MONT-CARMEL – Dozens of pickup trucks line the side of the road, unmistakably marking the gathering point of a pack of all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts.
Beside the trucks, an icy path cuts through a thickly wooded area down to a clearing, with smoke billowing into the air and the scent of barbequed hotdogs lingering. In the clearing sits a cabin, bustling with people eating and getting ready for the big ride ahead.
Most people are smiling, as the adults mingle and talk while the kids play. Many, however, are smiling with heavy hearts.
The ride on Sunday afternoon was organized by the P.E.I. ATV Federation, and put together in honour of a dedicated member, Corinne Gallant, who lost her battle with cancer two years ago.
“Corinne was a big part of the organization,” said Daniel Richard, vice-president of the federation. “She was always here with her husband, Norman, dishing up food or helping out wherever she could.”
Richard calls out to a fellow member to take over barbequing as he goes inside to check on the registration numbers. In total, 59 ATVs have been registered as of the 1 p.m. start time, however, the sound of engines growing ever louder outside suggests more are on the way.
The cabin, built in 2009, was made to be a spot for the members to meet. Many friendships have been formed inside the four walls since then, many of which involved Corinne.
On a table inside sits a display dedicated to her memory. Photos of Corinne and her daughters, Kim and Colleen, fill up the display, as well as shots of her and Norman. In each photo, all four are smiling.
Standing just outside the door, Norman meets everybody who walks up to him with the same smile. It’s a bittersweet day, but he’s enjoying himself.
“It’s so nice to see everybody here,” he said. “I just saw there’s 59 here so far, so that’s great.”
When Richard came to him with the idea, Norman and his daughters were unanimous in agreeing to it. This clearing, the cabin, the ATVs – it all has a very special meaning for them.
“So often we would come here and play crib,” Norman said with a smile. “Best two-out-of-three.”
The riders later battled each other in an auction, with prizes ranging from helmets and tools, to lobster dinners. All proceeds will go to a charity to be determined later.
For the Gallant family, the day celebrates a person who will always be in their life.
“We were together for 40 years, so it was a shock to the system for me and my daughters,” Norman said.
After spending 20 of those years on the trails, Norman invited his wife for one more ride this afternoon.
“I went to the cemetery before I came here today to tell her. She would really enjoy this.”