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Kempenfest - Barrie

Kempenfest Re-Visited

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

We had first visited Kempenfest in 2007. This was one of the best festivals that we have attended. It is well organized, with lots of interesting things to do and see. Tom Atkins, our contact at the festival, asked us if we would like to come back this year and walk the festival with him and a liaison< Fred Andrews, from the City of Barrie. We immediately said that we would love to! Frankly, Kempenfest is just one of those events you can’t say “No” to. The event is located close to downtown Barrie along the banks of Kempenfelt Bay. It is beautiful any time of the year, but especially so in July. The event fills most of the area along this 2 ¼ mile stretch of Lake Simcoe's Kempenfelt Bay. Looking at it from one end to the other is awe inspiring! It starts off at the north end of the bay with the “Midway” and ends, all the way at the south end with an amazing concert stage! In between can you can find artists, artisans, crafters, antiques, music, kid’s attractions and much more. It’s hard to take it all in, but we did! It’s funny, with so much to see, the walk from end to end didn’t seem that far. If you’ve never been to Kempenfest, you’ve missed a great event!

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Kempenfest

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Off To Kempenfelt Bay…

It is a beautiful warm summer day and we are driving to Barrie and Kempenfest. Are we NUTS? It’s long weekend and we are going to cottage country AND we are going to take Hwy 400! Anyone who knows will tell you NOT to take the 400 highway north on a long weekend, but we were going to. Besides its Sunday, there won’t be much traffic. As we started out I turned on the news radio station, 680AM, to listen to the traffic reports. They have them every 10 minutes. I figured if we heard a bad report for Hwy 400, we could take an alternate less used route. As we drove towards Toronto, listening to 680, I was thrilled that there were no bad reports about Hwy 400. In fact, they didn’t even mention 400 in there many reports. We drove into Toronto (no problems here!) and then onto Hwy 400. It was clear sailing! The traffic was fine and I was VERY SMART for taking this route. Just as we reach King City the traffic reporter told us that traffic was slow from Newmarket to Barrie. They didn’t actually say Barrie, they said close to Barrie, but I knew it would be at least to Barrie. After all, I’m the traffic expert, aren’t I? 680 Radio hadn’t mentioned Hwy 400 until we had reached a point of no return. I am sure they knew what route I was taking and purposely decided not to mention the problems on the 400 until I couldn’t turn back. It was a conspiracy! Like the festival troopers that we are, Judi and I (by this time Judi was fast asleep and didn’t even know we were in a traffic jam!) persevered and we finally made it to our turn off in Barrie. We headed for one of the shuttle locations and found it easily. The shuttle bus was already there, so we hurriedly gathered our festival gear and ran for the bus. The bus was full, so we had to stand for the short ride to downtown Barrie. The bus driver wound his way through the traffic. Finally we were there, we had reached the festival safely! Now we are off to explore the festival…

Kempenfest

Once off the shuttle bus, we started to look around. This festival is huge! So, where to start? We bus had let us off at the north end of the festival, so we started there. Our first stop was the Midway. It had most of the rides we were use to seeing, but for one ride. It had a “bumper car” ride! I can remember many pleasant trips to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto) were they always had “bumper cars”. I spent a good deal of my CNE stash on crashing and demolishing anyone who got in my way. I was especially fond of crashing into my mother who was always a good sport. Mind you, she gave as good as she got. It seems to me she drove our family car in a similar manner. From the Midway we headed towards the water and Kempenfelt Bay. Here we found a beautiful expanse of clear blue water. Boats were anchored in the bay, just off the festival and the sandy beach. Sun worshipers lined the beach glistening with suntan oil. Children were laughing and playing either in the water or in a nearby play area. As I looked north over the bay, I could see the outline of downtown Barrie. To the south was the festival. Colourful tents seemed to stretch forever. We have visited many festivals, both large and small, but this was the most impressive. It was truly a sight to behold! It was time to move on; we had a lot to see. There was nothing scheduled at the main stage at this time, so we bypassed it for the time being and headed for the tents, and I mean lots and lots of tents…

