Billy Talent to Be Immortalized in Mississauga

This Saturday, six accomplished groups and individuals who hail from Mississauga will be inducted into Legend's Row, a relatively new but prestigious ceremony and award that honors the contributions of well-known people who live in or are from the city.

Even though the ceremony is pretty fresh and the idea itself is only four years old, inductions are already considered an extremely high honor -- perhaps even the highest the city has to offer.

As for the chosen recipients, this year's honorees include Ontario Women's Hockey founder Fran Rider, internationally-recognized Streetsville band Billy Talent (Ian D’Sa, guitar, Jon Gallant, bass, Aaron Solowoniuk, drums and Ben Kowalewicz, vocals), builder and developer Ignat Kaneff, CFL star Chuck Ealey, former Mississauga News publisher and Living Arts Centre CEO Ron Lenyk and retired chairman and CEO of General Electric Canada Robert Gillespie.

"We started it four years ago," says Ron Duquette, the founder and president of the Legend's Row organization. "I put the idea together and got friends and associates to help me form a not-for-profit and put a board of directors together to present the concept to the city. The city loved the idea."

Each and every inductee has contributed to the city's (and, in most cases, the country's and world's) athletic, arts, entertainment, public service, business and philanthropic communities. While some readers might be learning about some inductees for the first time, we think you might have heard about Billy Talent.

My memories of Billy Talent are -- and this pains me to say it because it means the years are, indeed, passing -- nostalgic ones. Back in 2003, I was entering my first year at York University and listening to Edge 102 in my not-so-trusty (it stalled in the rain and had no power steering) Sunfire on the long journey to and from school. During Frosh week, Try Honesty played constantly and, a few weeks later, Billy Talent performed at Sheridan College's Trafalgar Campus pub. I did not go, but a few friends did.

They said the boys of BT were very nice.

The homegrown band was on fire and, though their audience has changed, they're still happy and proud to represent the city they called home for so many years.

"[Guitarist] Ian D'Sa did the introduction when we inducted Triumph [last year]," says Duquette. "When I said they were nominated and then chosen, he was excited and I think all four guys are really pumped. They like coming back to Mississauga. What impresses me about them is they always refer to Mississauga and Streetsville and Meadowvale [as their home]. They're proud of their roots. They say 'we're from Mississauga or Streetsville' and that's one reason the selection committee focused on them."

For those who are unaware, Legend's Row is, at this point, purely an induction ceremony. There are, however, bigger and more tangible plans for it. Each inductee will have a totem constructed in his or her honor that showcases his or her accomplishments. These totems will soon be placed at Celebration Square, providing passersby with a sort of outdoor museum to peruse.

"We don't have the physical structure on Celebration Square yet," says Duquette. "There's space allotted to us and we're hoping to have the first part of the infrastructure up on the Square in the spring. The nice thing about our project that's different from the Walk of Fame on King Street is we're not embedding plaques in the sidewalk. We're putting something there where you can read about the person. We'll tell their story."

As for how nominees are selected, Duquette says the process is pretty straightforward.

"It's a really transparent process," he explains. "We invite the public to nominate online and we take all the names -- we had 20 this year -- to a community advisory committee who represent different facets of the community and they feed us names and we get them together and have them make their selections. That info comes to our board and the board makes the final selection."

As for how the ceremony -- which will take place in the Great Hall in the Civic Centre -- will unfold, simplicity, again, is key.

"It's straightforward," Duquette says. "We show a video of each inductee to give the audience some perspective and they receive the award and give a speech."

The ceremony, which begins at 1 pm Saturday December 5th, is free and open to the public.

"Billy Talent fans might be able to get an autograph," Duquette says.

As for what the future holds for Legend's Row, Duquette sees the ceremony growing.

"I can see performances happening down the road as we grow," he says. "It could become more of an event, like a gala. Right now, we're letting it grow naturally. I expect it could become the event of the year in Mississauga."

So, if you're hanging around the Square on Saturday and you want to say hello to Billy Talent -- or any other nominees -- check out the ceremony.

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