Six Nations Bread and Cheese is coming back home.
After two years of a worldwide pandemic that saw the community come together in its determination to carry on Bread and Cheese in unusual ways, this third year will see the beloved annual tradition go back to its roots, with a parade and gathering at the Six Nations Sports and Cultural Memorial Grounds.
No more drive-through events. No more driveway deliveries.
The familiar crush of crowds that the community has come to love and expect at the arena on Fourth Line Road will resume once again on May 23, but a few remnants of the Covid pandemic will still be evident.
Masks will be optional, so some high-risk community members might be wearing them. The presence of a midway is still touch and go at this point, as the company Six Nations hired in the past went out of business due to Covid.
And the delivery of bread and cheese to community members will carry on, after learning that some elders and housebound residents unable to make it out to past Bread and Cheese events appreciated the delivery options these past few years.
But the beloved annual parade through downtown Ohsweken that marks the beginning of the Bread and Cheese festivities is back on, as well as the exciting fireworks display at the sports fields during the annual May 24 weekend that celebrates the birth of Queen Victoria.
Bread and Cheese will be handed out to throngs of people who line up outside the arena eagerly every year for the 12 p.m. sharp disbursement of freshly cut cheese and bread.
“We’re looking to go back to our regular activities, pre-Covid,” said Katie Montour, Six Nations of the Grand River communications officer.
Fireworks will proceed at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday and track and field competitions will be held as usual until 11 a.m. on Monday.
“Yes, the parade is happening and it’s being organized by the Parks and Rec team,” said Montour. “The theme this year is Celebrating Our Past, Present and Future.”
The parade goes through the town of Ohsweken and enters through the main gate on Fourth Line Road.
Parking will be available for elders in front of the arena with regular parking behind the community hall near the track.
Elders will have a special entrance and accommodations inside the arena. There will also be chairs for those who may need to sit.
SNGR will provide details in the coming weeks on how elders and homebound community members can sign up for delivery of bread and cheese.
Montour said community members are free to choose whether or not to wear a mask at the event, calling the decision a personal risk assessment.
“We are still in a pandemic so we do still have to be alert,” said Montour.
Ontario has already lifted majority of health measures, including mandatory masking, with all mandates expected to be lifted by April 27, well before Bread and Cheese festivities take place. Six Nations has followed suit with the province.
“The Chief Medical Officer of Health is still recommending masking for certain high-risk settings so planning for bread and cheese, we are taking a harm reduction approach,” said Montour.
Organizers will provide masks and hand sanitizer.
“Really it’s up to the individual as to whether they feel it is safe to attend or not,” said Montour. “Attendees are being asked to conduct their own personal risk assessment. They can choose to wear a mask.”
Another fallout effect from the pandemic will be felt this year, and that’s the cost of goods and services, all of which have seen a sharp rise in prices due to inflation.
“Food prices have gone up significantly this year,” Montour noted, adding she didn’t have exact figures available, just that prices for bread and cheese are higher this year over last year.
Last year, a drive through event was held at The Gathering Place and the year before, in 2020, Chief and Council dropped off bread and cheese at the end of community driveways. In Ohsweken, community members got porch drop-offs.
“We’ve been doing our best to maintain the tradition,” said Chief Hill. “I know it’s been quite a challenge what to do with Bread and Cheese the last couple of years.”
He said he will “always cherish” the memory of the first year of the pandemic when the chief and elected councillors dropped off bread and cheese to the entire community over two days of driving around the reserve.
Hill reminisced about all the supportive signs that dotted the community in May 2020 thanking frontline workers for their bravery when the threat level of Covid-19 was still not entirely known.
As challenging as it was, Hill said, that day (Bread and Cheese 2020) brought out some amazing memories and coming together as a community.