Thunder Bay

Atikokan, Ont. wants you to "come on home" in 2020

Jim and Lisa Johnson are planning to have a community-wide reunion next year for those who have called Atikokan, Ont. home.

Community-wide reunion planned for next June

Jim and Lisa Johnson are the organizers of the Atikokan Come Home 2020 reunion. (Matt Vis/CBC)
Coming Home is the name of the reunion - and it's being spearheaded by Jim and Lisa Johnson. They speak with the CBC's Jeff Walters at the Atikokan Museum. 8:18

Jim and Lisa Johnson are planning to have a community-wide reunion next year for those who have called Atikokan, Ont. home.

The couple are spearheading an Atikokan 2020 Come Home Reunion, welcoming all former Atikokanites back to the northwestern Ontario community for a weekend on June 26-28 to reconnect and reminisce.

The idea for a homecoming, more than 40 years after the closure of the iron ore mine, was spurred by interest in an Atikokan Memories page on Facebook. Jim Johnson, a town councillor, spontaneously put out a call for former residents to return home and quickly had 1,100 interested people within an hour of his posting.

The town had a population of just under 2,800 in the 2016 Census but was home to close to 7,000 people during its heyday in the middle of the 20th century.

"Anybody that has ever lived in Atikokan, come on home and we're going to have a party," he said.

"We're going to be more than (2,800) next year in June…Everybody is fired up about it."

While plans for the event are still being developed, with a community supper and dance scheduled, Lisa Johnson said the homecoming will mostly about giving people an opportunity to reconnect.

"I think a lot of it is going to be visiting and seeing old schoolmates, family," she said. "There will be a little bit planned but I think the majority of it is going to be visiting."
Main St. in Atikokan, Ont., looks very different than it did 40 years ago. Organizers of the Atikokan Come Home 2020 reunion hope to pack the Main Street with people who used to live in the community. (Matt Vis/CBC)

The one constant during the ebb and flow over the years for the town has been its people, said Jim Johnson.

You can take a person out of the town but you can't take the town out of the person, he added.

"Anybody that comes back here to Atikokan that was a former Atikokanite, the Atikokan is still in them," he said, hoping to have as many as 1,500 people come back home that weekend.

Ray Waterman knows all about that connection to his hometown. An Atikokanite, he moved away in 1974 before coming back in 2012, a decision that he said he hasn't once regretted.

"It's got that feeling of home. It just seemed right," he said.

An Atikokan 2020 Come Home Reunion page has been created on Facebook and people looking for more information can email atikokan2020reunion@gmail.com.

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