On Thanksgiving Day 1916, men from Huron County marched down East Street in Goderich, Ont. before ending up in France to fight in the First World War.
One hundred years later, an art installation will commemorate the 551 soldiers from Huron County who died in the conflict. Ceramic poppies — one for each solider who died — are now installed at the Goderich cenotaph until the beginning of November.
The art project represents "every life that was lost from Huron County," said Bonnie Sitter, one of many volunteers who helped make the poppies.
"If a person was born in Huron County but walked across into Bruce or took the horse and buggy into Lambton or Middlesex County, Perth County [before joining the army] they are still being remembered," she said.
Sitter's father Victor Hogarth and his brother John served in France with the 161st Batallion. John Hogarth died in France and will have a ceramic poppy dedicated to his memory.
The idea came from a similar installation at the Tower of London in London, U.K. That installation contained 900,000 ceramic poppies.
"I suggested we think up ideas to mark this anniversary. The chairman of our group said, 'It would be lovely if we had poppies like they had in England,'" Sitter said.
Volunteers assembled the poppies, which were designed by Dashwood, Ont. artist Ruth Ann Merner. They gathered a few times during the summer months to put the poppies together.
"It was an amazing process, people came from throughout Huron County, my job was to make sure there was enough people there each time and to record a picture of each person who did participate," Sitter said.
When the soldiers from the 161st Battalion left in 1916, they marched around the main square, where the cenotaph now stands. For viewers, the best way to see the installation is to retrace their steps in the opposite direction.
"As you come up East Street toward the cenotaph you're going to see the poppies gently rise," Sitter said. "From the front to the back toward the cenotaph."