Alberta town crier preps vocal cords for competition

Sharing information | Olden day new source

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Olds, Alta., town crier Denis Patry to head east to praise Alberta!

Patry and his wife and escort, Judy, expect to take part next August in the World Invitational Town Crier Competition in Kingston, Ont.

“I get to promote my town and province and that’s what it’s all about,” said Patry.

Criers date back hundreds of years to when European town and village populations were illiterate.

Criers were latter-day newsmen and women, reading proclamations to all in village squares.

“I’m very lucky to go because there aren’t very many representing Western Canada.”

Patry started eight years ago when Chris Poole, the crier in Hinton, Alta., moved to Olds and encouraged him to take the job of promoting the community.

Town council agreed, and Patry is sworn in each October at the town’s organizational meeting.

The 63-year-old schedules town crying around running his seasonal greenhouse business, participating in historical recreations as a Sam Steele scout and playing Santa at Olds and area events.

Patry receives a small budget from his sponsor, Olds Fashioned Christmas, to use for travel and clothing, which can be elaborate.

For example, the couple’s 18th century crimson Christmas costumes feature faux fur trim on Judy’s dress and his tricorne hat.

Competitions typically call for a humorous cry and another about the host community, which requires research into the city’s history.

“It makes it really exciting. You get to know about the area.”

Most cries begin with the traditional word oyez, a corruption of the French word oyer, “to hear,” while ringing a bell for listeners’ attention.

Though this is Patry’s first time in international competition, he is an honourary member of the Ontario Guild of Town Criers and has competed often in that province.

The Kingston event is sponsored by the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and hosted by its crier, Chris Whyman, the defending world champion, who ironically can’t compete because he’s the host.

Participants are expected from Belgium, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, England and the United States.

Successful criers are the ones who can laugh at themselves, said Patry.

“Most criers are all actors and neurotic comedians. We’re all basically a little bit crazy, but we have a lot of fun.”

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