When I started to think about writing this article, I thought about the beginning of each year and what it meant to me. January is one of those “Transition” months. Each New Year represents the end of one journey and the start of a new one. When you think about it, you start reminiscing about the past year and thinking about what’s ahead. That’s why we have “New Year’s Resolutions”, isn’t it? You worry about what you haven’t done and challenge yourself to make changes in the future! I think reminiscing is cathartic. During any given year, both good and sad things happen. It certainly did for Judi and me. Here’s what I mean ~ Sad, because we lost a number of good friends… Good, because we made a number of new friends over the course of the year; Sad, because we had to move from a community (Cobourg) that we loved… Good, because we moved to a new community (Thornbury) that we are learning to love; Sad, because of the challenges we had with our Ontario Visited websites at the beginning of 2014… Good, because the website has now become what we always dreamed it would become. Anyway, you get the picture! Now, here’s the “transition” part! We get to think (plan/dream) about what’s to come. With the move to Thornbury, we have new opportunities, new communities and events to visit. The process is rejuvenating! As I mention in last month’s INSIDER, I’ve even become NORTHERNFIED (is that a word?). I now have warm glove/mats, snow boots, long underwear, wind pants, large braces (to keep my pants up!), a balaclava, a goofy winter hat (with flaps and fake fur) and, wait for it, a NEW kick-*** winter jacket (all the way from British Columbia). When I am all dressed up, I am the “picture” of a “true” Ontario Northerner. Oh, by the way, I’ve even purchased “SNOW TIRES”! Let the JOURNEY begin!
Festival Nomad's Report...
As I mentioned in my first article, January is a time for looking back. I won't bore you with too many details, but I'd like to highlight some of the more memorable adventures. The first was in February. For some time, we had planned on attending and exhibiting at the annual Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS). We had done it the year before and had had a great time. This year was going to be different, because we had been asked to present a seminar to OAAS members on "Promoting Your Fair". The seminar went off without a hitch and was well attended and appreciated. Our next big adventure was in Ottawa. Judi had arranged an interview with The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Federal Minister of State for Small Business, Tourism and Agriculture. We had a great meeting with the Minister and his staff. After the interview we explored the Byward Market in downtown Ottawa. What a great place to investigate. Further in the same month we traveled to Toronto (Mississauga) for the Exposure Show. No, it wasn't a "nudist convention", but there were a lot of photos being taken. This show is sponsored by HENRY'S Camera Stores and features all of the latest camera and video equipment. Quite an eye opener! It was now June and all kinds of interesting events took place. First there was Settlers' Day at the Kawartha Settlers' Village in Bobcaygeon. If you have never been to Bobcaygeon or the Settlers' Village, you should, its a great place to explore. Speaking of exploring, our next stop was at the Westfield Heritage Village located near Rockton (Hamilton). We were there for their 50th anniversary celebrations. I told Judi that I wanted to go back just to have a picnic lunch. The grounds are so beautiful and serene. There was nothing serene about our next adventure. A trip to Toronto and the Redpath Waterfront Festival. Getting to Toronto's Harbourfront, on that particular day was quite exciting, a transport truck had flipped over on the 401 highway and the whole westbound was closed. The extra miles traveled were worth it, though, because the event held at the Festival were spectacular. The "Flyboarding" Competition was awesome. TD Bank now has a commercial that features a "customer" trying his hand at Flyboarding, very funny! The other fun event at the Redpath Festival was the "DockDogs" These were "hyper-active" dogs "flying" off the end of a makeshift dock to see how far they could jump into the water! I stood a little too close and got water in my face and almost on my camera. Judi, aka "Scoop" thought that it was quite amusing! At the end of the month we visited Kingston and Lory MacDonald's Artfest Kingston. It's amazing how many wonderful artists and artisan this event attracts! We stayed in the area for a few days and were able to visit both Fort Wellington (Prescott) and Historic Bath on Canada Day. The Village of Bath is famous for its Canada Day celebrations. Canada Day celebrations in 2017 (Canada's 150 Birthday) should be something else! In July we decided to take a trip to the "Forks on the Credit".
