Last Guiding year, with Canada’s 150th celebration ahead, some of my Guider peers of that certain age and I could think back to the amazing memories we had from when Canada was a mere hundred years old! Many of us were in Guiding back then, singing with Bobby Gimby, visiting the high-tech (for the times) centennial train, the centennial caravan, visiting Expo ‘67 in Montreal, “a place to stand, a place to grow….”Well, I guess you had to be there.
We were very enthusiastic about creating memories for today’s members that would be as indelible as the ones we shared a half-century ago. In Quebec, we had the added bonus celebration of Montreal’s 375th birthday. The final piece of this dream-puzzle came together when the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes reached out to Girl Guides of Canada – Québec Council, to partner in building some sort of event. With the blessing of the GGC Board, the stage was set!
This was to be quite an event, and the cross-generational planning team wanted to give girls bragging rights for life. So, the pieces came together for an ultra-special sleep out. The Montreal Alouettes play on Molson Stadium field, part of McGill University campus. The stadium rests at the foot of Mount Royal. No one had ever held a genuine tent camping experience in the heart of downtown Montreal! How cool would that be?
Plans took shape for a wildcard day of exploring Montreal and all of its 375th and Canada 150 special events and programs. This would be followed by Le Gros Dodo, on the artificial turf of Molson stadium (no pegs for THOSE tents!). A wonderful team of Rangers and newly-adult Guiders made up an excellent program team, pulling together diverse talents to create the evening and morning activities. The Alouettes organized a tailgate breakfast gathering, and we invited two CFL game officials to come and explain football so the girls (and women – we don’t all follow football!) would better understand the game that would be held on the Sunday afternoon.
Almost 380 girls and Guiders from communities all around Quebec made their way to be part of Le Gros Dodo on a sunny September day. The plans for their Saturday activities were as diverse as the girls, for each patrol had devised its own way to spend a day in downtown Montreal. The planning team provided a playbook of suggestions, helpful maps and logistical info.
Smiles and laughter and a whole bunch of tents took over the stadium around the supper hour and by 8 pm everyone was set up in our football field Village. The stadium was pretty huge, and the ground nice and spongy.
A whole crew of random gymnasts took advantage of this particular property of our campground! There was lots of room in the end zones for giant Jenga, football beanbag toss, team-building action, football skills, and socializing with new friends. Rangers ran these free-flow activities throughout the evening, and we filled out a whole section of the stands for campfire songs, led by an animated team of Rangers and young Guiders.
Then it was bedtime and lights out – though a stadium’s “lights-out” still makes for a mighty bright little village!
From the 6:30 wake-up, we astounded team and media onlookers by clearing the field of all signs of our sleep-out in one hour flat! On to a pancake breakfast Sunday morning, our Football 101 session from CFL game officials (aka unofficial Guiding dads!), some face painting, cheerleader visits and tailgate shenanigans. There was just enough time for some selfies with the Grey Cup. We moved to the field to welcome the Ottawa RedBlacks with great enthusiasm.
The Alouettes may not have come through for us with a win, but we certainly came through for each other!
Here’s wishing all our 380 campers and over 300 additional members and families who joined us for the game many happy memories of Le Gros Dodo!
Blog by Valerie Zaloum, co-lead with Pam Godfrey on Le Gros Dodo team.
Photos from Huntington Guides, Valois Guides, Secteur Argenteuil, Riverdale Guides & Pathfinders and our site PR team.