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Saugeen Amphitheatre ... a history

May 2, 2014

Feature

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View from the Church

Looking down from the top of the amphitheatre

Saugeen Amphitheatre outside of Southampton, ON at Saugeen First Nation has long been a location for visitors, concerts and weddings with its unique 'Greek-style' or tiered seating.

Begun in 1972, the theatre has seating for 1500 and took ten years to build with 900,000 tons or rock.  From the original theatre concept, it has expanded to include terraced gardens, nature trails, a lily pond, beautiful trees, shrubs and flower beds.

Born at Holland Centre, Grey County in 1916,  Reverend Stotesbury was very familiar with rural Ontario and rural Saskatchewan where he worked in Esterhazy.  When the came to the Saugeen 'reservation' as the first ordained minister in almost 50 years to officiate at Wesley United Church, he realized that the people needed a friend as well as a preacher. 

Historic Wesley United Church

Looking out over the mighty Saugeen River from the church viewpoint, Stotesbury, who had studied classical Greek tales, remembered the amphitheatre concert of tiered seating overlooking a stage.  He saw that it could be set into the hill in front of the church with the river valley as a backdrop.

Money was scarce but with his three-ton truck and a beam jack,  he scrounged stone from old foundations, farmers fields and tobacco kilns not in use.  Many volunteers also donated time and/or materials, and although engineers told Stotesbury that it would cost $250,000 to build, he estimated it was built for less than $200,000

The parking lot at the amphitheatre entrance is said to be the site of an ancient burial ground and an 'Indian treaty' was signed in the historic Wesley United Church.

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Reverend Stotesbury, retired in 1981, but kept busy working at the amphitheatre and gardens during the summer and was an honorary member of Saugeen First Nation band.

Today, the amphitheatre is undergoing a refurbishment that will not only restore the site's stonework but is also teaching several of the First Nation's people a skilled trade as stone masons  ( Click Here for more on recent restoration)

Stone stairway well under way

Click Here  for more 'summer' photos of the amphitheatre park

Information provided by Bruce County Historical Society (Dorne Fitzsimmon) with inclusion of information as written by the late Marion McGillivray.


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