Arts and Crafts Along The Waterfront…

Although staying at the beach was very tempting, the arts and craft tents were calling our name! Judi and I started to make our way through the maze of tents. The variety of goods being offered was terrific. There were artists, potters, wood worker, jewelry designers, cabinet makers, seamstress, folk art and floral arrangers. Interspersed were Service Clubs offering food and refreshments. Along the way we reconnected with old acquaintances. First there was Henry Lobo. We had met Henry a number of years ago at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Henry’s relief art is very innovative and I always marvelled at his craftsmanship. Next we saw Ken Jackson, a much collected artist from London, Ontario. We originally met Ken at the Cobourg Festival, but we seem to “bump” into him at a number of different festivals. The same applies to Andrew Hogg, a wonderful wildlife artist from the Peterborough, Ontario area. I even admired Andy’s work several years ago at the Southeast Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, SC. At these events you never know who you will meet and see. The number of artists and crafters was overwhelming. We tried to take it all in, but at the end it was all a blur. Just as we were nearing the end of the arts and crafts, we transitioned into the antique section…

Antique Alley…

We now left the familiar into a new world of antiques and cast offs. Judi immediately spotted a jewelry tent and made straight for it. For $5.00 she purchase a hand made bracelet. While she was making her purchase I wandered around investigating all the different dealers and their products. Most carried a theme. First there was a tent devoted to old clocks. Then there was the dealer who seemed to specialize in old sports equipment and paraphernalia. Everywhere you looked there were items that brought back memories of days gone by, silverware, table, chairs, table, clocks and old milk bottles. When they were used many years ago they were considered ordinary everyday product that were used constantly. Now most are expensive treasures cherished by those who collect. Slowly we moved through this sea of memories and moved towards the present. The change happened quickly. One moment we were in the past and the next moment we were in the present, the present being the commercial area of the festival. Here corporations told us their stories and showed us their products. The products varied greatly. Napoleon had a showcase of their wonderful barbeques. Other products included hot tubs, pizza and bibles. At the end of commercial row an oasis appeared in the form of a Kiwanis refreshment and entertainment area. It was a very hot day, so Judi and I went into the compound, purchased 2 bottles of cool refreshing “water” and sat down to listen to the band playing music in the beer tent. Rejuvenated from our rest, we re-entered the streaming crowds that were headed south…

Back Into Familiar Territory…

We walked into another arts and crafts area. The types of products sold, were much the same as the first arts and crafts area. This time the aisles were a little wider, so it was easier to manoeuvre through the crowds and see what the tents had to offer, clothing, stained glass, floral arrangements, jams, soap and art. As a matter of fact we came across an old acquaintance, Ingrid Hunt, a wonderful artist whose specialty is miniature paintings. It is truly amazing how much detail she is able to give each original. Unfortunately (for us) she was very busy, so we passed by without saying hello. A little further down we came to what appeared to be another commercial area. Included in the area where a “Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell inflatable, an ATM machine and a Golden Rescue information tent. Passed them the space opened up and we could see the waterfront again. We walked down a small incline towards the open water. It was a beautiful sight. Sailboats were gliding across the waves, pushed by a gentle breeze. Motorboats lay anchored in the bay. Their occupants were lazing in the warm summer sun. Some had left their boats to join the crowds enjoying the sights and sounds of the festival. Having enjoyed our side trip to the waterfront, we turned back to continue our walk through the arts and crafts. The long hot walk had made us hungry and thirsty. The sign across the path was just what we needed…

Reaching the End and Back Again…

The sign said “Food Court”. A couple of service clubs had set up good sized food tents. We chose the Knights of Columbus tent and ordered our midday snack and, of course 2 bottles of cold water. After resting for a little while, we carried on with our journey. The wide spaces we had come from narrowed when we entered the food court and continued for a short distance past a few vendors’ tents. In on of the tents was our old friend Laurie Rockman  from Port Hope. Laurie is a great cartoon/illustrator specializing in whimsical dancers and humorous characters. Laurie’s booth was busy with people purchasing "gently irreverent greeting cards"! From there the festival grounds opened up again. We walked through the uncrowded space towards a “buzzing” sound. It turned out to be a chain saw carver working on a wood sculpture. Passed the wood carving area we came to the YMCA Children’s’ Village. Here kids had all sorts of attractions to amuse them. There was a Lego building tent, a NASCAR remote car track, several inflatable and a pony ride. We watched the kids enjoy themselves wishing, perhaps briefly, that we could go back in time and play with them. It had been a long day and we had a lot of distance to cover to get back to our starting point and the bus ride back to the shuttle bus. We retraced our steps and made in back to the shuttle stop in plenty of time. So much so, we were able to enjoy the one attraction we bypassed initially, the main stage. The first time we passed, the stage was empty, but now a group was playing to an enthusiastic audience. The band entertaining was “After Tuesday” This is a Canadian trio who play their own country music. The shuttle bus had arrived and we reluctantly took our leave of Kempenfest for the long journey home. 

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