The “Feast in the Forest” was an annual Nature Manitoba event held in the 1970s (then called the Manitoba Naturalists Society).
Photo Gallery of the first two Feast in the Forest events at the bottom of the page. JUMP TO GALLERY
The following article was prepared by Allison Lafortune and was originally published in Nature Manitoba’s second history booklet, Manitoba Naturalists Society Volume 2 (1942-1975), written in 1977.
Each autumn since 1971, naturalists have paid tribute to a summer program of outdoor activities by staging a “Feast in the Forest” on the Thanksgiving long weekend. The idea for such a banquet was originated by Ed Boudreaux, an outdoorsman and gourmet cook.
The location has been a large campsite on Blue Herring Lake in Ontario’s shield country, an ideal site in that it can comfortably accommodate over 50 people and can be reached by both hikers and canoeists.
Paddlers take a choice of two routes, both beginning at the Hawk Lake boat dock and both involving about four miles of paddling and two portages.
The hiking route is about three miles in length, and was originally routed and flagged by Jim Buckingham and John Brydon The trail begins at a point about one-quarter mile west from the junction of the Hawk Lake road and the railway crossing.
In that first year, 61 members came out to the “Feast in the Forest”. A crew of members under the direction of Larry and Vern Redpath constructed two sturdy L-shaped banquet tables and benches. The fire pit and the cooking pit were dug and lined well with rocks. Ed Boudreaux was coordinator of the first feast, which featured four large turkeys and two 32-pound roasts of beef roasted on spits over hot coals.
Ella Jack convened the banquet in 1972. The menu for 65 people consisted of roast turkey and beef, corn chowder soup, baked potatoes and squash, green peas and onion, and the traditional pumpkin pies with whipped cream.
In 1973 Barbara Fisher organized the weekend, and her menu featured Cornish game hens and all the trimmings. Weather was so mild that year that a couple of hearty souls went for an evening swim.
Mary and Vic Wilshire arranged the 1974 weekend for 40 members, and Sandy Lysenko convened it in 1975 for a group of about 40.
This annual event has attracted members of all ages. Children and adults alike enjoy participating in preparations for the feast, whether tending the fire, carrying coals to the cooking pit, gathering autumn foliage to decorate the tables, stuffing turkeys, or doing maintenance work on the hiking trail.
Sunday is feast day, leaving Saturday and Monday for bird watching, photography, rock climbing, paddling, etc. The evening campfires provide pleasant opportunities for singing, story swapping, and getting to know other members of the Society better.
Great care has been taken to maintain the site. The tables and pits were set well back in the forest to keep signs of human occupancy from destroying the view for other naturalists. Of course all garbage is carried out, right down to the last speck of charred tinfoil from the fire pits.
Soon, however, members should be tackling the question of whether to continue the event in the same fashion without concern for overuse of the area.