There is no way to do justice in writing about the events of the Gathering. Having everyone together and sharing was such a wonderful experience. It was hard to believe that we had just met for the first time. Gerrie and John did a fantastic job organizing the event. The food was exquisite, lasting friendships were made and the planning was flawless, right down to the consistent 85 degree weather. Hopefully the following will give you some insight into how truly enjoyable it was. 


Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glassel

koa.jpg (22495 bytes)The first V-Group gathering was held in beautiful Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada on August 10, 11, 12 &13, 2001. Based on the sentiments of the attendees, it will not be the last. It was hosted by our own Gerrie and John Chiki of Welland, Ontario. Others who attended were  Carolyn and Pierre Racicot,  Tom and Barb Glassel, Laurine Amo, Eric and Sue Campbell,  Mike Vieau,  Darleen Bunker, Georgia Allison, Ray and Eve Viau, Chris Viau and Lori Mingo, Brian View, Viki View& Phil Peterson, Jenna Peterson, Patrick Peterson and Steven Peterson. We were also joined by several members of Gerrie and John's family.  Members traveled from Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan,  New York, Ottawa, Washington State, and Wisconsin  The intended gathering point was KOA , Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Photo by Ray Viau

trailer.jpg (73620 bytes)  Friday, August 10, 2001 Sue and Eric arrived at the campground first, well in advance of the rest of us. Of course they had a 30 day head start. Eric posted a note on the bulletin board in the office and soon their trailer served as a gathering place as people trickled in. I was a little confused about the Hawaii/trailer connection until Sue filled us in that there is a new Hawaii to California bridge.  : )   Seated from left are Gerrie , John, Eve, Sue and Eric  Gerrie and John provided everyone with maps to their house so we could meet there Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glasselkabin.jpg (50246 bytes)

 Eve and I  lost track of the fact that we were going to stay at a campground. Our "Kabin" was "cute" (similar to the one in the picture), but like Viki warned us, "flushies" or other comforts. 


Photo courtesy of Laurine Amo

bus.jpg (44923 bytes)We gathered Friday evening at 7:00 PM in front of the KOA Office to be picked up by our Tour Bus. Members came from several local motels, including the Caravan and the Carriage House. Once on the bus, there was some spirited conversation as we were whisked away to Betty's Restaurant. Betty's is  in Chippawa and they are famous  for their great assortment of home made pies. The photo shows Gerrie and John leading the way as we arrived at the Restaurant for the "Get-together" dinner. This was the first time many of us had met.

Photo courtesy of Laurine Amo

Viau gathering-Niagara Falls,NY Aug 10-2001.jpg (36630 bytes) At Betty's we had a very quiet dinner which was what we probably all needed. The family style dinner included Roast Beef smothered in mushrooms, oven-roasted potatoes, jumbo fried shrimp in a light batter, Asparagus spears rolled in chicken breast, mixed vegetables, warm buns, an assortment of fine area wines, and of course, great pie dessert..  Mike Vieau arrived from his Buffalo flight just in time to join us for the dinner. He was generous enough to provide each of  us with a CD of his genealogical research.

American Falls Photo courtesy of Laurine Amo 2001AmericanFalls.jpg (19202 bytes)

After the fine dinner we went back on the bus for the short trip to the Falls. Our bus driver was an experienced tour guide and he was quite humorous. He parked the bus at the curb and allowed us to take in the astounding beauty of the area. The air was full of mist and roar of the Falls. On Friday nights there is a spectacular fireworks display and within minutes we were dripping wet as we awaited them to start.

Canadian Falls and Maid of the Mist Courtesy of Laurine Amo 2001

Maid.jpg (31176 bytes)Laurine wants to know if we can see her on the Maid of the Mist shown in this photo of the Canadian Falls. Don't bother looking through all the tourists on it.  She was on an earlier cruise. The Falls are illuminated at night with different colors of the rainbow.  To our delight, this particular weekend the fireworks display was held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights so we got the opportunity to view them more than once. 

Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glassel

stecatherines.jpg (36224 bytes)Tom and Barb decided to take advantage of the trip and stopped in St. Catharines Friday. While there, they came across a local festival.

SATURDAY, August 11, 2001    ~   Everybody's got to go sooner or later. My son's fiancÚ was the one that got up in the wee hours on Saturday morning to walk over to the restrooms. As she was stumbling around in the road a van came up to her and asked if she was with the V-Group. It was Viki and her crew. They had made it in, after all. Their car was recalled just two days before the trip and they had their doubts whether they would make it. They got in at 3:30 AM and went directly to the Falls to enjoy the spectacular "View" (no pun intended). There were no vacancies at the campground and they settled in at a nearby motel.

Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glassel

KOAchefTom.jpg (52860 bytes)As it turned out, not many of us stayed at the KOA..  Tom and Barb rolled in around 8 or 9 on Saturday morning.  After they got settled we went with them to have breakfast at a local restaurant. After breakfast, they went their way to look for garage sales and we headed back to the Falls. We never got a chance to try Tom's infamous delicacies, squirrel legs or Beaver Tails.  His quiche was pretty good though. Speaking of squirrels, the locals ones had black fur (before you cooked them).   

Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glassel

trike.jpg (41295 bytes) Barb Glassel tries out one of the many "trikes" that the campground rented out. There was also a hot tub, indoor pool, outdoor pool, wagon ride, basketball court, variety store, gift shop, laundry rooms, pavilion, Pizza wagon, ...and even an Easter egg hunt (IN AUGUST???). In any event, we were not going to be bored !

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The KOA Wagon passes the Glassel campsite. 

Photo courtesy of Tom and Barb Glasse


fr_river.jpg (26005 bytes)This photo of the French River is courtesy of Sue and Eric Campbell. It was taken near where the river flows into the Georgian Strait near Manitoulin.  The French River, as you may recall, was the major voyageur route from Montreal to the Great Lakes and Jacques Vieau, amongst others, would have traveled it.  One record that Sue has  seen puts the date for JV as 1776 but if you accept his birthdate as being 1770 this wouldn't be accurate.  She's using a birthdate of 1762 to coordinate more closely with his obituary.

Photo by Ray and Eve Viau

at-falls.jpg (32807 bytes)  As I said earlier, we headed down to the Falls. This is a picture of my son Chris, his fiancÚ Lori, Eve and I.  If you look real close just over Lori's head you can see a balloon that lights up at night. It carries passengers for a bird's eye view on the American side of the Falls. It's eerie glow made me think it was the moon when I first saw it.

While we were in the Falls, we stopped at a shop to watch a blown-glass artisan. We bought a couple of his wares for some friends back home.  We also took in the IMAX Theatre where we bumped into Sue and Eric. The IMAX told the story of the real Maid of the Mist.

falls-rocks.jpg (50252 bytes)This interesting shot of the American Falls by Laurine clearly shows why no one tries to go over the American side in a barrel. The rocks would surely kill anyone who tried. The string of yellow dots on the right side are people walking under the falls. She took this while she was on the "Maid of the Mist". 


falls-water.jpg (28001 bytes) The sheer fury of the falls is evident in this 2nd photo that Laurine took from the "Maid of the Mist"

I'm sure you all know about the boat/bridge accident in the Welland Canal. It happened on Saturday night as we were all bedding down. The freighter that was carrying 26,000 tons of wheat caught fire when it was hit ( was hit) by the bridge. Tom and Barb saw the smoke and were joking with some local residents about it being someone's cooking. The images below are of the smoldering freighter,  the severely damaged freighter as it rested about a mile past the bridge, two views of the bridge that struck it, and the story as it appeared in Monday morning's Buffalo News. (Photos by Tom, Barb, Ray and Eve)

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Sunday morning, August 12. Mike realized that his plane tickets were for Sunday morning instead of evening, so he had to exit before we could all bid him farewell. The rest of us headed to Gerrie's house in nearby Welland. Of course the bridge was out and Gerrie lived on the other side of the canal. Everyone was on their own to get to the other side so that we could continue referring to Gerrie's maps. Laurine, Georgia, and Darleen had an unscheduled tour of St. Catharines, My troupe found three different roads that all led to the same spot on THIS side of the bridge. Tom and Barb took the photo opportunity and captured the freighter while it was still smoldering. 
food.jpg (37783 bytes) The V-Group members indulging in the spread that John and Gerrie prepared. We understand that they are very experienced at hosting company and it showed. Photo by Ray and Eve

viki-tom.jpg (37966 bytes)Viki and Tom enjoying the food and the company. Tom is in a very fitting pose for someone who is equated by the entire membership with fine food. By the way, Tom let us in on the excitement that he had bid on a Viau Cookie Tin on Ebay. He would find out any time now if he won. Photo by Ray and Eve

gerris.jpg (36539 bytes) Barb, Ray, Darleen, Georgia, and Laurine discussing the lineages and enjoying the hospitality in the Chiki living room. Photo by Ray and Eve

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Gerrie with her cousin Joan Price standing in front of the goodie's.

Photo by Carolyn Racicot

IMG0033.PCD.JPG Gals in Group1.JPG (31706 bytes) Darleen, Laurine, Georgia, and Barb in the living room. Photo by Carolyn Racicot. 


IMG0034.PCD.JPG Ray Viau.JPG (31918 bytes) That does it. I'm going on a diet or I'm going to buy a girdle.  I'm chatting with Eve, Viki, and Eric. Those sexy knees belong to Pierre. Photo by Carolyn Racicot

full-house.jpg (53864 bytes) Full House photo by Laurine.

