It goes without saying that 2016 has been a particularly unique year.
Here in Southeastern Ontario, this past year has been particularly exciting for travellers and locals alike. Spanning from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties, 2016 has been a year brimming with fun-filled activities, wonderful special events, delicious culinary experiences, and great music festivals.
In the short time since I first joined in on the journey, we’ve traveled to some fascinating places together. We’ve gone off the beaten path and visited a remarkable variety of destinations hidden in plain sight. We bravely explored The Great Waterway’s paranormal history – and even stepped through time to rediscover this region’s rich and living heritage.
As we rapidly approach the New Year, it’s the perfect time to take a look back and reflect on 2016’s outstanding events and happenings. Without further delay, here is a collection of some of our favourite moments from 2016.
BAY OF QUINTE
Return of the Quinte International Airshow
June 25-26th 2016 saw the triumphant return of this epic aviation event after a long, seven-year hiatus. Roughly 75,000 spectators gathered at CFB Trenton to marvel at aerobatic performances by the Snowbirds, the ever popular CF-18 demo, and a variety of other gorgeous aircraft from both the Royal Canadian and United States’ Air Forces.
If you’ve never experienced the thrill and adrenaline rush of an air-show, fear not! The 2016 Quinte International Air Show was so successful that it has been confirmed to be a biennial event, coming back in 2018!
Trenton Scottish Irish Festival
The Trenton Scottish-Irish Festival is always a fun event for the whole family. September 2016 marked a bigger than ever celebration of the Bay of Quinte’s Celtic ancestry with a variety of traditional music, highland games, and authentic heritage foods.
The 2016 festival’s most unforgettable moment perhaps, was a fantastic performance by Alan Doyle, best known for his vocals in the popular Canadian Celtic band: Great Big Sea!
Savour: Bay of Quinte Food and Drink Festival
Savour was an especially tasty event held in October at Trenton’s Knights of Columbus Hall. It brought together a spectacular collection of local wineries, brewers and culinary masters from the surrounding area, resulting in a casual and uniquely local celebration of music, food, and beverages, as well as beautiful exhibits of fine art.
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
20th Anniversary of the Prince Edward County Authors Festival
April 2016 was a rather momentous occasion for the Prince Edward County Authors Festival as attendees helped celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. This literary festival began as a “small idea in 1996″, first originating in Milford Ontario.
Two decades later, the PEC Authors Festival has grown into a four-day extravaganza featuring poetry readings, kids story sessions, and in-depth conversations with Canadian literary icons including Linwood Barclay and Nino Ricci, and more!
Stay tuned to their website for details about next year!
Countylicious is a bi-annual celebration of Prince Edward County’s unique culinary creativity and talent. During the 2016 celebration, chefs from participating restaurants carefully crafted County inspired three-course meals that came at incredible ‘prixe-fixe’ rates.
Great Waterway blogger: Jordan Whitehouse took us behind the menus of Countylicious and sat down with three of the participating chefs to get an insider’s look into this famous (and delicious) event.
Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area
The cosmic events viewable from the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area top the list of The Great Waterway’s far from ordinary activities. This ideal destination for astronomy enthusiasts and stargazers alike offers some of the best views of our night’s sky.
Professional astronomers have described the Dark Sky Viewing Area as the most southerly point in Ontario, presenting a “perfect” and undisturbed opportunity to observe some amazing interstellar sights including the Northern Lights, the Perseid meteor showers, constellations and so much more.
For directions and more information check out the L&A Dark Sky Facebook Page.
Subterranean Adventures at the Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves
While many of our stories take place among scenic driving routes, picturesque national parks, and other fantastic attractions – one destination, in particular, showcases a wondrous world of discovery directly underground. Back in June, The Great Waterway’s adventure blogger: Jenn Pinarski took her family to the Hell Holes and gave us a first-hand glimpse into this fascinating underworld.
The Hell Holes Nature Trails & Caves near Napanee boasts a huge choice of geological attractions including walking trails, a mini-like rainforest environment, and some seriously cool caves ripe for spelunking.
Seed to Sausage’s 5th Annual Day of the Pig
For the fifth year in a row, Seed to Sausage has hosted the ‘Day of the Pig” food festival in Tichborne Ontario. The festival boasts an eclectic gathering of chefs, craft brewers, wineries and other artisan food producers from Southeastern Ontario and beyond.
