Oliver turned 13 in 2013 (was there ever a more handy mnemonic!) and, given that he’s a teenager now, and a curious one at that, it seemed like the right year to elevate him to my official New Years Day levee-attending partner. He was game – enthusiastic even – and so we printed out the schedule, got warmly dressed for the -20ºC weather and called a cab for the hyperjump from Prince Street to Government House as a way of starting off gently.
Our timing was perfect: a gentle line and a roaring fire greeted us. And the rest of the day – 12 levees over 6 hours – went just as well. Oliver jumped into the levee cauldron with both feet, and by the end of the day when he shook Premier Ghiz’s hand, he was a master of the “Happy New Year.”
In the spirit of inspiring levee excellence, and after careful consulation with Oliver, here are the winners of the official 2014 Levee Awards:
Best New Levee: Queen Street Commons, with Trinity-Clifton United Church a close second. The Commons clinched this one with a nice mixture of people and food, and more well-turned-out-young-rockers than all the other levees combined.
Best Food, Catered: Premier Ghiz, no contest. From the “make your own mashed potato sundae” bar to the potato chips (the thick kind!) to the endless array of desserts and the well-constructed punch, we were able to skip both dinner and supper.
Best Food, Homemade: The Masonic Temple’s banana bread was top-flight.
Best Alcohol: The Caledonian Club – another new levee this year – served a nice scotch, which was an unexpected treat. Honourable mention to Engineers PEI for a very nicely engineered sangria.
Best Costumes: A tie between the Bishop of Charlottetown, well-turned-out in his purple Bishop uniform, and the chap at the Masonic Temple wearing a crown, cape and carrying a sort of walking-stick-cum-magic wand.
Best Music: PEI Regiment, hands down. Not only is the regimental band a crack outfit, but they defy stereotypes by playing rousing renditions of Cyndi Lauper and Queen hits.
Most Ubiquitous Attendee: Wes MacAleer has won this every year for the past decade, but actor and bon vivant Bill McFadden surpassed him this year, with honourable mention to Guardian scribe Doug Gallant, who came close. That all said, I did see Wes three times today.
Most Improved: City of Charlottetown. After some dry years with bad catering, they’re back in fine form at City Hall. The City Police choir was a nice addition.
Best Swag: Lieutenant Governor Lewis was handing out 2014 Fathers of Confederation calendars and PEI2014 pins.
Best Receiving Line: PEI Regiment. Those soldiers look your right in the eye when they shake your hand, and they mean it when they say “Happy New Year.”
Most Informal: The Haviland Club used to run a military-style levee, with a formal receiving line and an Officers’ Club vibe. They’ve transformed things into a much more informal “thanks for stopping by our rec room; have a bagel and a sit-down out of the cold” style. The transition is confusing – especially their switch to a counter-clockwise rotation through the building – but it’s not an unwelcome change.
Happy New Year!