Many current Mount Allison students have a strong relationship with the Town of Sackville. Students are welcomed to the community with Orientation Week activities like the corn boil, meant to demonstrate Maritime hospitality and inclusiveness.
However, the relationship between the town and university has not always been cooperative.
Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neill recalls a time when Sackvillians and students rubbed each other the wrong way, resulting in disagreements and even fisticuffs. “It didn’t seem to really gel, but we’ve changed that,” O’Neill said. “Mt. A is a bigger part of the town [than in previous years], with the people and with the community.”
An example of the developing relationship is the Town of Sackville’s third annual Mountie Day, which was held last Thursday, March 30.
Since 2014, current students and alumni reach out through social media to show their support for the Mounties on this day. People in town are encouraged to wear garnet and gold. The day kicks off with a ceremony at Town Hall in the morning and finishes with the Athletics Awards banquet that night.
This year’s ceremony began, in the midst of blustery Tantramar wind, with a speech by O’Neill on the various achievements of this year’s athletic teams.
She emphasized the success of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the swim team’s feat of having sent a large contingent to Usports nationals, the badminton team’s ninth-straight atlantic championship win, and the football team’s fourth-straight spot in a conference championship.
Fifth-year chemistry student, football player and Sackville native Michael Bohan reflected on what makes Sackville unique, highlighting the deeper relationship athletes can have with a smaller, tightknit community.
Athletic Director Pierre Arsenault echoed this sentiment prior to Mountie Day, referencing how the university is able to have a greater impact on the community due to the small size of both the school and Sackville.
“[Our athletics] can be a great avenue for the community to have programs to support. We’ve had great relationships with a number of the different minor sport organizations, [and more] student athletes [are] getting out and spending more time with them,” Arsenault said.
Following the speeches, the Mountie Flag was raised at Town Hall in front of athletes, counsellors and Salem Elementary students.
Following the success of both the men’s football and the women’s hockey teams during the 2013-14 season, the town approached Mt. A with the idea of Mountie Day.
“[The] town felt connected to that [success] and appreciated what has been done in the community, and wanted to do a celebration of our student athletes,” Arsenault said.
The event, like the relationship between the town and the university, has grown since its inception. This year’s ceremony boasted a greater turnout at Town Hall and more engagement on social media.
From the town’s perspective, Mountie Day is about celebrating the contributions to Sackville not just of the athletics program, but of students as a whole. O’Neill referenced the student contribution throughout Sackville through various avenues, including amateur sport, special needs support and work at the Drew Nursing Home.
“We appreciate Mt. A being here. It’s not just the sports program – it is everything that they do and so much that they put back into our community.”