"The Doug Leahy Family in concert with Tom Leadbeater."
We hadn't been there in years and wanted to experience the twisting and turning of the road that travels west from Highway 10 up the Niagara Escarpment to Belfountain. Once we reached the top of the Escarpment, we decided to continue exploring. As we traveled southward, we came across a sign that read "Mill St. and Creditview Rd. Closed July 5 for Cheltenham Day". We HAD to investigate! We drove down the "closed" road, found a parking spot and then walked a short distance to the Village. Shouts of laughter filled the air! A "Blueberry Pie" eating contest was in full swing. A group of people surrounded a table filled with blueberry pies. Just as we arrived a voice over a loud speaker yelled "GO". Pandemonium rained! Pieces of pie seemed to fly everywhere! Faces turned "blueberry blue" as the pies were consumed! I'm not sure who won, but everyone, including the spectators, had a lot of fun. You never know what's going to happen when you venture into a small community event! They sure know how to have fun! August turned out to be a very exciting month! First there was our trip to Campbellford and the Westben Arts Festival Theatre. The Doug Leahy Family were performing. WOW, what a treat! Doug Leahy (of the Lakefield Leahy's) and his family took to the stage and mesmerized the audience with their magical talent. The children's ages ranged from 12 to 3! A week later Judi and I were honoured to travel to Lakefield to interview the whole family. In between, we traveled to Stratford for a "FAMtour" (familiarization tour). Our entire experience was incredible! Stratford is an enchanting community that "opens its arms" to visitors and caters to their "needs and wants". The month also took us to Wasaga Beach and the 200th anniversary of the 1812 battle of Wasaga Under Siege. This was our friend, David Brunelle's, last 1812 re-enactment as an organizer. August ended with a trip to Murphy Point Provincial Park (located near Perth) to explore the Silver Queen Mica Mine. This was one of the many events held each year during the Heritage Mica Days. Things slowed down for us in September. That is for Ontario Visited travel! This was the month that Judi and I were scheduled to pack up all our belongings in Cobourg and move "half-way across the world" (okay, half-way across southern Ontario) to Thornbury. However, as soon as we had completed our move, we orchestrated our own "FAMtour" of the area. Fortunately, autumn colours were in full bloom, so our camera "came alive", filled with amazing imagery! The move was what we needed to enhance our love of Ontario, its communities and its people! After the rigours of our move and our frequent tours of the area, our travels, far and wide, slowed down. Instead, we decided to dedicate ourselves, at least for a little while, to enjoying our new surroundings and community. After all, we had had a busy summer and it was time to relax a little. Remember, that the foregoing, was just a sampling of all of the adventures that we and our Festival Nomad Correspondents experienced during 2014. For future travels, as I have mentioned in previous "reports", I have been preparing for "winter fun" in the "north" country, skiing on the mountains (while watching anyway), visiting winter events such as Wasaga Beach's Snowman Mania or Meaford's Winter Festival held in February during the Family Day Weekend. Who knows, maybe we'll venture forth to Wiarton on Ground Hog Day to witness Wiarton Willie's search for his shadow. Maybe we'll get caught up in time!
"Winter Man ~ aka The Festival Nomad dressed in full winter gear!"
Over the past few INSIDER Newsletter issues, I have outlined the changes we have made to the Ontario Visited Websites. In this newsletter, I’d like to give a more complete and up-to-date tour of the websites. Because of the Search Engine popularity of Ontario Festivals Visited, we have “ear-marked” it as our “Entry” point. So, we’ll start there. Once you have reached the welcome page you’ll see, below the sliding photos, three “Icon Images” Each of these Icons lead you to a different section.
The Icon on the left, the “Tall Ship” takes you to our Ontario Visited website list. Here you are able to enter one of our 7 websites. Each website is similarly set-up, except that each has its own Articles Visited list. As an example, on the Ontario Fairs Visited website, you can discover and read about all of the Ontario Fairs we have visited.
The middle Icon, “Judi in a Printing Shop”, takes you the Ontario Visited Article lists. Each list is subdivided into Ontario Regions. As an example, if you “click” onto the Durham-York Region, you will be able to see and read about all of the events and communities we have visited in Durham-York.
