By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Every year Hamilton’s New Year’s levee event attracts a multi-ethnic crowd who are excited to meet city officials, talk with their neighbours, and listen to some music.
When Mayor Bob Bratina hosted his first levee in 2011, which over the years have offered up a multi-cultural range of entertainment and music, a large contingent of Croatian residents attended to celebrate the mayor’s successful election.
But it’s the city’s Asian community that makes it a point of attending the yearly event at city hall. They talk with all the officials with friends and family they have brought, and as a memento they have their photographs taken with local politicians. This year’s levee hosted was no different.
Over 20 Asian students from Mohawk College made the trek downtown to meet and greet Bratina, Hamilton Police Chief Glenn DeCaire, and various other local politicians.
Andrew Zheng, president of the Chinese Student Association for Mohawk College, said the organization offers a variety of student activities within the community, including a much attended reunion dinner over the semester. Attending the Mayor’s New Year’s levee Jan. 1, is just one of the popular activities organizers feel is important for their students to participate in.
“Meeting the mayor is a big deal,” said Justina Ku, vice-chair of the city’s Hamilton Mundalization Committee, who accompanied the group. “We want to provide as much support to the community as possible. That is very important.”
Bratina, who was assisted by DeCaire, Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin, and Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson, greeted over 80 well-wishers, as music from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band provided added to the festivities during the two-hour event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Hamilton mountain councillor Terry Whitehead also made an appearance later.
And even as friends and neighbours wished each other Happy New Year’s, the discussion among people about what 2014 will hold for them and the community, focused on the prospect of a provincial election in the spring, and a municipal election in October.
And for the third year,Hamiltonresident Chris Cutler offered up his own New Year’s Day cheer to jovial residents who braved the cold weather outside city hall, near the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He welcomed visitors with free Tim Horton’s coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts under a tent to provide some relief from the biting windy weather.
Cutler has provided the refreshments and good cheer each New Year’s Day Mayor’s levee ever since Bratina proposed to cancel the levee in 2011. Bratina later did hold his levee. But the idea of not having a levee without a mayor didn’t sit well with some Hamiltonians. Cutler’s argument is levees shouldn’t be the domain of a municipality’s politicians. Citizens should have an opportunity to greet their fellow residents on New Year’s Day.
“I still feel citizens should have the opportunity to greet their fellow citizens without politicians around,” he said.