In May 2016 visitors flocked to the Land O Lakes region to indulge their taste buds with a menagerie of mouthwatering local fare. Day of the Pig has been growing each year in popularity and is sure to make a return in 2017. Stay tuned to Seed to Sausage’s Facebook for details.
The Tragically Hip Celebration in Springer Market Square
August 20th, 2016 was the day that Kingston became our nation’s capital once more. The Limestone City was the final stop for The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem Tour, and perhaps the band’s last show.
Over 25,000 fans flocked to Kingston from all over Canada to pay homage to Gord Downie and collectively celebrate an iconic group of Canadian musicians in their very own hometown. We were on hand to attend the celebration in Springer Market Square, where we spoke with fans and stood witness to a momentous occasion fit for the history books.
Re-opening of Kingston Pen Tours
For nearly a century and a half, Kingston Penitentiary has stood as an infamous and formidable structure looming over Portsmouth Village with an ominous air of history, and intrigue. Some of Canada’s most notorious criminals have been incarcerated here over the years, and some have even escaped from this massive limestone prison.
In June, Jenn Pinarski bravely took us beyond the North Gate, and into Kingston Pen’s labyrinthian cell blocks and it’s deepest dungeons on an incredible exploration of this iconic destination.
Kingston Pen Tours will be returning from May to October 2017, so be sure to stay tuned for ticket info!
Lumina Borealis surprised us all in a good way and took the region by storm after launching on December 1st, 2016. This mystical adventure of mythic proportions has transformed Fort Henry National Historic site into something out of a storybook.
Our very own Jenn Pinarski wrote an excellent article about her magical experience at Lumina Borealis and how this event offers a unique and creative winter attraction for the entire family.
The best news is that Lumina will continue until February 4th, 2017 so there is still time to score tickets and experience it for yourself. This winter, make the trip to Kingston and unleash your imagination in the frozen fantasy realm of Lumina Borealis!
The Launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park
I can remember being a kid, watching Return of the Jedi for the five hundredth time, and wishing I could run around in a real life Ewok tree village. Thanks to the 2016 launch of Skywood Eco Adventure Park that childhood fantasy has pretty much, become a reality.
This fantastic outdoor attraction is Ontario’s largest zip lining and canopy adventure park featuring a tree-top village for the kids in addition to a selection of courses that meet a variety of skill levels.
The park is closed for the winter, but this article on our blog should give you a good idea of what to expect when Skywood re-opens this spring!
Gananoque Nickel Cup Hydroplane Regatta
Hydroplane racing has been a popular event in the 1000 Islands region since the 1940’s. Back then, the event was made possible through the sponsorship of Gananoque native: Frank LaQue, the Vice President of the International Nickel Company.
To this day, the Gananoque Nickel Cup still draws thousands of spectators to watch these fascinating speed boats reach pulse-pounding speeds more than 200 miles per hour and revel in the rumble and roar of the engines.
BROCKVILLE & 1000 ISLANDS
Brockville Tall Ships Festival
On September 16-18th 2016 Brockville’s waterfront was graced once more with the elegant majesty of the Tall Ships Festival. For three exciting days, an estimated 40,000 or more visitors amassed along Brockville’s scenic waterfront to view a venerable fleet of ships representing several eras of maritime heritage.
Like silent, graceful gods of the sea, these beautiful ships sailed through the St. Lawrence and perhaps time itself; as they paraded before a massive crowd. Visitors were also able to step aboard some of the ships, meet the crews and come face to face with history.
The Brockville Aquatarium Officially Launches
The long-awaited grand opening of the Brockville Aquatarium was held on May 6th, 2016, after over half a decade in development. This interactive marine centre presents visitors with a fun and experiential way to learn about the St. Lawrence River’s history and ecology.
The Aquatarium is a 25.5 million dollar labour of love that is open year round to visitors. There are so many fun activities to choose from, that you could easily spend an entire day at this amazing attraction. Luckily, we have you covered with this handy guide.
New Craft Brewery and Craft Distillery lift spirits in Johnstown
In tandem with the 178th anniversary of the famed Battle of the Windmill, the Windmill Brewery opened it’s doors in Johnstown on November 12, 2016. This new, up and coming Ontario craft brewer is located only steps away from the historic site for which it is named. Their crisp, golden Czech style pilsner uses local ingredients and is a must try for any who enjoy a cold pint.
Right next door to the brewery is yet another new, and welcome addition to Ontario’s roster of craft beverage producers: King’s Lock Craft Distillery. King’s Lock opened their doors in June 2016 with a debut selection of handcrafted spirits using local, organic ingredients and sustainable practices.
