December 4, 2021

Crocheters put their hooks together around the world to support veterans for Remembrance Day. More than 33,000 crochet poppies were donated to the Cambridge Poppy Project, an art installation spread across the city to honour those who served Canada.

After a trip to Niagara in November 2020, Jayne Herring was inspired by the Niagara Poppy Project, which collected 11,000 crochet poppies for their installation at the Niagara Falls History Museum.

“We were just moved by the sight of the poppies on the building,” Herring said. “We thought, ‘boy, that’s probably something Cambridge can get behind. Let’s give it a try.’”

The following December, Herring got together with artist and design lead, Danny Ingrouville, and assembled a team with five more members. Then, they put the first call out to the community for poppies Jan. 13, 2021 and collected until Sept. 30.

“Our initial goal was 10,000 poppies, and we were really worried we weren’t going to get those,” she said. “I thought, ‘if we could just get 11,001, wouldn’t that be a great goal?’”

But what Herring didn’t anticipate was that her house would be eventually bursting at the seams with these red flowers.

The goal of 10,000 poppies was far exceeded – 33,565 poppies were received, but not just from the local area. Poppies from across Canada and the world were sent in – some came from the United States, Australia, and South Africa.

Originally having plans for installations at only three buildings, the crew had to put their heads together to brainstorm more ways to use all the extra poppies.

“It was amazing, but it came with challenges,” Herring said. “We made it [sketches] as big as we could for these three buildings, and we still needed more places to put them [the poppies] … We kept joking that we were going to be decorating the cars around the library.”

The plan went from three installations to 16 – 10 in Galt, four in Preston, and two in Hespeler.

The copious bags of poppies donated weren’t the only part that showed Herring and the team how the community can come together. An overwhelming amount of support came from those who showed up over a three-day span, to help zip-tie poppies to the netting used to cover the buildings.

“It was really quite heartwarming to see everyone coming together,” she said.

Chris Sherry, the father of Conestoga journalism student Lily Sherry, agrees with Herring’s sentiment. He joined the military in 2007, and began serving in Afghanistan in 2009, helping build infrastructure.

Chris Sherry in uniform photographed by Rebecca McConnell. Photo submitted by Lily Sherry.

“I served with Australians in Afghanistan, so it’s nice to hear they donated poppies,” he said. “It’s a small world.”

Sherry even shares a connection with one of the installations; the 158 poppies on the light armoured vehicle (LAV) in Galt, represents the 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives serving in Afghanistan.

“That one means a lot to me. I’ve been in a LAV as a crewman, so that was my ride in Afghanistan and throughout my career,” Sherry said. “It brings back a lot of good memories.”

While the main 13 installations have been up since Oct. 29, two of the Galt installations at the City Hall sign and pedestrian bridge will be up for viewing starting Nov. 6.

On Nov. 10, one of the Preston installations at the Central Park Cenotaph will be erected.

All of the installations will be taken down on Nov. 12 at noon, but will not be forgotten. Sections of the poppy netting will be donated to Cambridge City Hall, as well as libraries and schools in the area. Veterans will also be offered pieces to take home.

Herring hopes that the takeaway viewers get from the installations, is to pause and reflect on the sacrifices veterans have made for Canadians.

“As a team, when we stood back and celebrated that last installation going up, it was very moving,” Herring said. “The fact that as a community we were able to convey the love that everybody feels for our veterans, the support, the admiration, and the thanks. We were able to provide a visual demonstration of that.”

One of the Poppy Project installations at the entrance of the Queen’s Square Idea Exchange in Galt, facing the cenotaph. Photo by Merissa Busato for Spoke.

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