"We acted almost immediately to see what could be done to prevent this," Claude Rockwood, past-present of the Mizzen Heritage Society, said last Saturday, speaking in front of a large crowd right where the minister used to stand.
Eight years later, Rockwood found himself with a pair of scissors in his hand, given the opportunity to cut a ceremonial ribbon and officially open the Heart's Content Regional Centre for the Arts.
The grand opening culminated years of hard work for volunteers from the society, which purchased the building — completed in 1878 — for $1 and secured considerable funding from the provincial and federal government, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the general public to realize its goal.
"So now we have a building designed solely for the presentation and preservation of the arts — the first of its kind in the Trinity South shore I do believe," said a beaming John Warren, president of the society.
Bay Roberts community choir Celeste performed a few songs to help break in the performance space and test its acoustics. Newfoundland folk group The Once performed a concert later that night, and Sunday marked the opening of an art exhibit titled "Ties to the Avalon."
Over 100 people turned up for Saturday's grand opening ceremony, which also included a few words from government representatives like Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker.
"We see lots of these projects, and people take the idea and do it, but very few ever get to the point where this one is today, and it's truly a commendable feat when you see people put so much time and effort into a facility like this one," said Crocker.
Heart's Content Mayor Fred Cumby offered his thanks to the Mizzen Heritage Society, commending them on the strength of character they showed in seeing the project through to the end.
"They've been through a lot, and it's because of the strength of that committee, their tenacity, their unwillingness to give up, that this building is here today, and as the mayor of this town I'm very grateful that we have such a dedicated committee," he said.
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Rockwood offered further thoughts on the opening shortly before he cut the ceremonial ribbon.
"When I walked into this building this afternoon, 139 year-old building, I couldn't help but think what a wonderful and great feeling I had knowing that all our dreams, all our aspirations, all the hard work … had finally come to bear fruit," he said.