RIDEAU HERITAGE ROUTE
The Ongoing Rejuvenation of The Opinicon Dining & Resort
At the end of the 2012 season, the famous and legendary Opinicon Resort had to close its doors due to several overlapping economic factors at the time. For a while, it was uncertain as to what would become of this cherished summer escape.
In September 2015, the Opinicon made international headlines when it was confirmed that the resort would once again reopen. Ever since the reopening the beloved Ontario destination has been undergoing renovations with each passing moment. The exciting journey of the Opinicon’s is lovingly chronicled on their Facebook page by the current owner, with regular video blogs.
As recently as November 2016, the Opinicon’s comeback story was presented to the Canadian Senate. The Opinicon’s return has been hailed as an economic boon for the Rideau Lakes community and tourism sector.
After a successful launch in 2015, Rideau Tours has expanded their 2016 offering from what was only a few custom tours and bike rentals to a great selection of “signature experiences.” The new roster of activities includes kayaking, cycling adventures and even boat trips.
What’s more, Rideau Tours has also added fun packages like gourmet picnics for the family, in addition to a steadily growing list of features. The picnics include delicious foods sourced from local sources and offer an excellent way to relax and enjoy a picnic while exploring the magnificent Rideau Canal.
200th Year Anniversary of the Settler’s Trek
Two hundred years ago, some of the first settlers of Upper Canada embarked on a perilous 100-kilometer journey from what is now Brockville to Perth. They were promised land and a fresh start in a new world, but it did not come to them with any level of ease.
Today, this historical trek is commemorated by a dedicated group of community organizers at the Settler’s Trek; who just celebrated the event’s bicentennial journey in 2016. By today’s standards, a 100 km drive doesn’t sound like much. But in 1816 it was a grueling six-day journey where survival was not guaranteed.
If you’re up to the task and want to literally walk in the steps a 19th-century settler, day trekkers can register and join in on the journey for a small fee. Emergency medical assistance is available throughout the trek, but luckily your chances of contracting scurvy will be slim and nil in 2017.
CORNWALL & THE COUNTIES
Glengarry Highland Games
Whether ye have some Scottish in ye or nae – The Glengarry Highland Games are the grandest spectacle of traditional games, music and cultural entertainment this side of Edinburgh. The inaugural games were held in 1948 by a group of businessmen who wished to preserve Scottish traditions and heritage while inspiring younger generations to carry on these ancient and cherished customs.
2016 was the 69th anniversary of the Glengarry Highland Games, which drew thousands of visitors to Maxville to witness or even take part the games. The 2017 event will be held on Aug 4, 2017 – Aug 5, 2017, and will surely draw visitors from far and wide to help celebrate the games’ platinum jubilee.
Cornwall’s Summer Beer Fest
The Cornwall Summer Beer Fest is an interactive wine and beer tasting festival which draws its roots from the Seaway Food Festival. Visitors can sample a range of tasty beverages and foods, as well as meet the talented people who make them.
The 2016 festival added some great new features including educational workshops that allowed attendees to learn about food pairings, beer making, and other fascinating topics. The 2017 dates are still to be announced so stay tuned to the festival’s website for details!
Apples and Art: 25 years of Celebrating the Arts
For the 25th consecutive year, the Apples and Art Studio Tour took place in Stormont, Glengarry, and Dundas. This last event featured over 60 artists showcasing their creations in 26 locations throughout Cornwall and the Counties.
The 25th annual tour was the biggest yet, with more artists and locations along the route than ever before. Visitors were treated to a diverse range of mediums including paint, sculpture, ink, wood, glass and more. In addition to the variety of creations guests also had an opportunity to meet the artists and chat with the creative minds behind the artwork.
Happy New Year!
With the passing of each New Year, there comes not an ending, but a bounty of new beginnings. 2016 was most certainly an excellent year for Southeastern Ontario – filled with fun activities, delicious foods, stunning artwork, and jubilant celebrations shared from the Bay of Quinte to Cornwall and the Counties.
These unforgettable moments would not be possible without such a fantastic network of communities. Everywhere you go throughout this stunning region; you encounter an amazing culmination of people who continuously make Southeastern Ontario both a premier travel destination and a place I am very proud to call home.
What are your fondest memories of 2016? Let us know on our Facebook page, hit the comments below – or share your pictures with us on Twitter or Instagram! Don’t forget to use the hashtag: #GreatWaterway!
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