When Gander first experienced those who “come from away”, it was in response to the chaos in the skies caused by the 9/11 disaster. America shut down its airspace, and 37 aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport. 7000 people arrived on the doorstep of this small Newfoundland town populated with 10,000 inhabitants.
On 9/11 the world stopped! On 9/12 there were tales of love and compassion that moved us all. The legendary hospitality of the people of Gander was one such story. In their generous spirit they opened their homes to strangers (who, in the local vocabulary, “come from away”), and demonstrated a love and compassion that symbolizes the unique character of Newfoundlanders.
First, they “come from away”. Now, after so many years, they are coming back! Gander is in for an unexpectedly busy tourist season. When the people of Gander showed such charity to strangers they did not expect any particular recognition at that time, they figured they were just doing what anybody would do in the circumstances for their fellow men. So what has happened for this small town, nestled in the heart of Newfoundland, to be preparing for another great influx of those who come from away?
This matchless Gander story of love has been honored in the surprising shape of a Broadway musical! The musical tells the story of the characters and their unlikely relationships as they were thrown together for a few life-changing days. The writers felt that you can only tell a story about Newfoundland with music. The backdrop mentions Gander and its small neighboring towns of Glenwood, Lewisporte, Appleton, Gambo and Norris Arm.
The musical has been acclaimed by critics, and theater-goers have been stirred by the music and the story. And this has led to an extraordinary desire to visit Gander and experience the people and places first hand. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that people want to be a part of this remarkable story.
How is Gander preparing for its visitors from around Canada and the United States, and possibly other parts of the world as the story continues to be told.
Distinctively, the North Atlantic Aviation Museum is offering a Come From Away Tour and you can book your spot through their website. This daily offering includes a stop at the iconic lounge at Gander International Airport and the aviation museum itself.
Gander Airport was the biggest airport in the world when it was completed in the late 1930s. It was envisaged that it would be the gateway to North America for flights originating in Europe. This was in the days when a refueling stop was needed in order to continue further west. Many famous people passed through this airport. The Queen, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro were some of the world leaders who visited. And this was the first place on which the Beatles set foot in North America. Frank Sinatra was famously told to wait his turn when trying to push in at the bar.
The iconic lounge harks back to the days when air travel was for the wealthy. The vintage international lounge at the Gander airport retains its old world charm where Italian marble and designer furniture still display the faded glamour of world travel. The focal point is the huge mural, 72 feet long, “Flight and its Allegories” by Canadian artist Kenneth Lochhead in 1959. It is considered to be one of the most important contemporary works of art in Canada.
The Gander Arts & Culture Centre features an art gallery, a theatre able to see over 400 people and a swimming pool. Special events held at the facility include concerts, dance and graduation ceremonies. The art gallery features various artists every month. You can also fish or canoe the famous Gander River and Lake for salmon and trout.
The Main Attraction?
How else will you have the opportunity to get up close and personal to experience the famous hospitality, warmth and wit of the people of Gander? Your Come From Away Tour will give you a priceless opportunity to hear local stories and meet local characters and share the heartbeat of a wonderful town. It is the human context and the personal stories that will provide the real lasting memories from your visit.