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Darleen, Viki and Joan in Gerrie's kitchen are captured by Sue.

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Phil and John enjoying some quiet time by the pool. Picture courtesy of Sue and Eric Campbell

Untitled.jpg (51456 bytes)  We posed for group shots. This one is the Viau dit Lesperance Gang. Laurine isn't here because she is the one taking the picture. The others from left are Chris Viau, Ray Viau, Darleen Bunker, Georgia Allison and Tom Glassel.

Eulet.jpg (53832 bytes) This picture is of the Michel Viaud/ Marie Eulet crew. In front seated is Sue Campbell. The others from left are Carolyn Racicot, Gerrie Chiki, Eric Campbell, and Pierre Racicot. 

IMG0042.PCD.JPG Viau Gang.JPG (38952 bytes) Many that attended the gathering are in this photo. Mike had already left. Eve and John are designated photographers, and  most of Gerrie's relatives have not yet joined us. (I apologize in advance because I am not sure of who is Patrick and who is Steven). Front kneeling is Phil and either Patrick or Steven.. The row behind them from left is Gerrie, Brian, Viki, Patrick or Steven, and Sue. Behind them from left is  Jenna, Laurine, Carolyn, Darleen, Georgia, and Barb. In the last row is Lori, Chris, Ray, Pierre, and Tom

 It was during this session at Gerrie and John's that Susan and Tom found a link between the Lesperance lineage and the Viaud/Heulet lineage. They are joined at Angelique Roi. That was quite an historic finding for our group.  While we were huddled inside doing our research, John was keeping the kids (young and old) occupied. He was  throwing a ball to the kids as they dove off the board into the pool. 

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When we broke up about 4:30, Gerrie gave each of us a can of Poutine sauce and instructions for making Authentic Quebec Poutine. Carolyn and Pierre were also in the giving spirit as they gave us boxes of the much sought after VIAU cookies.

  Now it was time to say goodbye to Viki and her family. They were about to head Southeast towards the Statue of Liberty and then to Washington DC. The rest of us went to our respective lodgings to get ready for the Oh Canada, Eh! dinner theatre.

Oh Canada Eh!... Sunday Evening at 7:00 PM

When we got there we found out that Tom had the winning bid on Ebay. He had purchased the Viau Cookie Tin.

 The OH Canada, EH ! Dinner show was my favorite. As it was all weekend, the food was terrific.  On this particular night, we had French Canadian Pea Soup, homemade bread,  "Greene" (as in Lorne Greene) salad, Roast Beef (Grade EH), fried haddock, roast chicken, roasted local potatoes, vegetable medley, maple chocolate cake and hot and cold drinks. 

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All through our meal, our waitress would hustle backstage, change costumes and magically appear on stage in another skit. The troupe was very talented from the slow-speaking one-liner Canadian "fisherman" to the giggly blonde bombshell that liked to hike her skirt to show Eric her knees. I cannot say enough about how funny I thought the show was. All of the photos above are courtesy of Tom and Barb or Carolyn and Pierre. They include the Oh Canada, Eh! Road sign, two photos from the "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier" skit and one from the "Mountie song" skit, Susan being serenaded by a "Mountie" (I believe that he was singing When I'm calling you). Eric hiding, that fine pair of knees, and last but not least, Tom, Barb, and Gerrie with the "mountie" after the show. Throughout the night the cast sang Canadian songs that one might think originated on Broadway. They included K-K-K-Katy, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and Far Away Places among others. Of course, what kind of Canadian night would it have been without Alouette?

We stayed and chatted with our waitress long after all the other parties had left. Maybe we didn't want it to end. When we finally got out the front door we gathered again and talked more about the group and the day's festivities. Before long we heard the familiar giddy laughter of the cast member in the parking lot as she headed home.

viau-tins.jpg (19251 bytes)Monday Morning, August 13.  Pierre and Carolyn headed back to Ottawa. Tom and Barb broke camp, loaded their van and headed slowly back towards Wisconsin. I know they hit an auction on the way where they were able to pick up another VIAU cookie tin (see their photo).   My family headed back to the Falls and the rest of us headed over to the Confederation Library in Welland for some genealogical research.. Renee and Lorraine of LA SOCIETE FRANCO-ONTARIENNE D'HISTOIRE ET DE GENEALOGIE were on hand to give us some assistance. For about 3 hours, we each scoured hundreds of records  looking for that special clue. We made copies and wrote down notes for later analysis.  Personally, I gathered many pages of Viau marriage data that we will be able to add to our site. When the time came, there were some fond goodbyes and Gerrie, Laurine, Georgia, Darleen, Eric, Sue and I went our separate ways. So until next time.......



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