The right Icon, the “Winona Peach Festival Information Booth”, takes you to a list of our various “Information” pages and articles. They include Banner Advertising Information, Meet Our Advertisers, Top 100 Ontario Festivals & Events (as chosen by Festivals and Events Ontario) and a link to both our Current INSIDER Newsletter and to past Newsletters. There are many more services available, so feel free to browse.
Below these 3 Icons, there are 3 more. This area represents our “Special Information” websites. Each helps web visitors discover Event Information. The first Icon, Ontario Event Finder, acts as a Search Engine that allows visitors to search for event through various search method, such as location, date and type of event. It also allows you to search for specific events. The second Icon, Ontario Event Calendar, contains hundreds of Ontario festivals and events. More are being added daily. Web visitors can review calendar dates to find events that they might be interested in. Each event entry has a link back to the events website. The final Icon in the section, Ontario Event News, contains up-to-date Event News. Communities and organizers send us information and announcements about their events. This is a great source of current event news. All of these three Ontario Event Information websites allow organizers to add their own news and event information through easy to use “Submit” forms. Forms are accessible on the entry pages of both the Ontario Event Finder and the Ontario Event News. Event Calendar information is automatically added when the Event Finder is used.
As for the remainder of the website, here is a summary ~
- Past Ontario Adventures – This area contains links to past Ontario Visited Articles. It is intended to give web visitors a “taste” past articles that can be found within all Ontario Visited Websites.
- The Inside Scoop – This is a regular Blog written by Judi “Scoop” McWilliams. The blog contains insightful interviews with Industry leaders. Some of the recent articles include interviews with federal Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Honourable Maxime Bernier; with Kelly Ray, Communications Officer with the Canada Agriculture & Food Museum and with John Harrison, Chair of the West Coast Blues Festival located in Goderich.
- INSIDER Newsletter Sign-up – There’s a link to “Subscribe” to our FREE monthly newsletter ~ THE INSIDER.
- Twitter Feed – At the bottom of the page there’s a “Twitter Feed” that is also linked to the Ontario Festivals Visited Twitter page. Judi sends out numerous “Tweets” and “Re-tweets” daily. This is another chance for event web visitors to “catch up” on the latest “Event Happenings”.
- Other features include a “Sliding Photo Show” at the top of each website: a “Search” button for finding specific information; a “Leave a Comment” button if you’d like to share your experiences with other visitors; a “Contact Us” link (Yes, we would like to hear from you!) and, finally, a “Testimonial Area” that shows visitors what other say about Ontario Visited. (Yes, they are all positive… go figure!!!)
"Skiing begins at Blue Mountain"
Now that I am part of the “Winter Scene” (after all I’m only a “stone’s throw” from Ontario’s winter playground, Blue Mountain), I thought I’d investigate some of Ontario’s (Canada’s) winter activities! Yes, there’s skiing, skating and tobogganing, but they are just too “common”. With that in mind, I decided to “search” the Internet for more “interesting” winter fun!
- How about “Igloo Building”? This sounds like a great way of helping the kids build a really “neat” fort! Especially if there’s a “snowball fight” in the offing! A good, strong fort will give you and your kids the upper hand. Although, if the “fight” turns out to be the kids against you, you could be in “trouble”!
- Have “Shovel” (or “Wok”), find a hill and go “Shovel Racing”. This is something you’ll want to do right after you’ve finished your’s and your neighbour’s driveway. Of course, you might not be able to do this until after you’ve recovered from your “hernia”.
- There is always “Snow Golfing”! This should suit my golfing friends (they will go nameless!) just fine! They’re tough and love “golf” adventures! They can use a “snowmobile” as a golf cart. The only challenge they could have is finding the “hole”! That shouldn’t be a problem anyway, because they have that same problem in the summer!
- You and your friends could go for a “Polar Bear Dip”! Now that really sounds like a lot of FUN! The only problem for me, is that I get cold going for a “Dip” in the summer. I guess I’ll just stand by and watch, while wearing my new Winter Outfit (see above!). Have a “good time”, I know I will!
