Over a raised glass of good ol' Kentucky bourbon, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft kicked off the embassy's annual 4th of July Celebration with a toast “to what is genuinely a wonderful friendship” between Canada and the United States, while acknowledging that the relationship is under stress and strain.
Canada and the U.S. have an “enduring partnership that I am confident will stand the test of time, and believe me these are testing times,” the native of Kentucky told roughly 1,800 invited guests Wednesday at the annual bash hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
The gathering was kept smaller this year compared to recent years, when 4,000 or more of the embassy's closest friends showed up to eat, drink and dance the night away.
Craft spoke on the large verandah of Lornado, her official residence located in Rockcliffe Park. The stately home, which overlooks the Ottawa River, was dressed with bright and festive bunting.
Craft quoted Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers: “ 'I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend'.
“By your presence here tonight, I would assert that we all agree with Jefferson on that fundamental point of friendship,” she said to moderate sounds of approval and applause from the crowd, including from her husband, American businessman Joseph Craft III, seen standing behind her in the background.
“And what better friends through the years than Canada and the United States,” said Craft, who wore a matching two-piece, all-white cutwork outfit, with short-sleeved blouse and long pants that revealed just a hint of her casual white sneakers.
Relations between Canada and our neighbours to the south are considered to be at their worst in decades due to current trade troubles. Mayor Jim Watson was among those to take a pass on this year’s party because of his disapproval with the way U.S. President Donald Trump's White House is treating Canada.
Others, like Ottawa's well-connected Gary Zed, chose to attend because he views our countries’ relationship as a long-term commitment. “Even when a family has a quarrel, we always have Sunday dinner together,” he analogized.
There was no mention of Trump in Craft’s brief welcome remarks, which ended with her good-humoured suggestion that Canada and the United States put their differences aside with "a good ol’ sip of Kentucky bourbon.
"Let’s all raise a glass over to what is genuinely a wonderful friendship," said Craft.
Kentucky's signature spirit is one of the products on Canada's list of retaliatory tariffs.
Many of the guests waited patiently to meet the ambassador, who was hosting the 4th of July celebration for her first time since arriving to Ottawa last fall. She was friendly with guests and seen hugging and double-cheek kissing Orléans MP Andrew Leslie, who's the government's parliamentary secretary on Canada-U.S. Relations. He's been making regular photographic appearances in OBJ.social lately with the lovely Paris Jefferson, a UK-born, Australian-raised actress who won a best actress award at the British Independent Film Awards for her role in Sunset Contract.
Organizers brought the charming operatic pop group The Tenors to entertain the crowd. They sang the American National Anthem while Ottawa's talented young Isabella Nicole performed O Canada.
Seen in the crowd were Supreme Court Justice Michael Moldaver, Canada's top soldier Gen. Jon Vance, Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt, Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S, and the National Arts Centre’s new president and CEO, Christopher Deacon.
As well, BLG's former national managing partner and CEO, Sean Weir — now vice chair — attended with his Ottawa colleagues. BLG, which is one of the largest law firms in the country, was one of the many sponsors. Weir is a Conservative nomination candidate for Oakville-North Burlington.
The party was catered by the Infinity Convention Centre. Its director of food and beverage is Tim Wasylko, whose previous gig was chef to former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Adding lovely touches to the party was Sharon Bosley House, along with her team from Avant-Garde Designs. The trees were adorned with lanterns. Beneath the giant party tent were long tables decorated with white hydrangea centrepieces and candles. There were old-fashioned sofas, with U.S. and Canada Flag pillows arranged side by side.
Organizers placed giant electrical fans around the property to help guests stay cool during the summer heat wave. Still, some guests were seen fanning themselves with their paper plates. With this year's party starting in the evening, rather than late afternoon, the temperature did feel more comfortable as the night wore on.
The Kentucky-themed menu included bourbon-flambéed shrimp, fried chicken bites, sliced beef tenderloin sliders, Chioggia beet salad with dried cherries, cucumber benedictine, watermelon, macarons in red, white and blue, pecan pie, and gelato from Ottawa's Stella Luna.