Orillia on the map.

“You’re highlighting all that Orillia has to offer and it benefits hotels, it benefits restaurants,” Winchester said. “But as much as it is that, it's also celebrating somebody who's such a Canadian cultural icon, and he never forgot this was his hometown. He lived most of his adult life in Toronto, but he never forgot about Orillia.”
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