- Here’s an activity I think I could really enjoy! Visiting an “Ice Wine Festival” and sipping wine at an “Ice Bar”! Maybe I could invite my two golfing buddies to join once they had finished their “Snow Golf Game”! I knew that the “winter” could be a lot of FUN!
- Judi tells me that “Building Snow Animals” is a lot of fun. She and her sisters used to do this as kids! Apparently her “old(er)” sister made Judi and her twin do all of the work! They use to call her “Bossy” Carol… I still do!
- However, here’s my favourite activity, “Skijoring”! Not because I’d like to do it, but because I just like the name! It sounds foreign and exciting! It’s seems easy enough, all you have to do is to find a couple of dogs (perhaps the “DockDogs” will do), attach them to a harness, put on a pair of skis (not them, on you!) and then yell “MUSH”! Of course, who knows where they will take you, hopefully to the nearest “Ice Wine Bar and Festival”.
Let me know if you can think of any other unique “winter activities”, maybe I’ll join you!
"Winter comes to Thornbury."
Reflections of the Past ~ Across Canada Visited
A few years, I wrote several Blog articles describing a trip that Judi and I took across Western Canada. 2015 will mark the 25th anniversary since we took that trip. Although we didn’t know it then, it was the start of our “love affair” with exploring and discovering Canada’s great “Adventures”. As we enter our 9th year of reporting on Ontario communities and events, I thought that I would share one of our “Across Canada Visited” adventures.
ACROSS CANADA … Where to Sleep?
We eventually had a great meeting in Minneapolis. The Hadley House people couldn’t have treated us better. After a breakfast meeting brunch and a tour of their facility, we were back on the road. The good night's sleep had done wonders for us. Now we were off, back to Canada and the City of Winnipeg. Winnipeg is almost directly north of Minneapolis and the trip can be a fairly tedious long drive! We played "travel games" to pass the time. We traveled the route without incidence and even crossed the border smoothly. The Canadian Border guards seemed to be less bored then their American counterparts. Of course, when we crossed the border this time, it was late afternoon. When we finally reached Winnipeg, it was early evening. We decided to drive around the city to get our bearings. We had an appointment to visit the Assiniboine Zoo the next day. Because of costs, we decided to find a safe place to park and then to sleep in the van. By the time we started to look seriously for a place to park, it was becoming quite dark. After much “driving around”, we found what appeared to be the perfect spot! It was a parking lot located right on the edge of a river. It was a clear night, and the moon reflected in the ripples of the water. Very romantic! After we parked, we settled down for a good night’s sleep! Judi was in the back of the van and I was lying back in the driver’s seat. What happened next was hard to imagine!
We had just gotten to sleep when I was awakened with a flashing light! It was the police! The police car came to a stop behind our vehicle and an officer got out of his car and approached ours. He taped on our window and I rolled it down a crack (you can’t be too careful!). The officer bent down and said “I don’t want to alarm you (he did!) But right across the river is a penitentiary and two convicts have just escaped! We would suggest you not open your door or window to anyone!” I thanked the officer and he walked back to his car and drove away. What took place after that could have come straight from the Peter Seller’s movie, “The Pink Panther”. Police cars came passed us, to and fro, over the bridge and then back! I was looking for men in "Gorillas Suits"! Lights were flashing! Everything was a whirl! Finally the action stopped and all was quite again (so much for the romance!) Judi and I had just gotten to sleep again when another police car, lights flashing, pulled up behind us! The office got out of his car and then tapped on our window. Once again I rolled the window a crack (still careful!) The officer said “I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s a penitentiary across the river and two convicts have escaped! I would suggest you leave this area immediately!” Talk about being alarmed! We told him that we didn’t know the area (we thought that we were in the middle of nowhere!) The officer said “Just go two blocks across the bridge and you’ll come to a main highway. There’s a truck stop right there! You’ll be safe at the stop!" We of course, thanked the officers and moved quickly down the road. Another night of adventure and lack of sleep! By the way, we never did find out if they captured the convicts!
After we left Winnipeg and traveled across the Prairies, we went to Calgary and the Calgary Stampede.
"Here we are at the Calgary Stampede Parade, 1990."