Country Heritage Park
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Depicting Agriculture and Rural Life
The following is an excerpt from the Country Heritage Park website. Country Heritage Park is an interactive heritage park that depicts agriculture and rural life over the past 150 years and consists of 80 acres and thirty exhibit buildings. The whole park is a living museum that depicts the many elements of an evolving rural community of the late 1800's and early 1900's.
"OUR VISION - Country Heritage Experience Inc., will provide an opportunity for the public to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the role agriculture plays in society. People will be able to explore the evolution of rural Ontario through an imaginative blend of ever-improving educational programs, events, interactive exhibits, living history, performances and recreation. Creative partnerships will be forged and compatible business opportunities will be pursued in a continual effort to create a self-sufficient rural life heritage centre."
"The following is a description of our tour of Country Heritage Park"
Off to the Country…
We are on the road again heading west and we are heading for the country! Our destination this time is to Milton and the Country Heritage Park. I had been to the park when I was much younger, but I really didn’t remember much about it. Going back was going to be an interesting experience. Getting to the park was an experience in itself! It was like going through a maze! First we took the main Milton exit and headed north. From there it was three stop lights and then we had to turn west and take that road 3 kilometres to a “hidden” intersection! From there it was back south, under the Hwy 401 bridge, and there it was on the right hand side of the road. Fortunately there was a well marked entrance, so we couldn’t miss it! We parked our car in the large parking lot and then headed for the park an Admission building. We paid our admission fee and headed into the park. Off in the distance we heard children laughing and saw them riding strange horses! They seemed to be just going around in circles and no, it wasn’t a carousel!
Lemonade - 10¢…
The closer we came to the horses, the more we realized that they were just an illusion! They were peddled powered kids’ sulkies with a horse outline attached to the front wheel. When we arrived we saw that the kids were having a great time peddling around the enclosures! After watching the kids for a while, we were drawn into the picnic shelter. A couple of displays had been set up under the shelter of the roof. They were telling visitors about nutritious foods, and the other about local farming. Also under the roof, hot dogs were being cooked. These could be purchased along with a refreshing glass of 10¢ lemonade! It reminded me of my childhood when my friends and I sold 10¢ lemonade from our front lawns! After the refreshments, Judi and I left the picnic area and started our walking tour of the Country Heritage Park. We followed the map that had been given to us at the admission office. The first building we came to was the Mayne Corners United Church. This was a beautiful old building. The next building was a country school house. The plaque outside said it was “S.S. No. 6, Nassagaweya”. This time we could enter the building. Inside a teacher interpreter was telling some visitors and their children about the school and what life was like back when it was in use. From the school we walked quite a distance to the Massy-Harris Museum. Inside we were greeted by portraits and information about the various people who had managed the company. We passed the portraits into the main core of the building. Farm equipment filled the large space. All of the equipment had been manufactured by Massey-Harris. It was fascinating to see the progression in design of the tractors they produced. Also, I hadn’t realized how many types or products they offered. The one that surprised me the most was the bicycle with wooden tires. I understand that the bicycle division was eventually sold to CCM. I am not sure if that’s true, but it makes a good story! We exited from the Massy-Harris and continued our tour of the Country Heritage Park.
Rural Heritage Ontario…
The dusty gravel road took us to an old Ford Dealer Sales and Service outlet. It made me feel like I had entered one of Canadian Artist, James Lumbers, “Memory” paintings. I felt like I would see the “ghost” of one of my ancestors walking out of the building to greet me! My father’s family had manufactured carriages in Lakefield, ON, so my feelings weren’t too off base! We walked passed the Imperial Oil gas pump and entered the garage. Inside an old Ford was being worked by a mechanic. Further back in the building was a display of old vehicles. The assortment of vehicles was most unusual! First there was the fore-runner to the modern snowmobile. An antique truck with skis attached to the front suspension. Then there was an old tractor with tractor treads. Someone had placed a giant stuffed bear behind the steering wheel! A couple more classic vehicles completed the display! Back outside the Ford Dealership, we turned west towards the distant Niagara Escarpment. High I a hill sat the Cockshutt Farm Equipment barn. We walked up the dusty path that led to the barn’s ramp. Inside the building, a display of Cockshutt tractors filled the space. After admiring the tractors, we left the building through the rear exit. From there the road twisted and turned until we came to an old barn. We walked down a slope to the back of the barn. There was a fence enclosure attached to barn. This allowed the barnyard animals to freely come and go from the inside of the barn to the outside. As we arrived a beautiful horse emerged from the shadows of the barn. He had come out to greet us. Once he found out that we had nothing to offer him, he strolled back inside. There were lots of other animal in the barn besides our disappointed friend. There were two cows munching on hay. There were several inquisitive goats stretching their necks to get a better look at us and our friend, the horse, had a companion. Upstairs there were more animals! A chicken coop contained several chicks. Other barn residents included more chicken, rabbits and a couple of pheasants! After inspecting all the animals, we left the dark confines of the barn, walked passed large hay bails and squinted as we entered into the bright daylight. Once we were accustomed to the light, we continued on our journey of the Country Heritage Park. Our path took us up a steep hill, passed what appeared to be a lookout tower and then down again towards a giant octagon shaped barn. The white dome of the building glimmered in the sun! The path merged with a dirt road that led us back down the hill. A short distance away was the Lucas House.
