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Canada Day 2012 In Ottawa: 145th Birthday Celebrated With Feist, Grey Cup And Revelry (PHOTOS)

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CANADA DAY
Fireworks explode over Parliament Hill as part of Canada Day festivities in Ottawa on Friday July 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn | CP

OTTAWA - Thousands of people covered Parliament Hill in red and white on Sunday for Canada's 145th birthday.

But the passionate patriotism of Canada Days' past was replaced by a smaller crowd seemingly subdued by the history lesson on the War of 1812, which formed the main theme of the celebrations.

Necks craned skyward for the traditional flypast of the Snowbirds and then all eyes turned to the musical performances including Feist, Roch Voisine and Simple Plan, who closed the noontime show.

Their performance drew the crowd out of its midday stupor, with teenage girls shrieking and singing as the Montreal-based band rocked on.

Even Governor General David Johnston joined the party, waving his hands from side to side in time with the music.

"It is a little known fact that many of the founders of this country were great music lovers and even in the 1860s, Canadians loved a good party," Johnston said in his speech.

Johnston praised Canadians as hard workers, for their families, communities and country.

"Having travelled across this country and visited thousands of Canadians in their communities, I know how hard you work," he said.

"I also know that regardless of age or affiliation, all Canadians want to create a better future for this country."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also found himself caught up in the spirit of the day.

As the events drew to a close, he was prompted by the crowd chanting his name to change his mind about getting into his car and ran off to shake a few more hands.

"It was pretty cool," said Laura Selby-Maley, 23, who was marking her fourth Canada Day on the Hill.

In his remarks, Harper told the crowd that Canadians have much for which to be proud and thankful.

"Proud of a strong and growing economy, proud of a caring and compassionate society, proud and ready to cheer on the young men and women who are headed to London, our Olympic and Paralympic athletes," Harper said.

In London, some Canadian athletes preparing to compete at this month's Olympics gathered in Trafalgar Square for the annual Canada Day party there, which featured street hockey and performances by Canadian musicians.

"It’s amazing to see how much support and excitement there is for the Canadian Olympic team,” said rhythmic gymnast Rose Cossar in a statement.

“All of us athletes really, really appreciate your support.”

Two years ago, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics were the central theme of the celebrations in Ottawa and last year, the newlywed royal couple, Prince William and his wife Kate, saw the Hill packed to the gills.

But this year's focus on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 didn't whip the crowd into the same spirited frenzy as has been seen in years past.

Vignettes featuring actors portraying some of the key figures in the war, like Shawnee chief Tecumseh and Laura Secord drew muted applause.

Afterwards though, many said they thought the performances added something to the day.

"It was maybe a bit more attractive to people than if someone went up and did a lecture on the war," said Andrew Moull, 24.

"I thought they did a good job bringing it alive and making it appealing to a broad group of people."

Moull said he felt the War of 1812 often gets forgotten until it reaches an important anniversary.

And the prime minister said the 200th anniversary is an important milestone to celebrate.

"What makes the War of 1812 so significant — it's the first time Canadians developed a common sense of nationality and that's because English-speaking Canadians, French-speaking Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians and others all bound together to resist the American invasion," he said in an interview before joining the celebrations.

"It really was a seminal moment in the development and ultimate establishment of this country."

The Americans agree.

"It defined the geographic, cultural, and political future of our continent and our peoples," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement marking Canada Day.

"Two hundred years ago, we were adversaries; today, our two countries share ties of family, culture, and trade. Our relationship is as close as the relationship between any two other countries."

A nod to history also marked celebrations in Nova Scotia, where a party was held at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. There, Canada's birthday cake was cut with a sword.

In Calgary a demonstration of Canadian-invented or uniquely Canadian sports marked one event celebrating the national holiday. Hundreds grabbed sticks, shot hoops, or rolled bowling balls at celebrations hosted by Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, located at Canada Olympic Park.

Across Canada, more than 30 special citizenship ceremonies were also held, swearing in over 1,500 new Canadians.

Shabnam Clark was one of many new Canadians on Parliament Hill.

She received her citizenship last year after arriving from Iran and said she wanted to join the celebrations because her newfound country offers her so much.

"I like that Canada is a very peaceful country," she said.

This year's festivities marked the first Canada Day since 2006 without a major contingent of Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.

Canada's combat mission in Kandahar ended last July.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Kabul, marking the day with those still in the country training Afghan security forces.

"It is with the utmost pride that I have the opportunity to celebrate Canada Day with the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces," said MacKay in a statement.

"Our personnel serving in Afghanistan continue to make great strides in their mission. Their strength, perseverance and leadership are a source of pride and inspiration for Canadians everywhere, and remind of the greatness that our country can achieve."

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