Rural Heritage Industry…
As we walked down the hill we passed the fenced fields of the Lucas Homestead. At the bottom of the hill we turned right and continued to follow the fence line. Above us we could see the Lucas House. A little further along the road was a field where moments before a herd of sheep had been sleepily grazing. Now as we passed the field the last of the sheep entered the barn above. The road turned east. On our left was a Driveshed with a number of antique Allis-Chalmers tractors in it. Eventually we came to the park’s snack bar. We sat in a shaded area for a few moments and then continued down the road to a group of industrial looking buildings. The first building was for the storage of wagons and carriages. The centre of the enclosure was open with covered storage on either side. As we walked in, there were open wagons to our right and delivery wagons and carriages to our left. Across from the wagon storage was the Shelburne Pump Works. Inside the building contained a number of small rooms. We eventually came to an area that had a number of apple related displays. Once we were outside the building I notice a sign saying that we had been in the Apple Butter and Cider Plant. Moooving to the next building, whose sign said “Milk on the Mooove”, we were greeted by a cheery “milk-maid”! The milk building interpreter explained the milk process and showed us a number of displays that had been designed to teach children all about the milk process. From there we left our host and continued our investigation of the milk building. Along the way we passed a milking display, a “Sunnyside Dairy” delivery truck and several butter churns! It was a wonderful exhibit! Back outside we took the road that would lead us back to the picnic area. We passed several buildings, including Featherstone’s Sales Stable, J. Templin’s Wagons and McDuffe Implements. Eventually we wound our way back from our sightseeing tour to the picnic shelter. One of the wagon tours was just about to leave, so we decided to see the park again, this time in the comfort of the moving wagon. This was a relaxing way to see the park, but not as much fun! When we started out I didn’t appreciate just how large and diverse the park was. Having walked most of it, I marvel at enormity of it! the Country Heritage Park certainly captured our hearts and imagination! The sights and sounds made me wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to explore this marvellous place of history! As we traveled along the park roads in the tractor drawn wagon, a dark cloud began to appear off the north. As we neared the admissions building a low rumble of thunder could be heard off in the distance. A storm was coming our way and moving very quickly. The tractor driver kindly stopped near the building and let a number of us off the wagon. We hurried to our car. Just as we reached, the skies opened and a torrent of rain fell! It was amazing, though, the rain stopped just as quickly as it had come and the sun shone again! We had great fun at the Country Heritage Park!
Country Heritage Park has a number of special events that are held throughout the year. Here is a list of events that was available at the time of writing this article.
April/May - Milton Farm Craft Show
May - Doors Open Milton
June - Country Renaissance Festival
June - Annual Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
June - The Teddy Bear's Picnic
July - Farm Fun for Kids
July - Rural Heritage Traditions
July - All Colour Antique Tractor & Toy Show and Fair
July - Gladsden's Midsummer Antique Expo
July - Kid's Farm and Country Fun Day
July/August - The Pirate Festival
August - Heavy Horse Field Days
August - Summer on the Farm
August - American Civil War Re-enactment
August - Corn Harvest Festival
September - Milton Farm Craft Show
October - Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet
October - Heritage Fall Harvest Celebration
October - Bellies & Babies Day
November - Heritage Parade of Lights
November - On the Road to Bethlehem
December - New Year's Eve Gala & Country Heritage Park Fundraiser
You can visit the Country Heritage Park website for current event information. (Link: http://www.countryheritagepark.com/ )