Confession time. I am the King of last-minute holiday shopping. You know that guy who’s always frantically traversing from store to store trying to acquire the gifts and goodies that he should have a month prior? That’s me. [Read more…]
The feeling of community at an Ontario Festival of Small Halls show is contagious.
As soon as you walk in the door of the rural halls across Eastern Ontario and along the Rideau Canal, it’s evident from the warm hello that melts into smiles and handshakes, the stage set with simple mics and instruments, that something special is about to happen in this small space that lives and breathes community.
Patrons have said that it hits you suddenly – the knowledge creeping up like the feeling of someone watching you from across the room.
Somewhere during the night, you realize that your face hurts because you’ve been smiling for an hour straight. The palms of your hands’ tingle because you’ve been clapping loud and hard. You take a minute to look around you – really look around – and see neighbours, friends and families sharing in the experience. Everyone bonded by the music, under one historic roof.
And you get it – you understand what Small Halls is all about.
From Sept. 14 to Oct. 1 more than 30 cherished halls across Eastern Ontario are throwing open their doors to welcome internationally renowned musicians, local opening artists – and you.
The Ontario Festival of Small Halls is set to ignite local stages this month with a mix of big-name familiar faces and boundary-pushing roots, folk, pop, soul and bluegrass-inspired musical acts.
Kelly Symes, General Manager of the Festival, said this year’s lineup includes some well-known names in Canadian music, while also showcasing emerging artists who will be new to rural Ontario.
“Small Halls continues to offer a unique concert experience: seeing your favourite artist in a setting which allows you to relish the music and connect with (the) local community,” Symes says, adding that artists were selected based on their captivating live performance, their stage presence and the ability to connect with their audiences.
Artists like Ashley MacIsaac, a household name in Cape Breton fiddling, as well as Halifax’s Jenn Grant, Charlottetown’s Rose Cousins and Montreal’s Leif Vollebekk will grace small stages.
You can also catch Kingston’s own The Abrams, who are returning to enliven the Festival again after an explosive performance last year in Seeley’s Bay. Another festival favourite, Old Man Luedecke, is playing in Lyndhurst and Tatlock after recently taking home the 2017 East Coast Music Award for Album of the Year.
From wooden stages to pews and from beckoning archways to barn board, the halls expertly roll out the red carpet for the Festival doing what they do best – enhancing the experience just by playing host.
Take, for example, the history ingrained in the Delta Old Town Hall built in the 1880s and the site where area soldiers mustered before leaving to fight in the First World War. Further along the Rideau, locally-made cast iron circa 1890 still adorns the ends of the pews in the Merrickville United Church.
Just down the road the Spencerville Mill once served as the feed mill that produced Canada’s first commercial livestock feed. Local history lives and breathes at the venues for the Ontario Festival of Small Halls.
The host communities are also throwing down the welcome mat with family-style dinners, local food celebrations, country markets and even tapas on the schedule preceding Small Halls shows.
“At its heart, the Ontario Festival of Small Halls is about celebrating community,” said Symes, “Attending the community events goes a long way towards achieving that overall rural culture experience that visitors often crave.”
There are also a few insider’s tips to round out the Festival experience. If you’re attending a show in a historic church, Symes says you’re encouraged to bring a funky cushion for comfort. Also, don’t forget to stick around after the show – the musicians might appear when the applause has settled to mingle with guests. Bringing cash for merch is also a great idea.
Click below for the full schedule, as well as info on tickets and community events.
Being on this trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Truthfully, if I had 5 weeks to travel, I would never have thought about traveling so close to home. It has helped me gather a deep appreciation for regions in The Great Waterway and especially for the ones we’ve already visited on our trip; such as Prince Edward County and Bay of Quinte. I can’t wait to see what the other regions that we’ll be visiting have in store for us. The best part is that they’re all so close to home (Kingston), that I can take day-trips, bring friends with me and show off my new found knowledge!
Land O’ Lakes was our third destination, but weather was not on our side. We had plans to travel to Frontenac Provincial Park by canoe, camp overnight, eat lunch at the Waterfront River Pub and Terrace in Napanee and enjoy the Dark Sky Viewing Area. Unfortunately, due to the rain and lacklustre conditions, this portion of our trip had to be postponed.
This is the reality of production. It is especially important to have blue skies with big white fluffy clouds for a tourism video. Also, we shouldn’t look completely miserable on camera! If we were camping in the pouring rain and trying to set up all of our gear, this probably wouldn’t look the best on camera. But the upside is, we will likely be re-visiting this portion of our trip at the end of the 5-week trip. Although the majority of our visit has to be rescheduled, here are some things that we were able to do:
Experiencing Wolfe Island
Before this, I had only been to Wolfe Island to experience the Corn Maze around Halloween, so I was excited to visit the island during summer. We took the 20-minute ferry to the island and ate an early lunch at The Wolfe Island Grill. The view was beautiful, with the patio right on the water. They also had some pretty good curry! If you’re visiting Kingston, I highly recommend taking the (free!) ferry over to Wolfe Island to eat a meal at The Wolfe Island Grill and explore.
Bon Eco Suites
I honestly didn’t realize that there was anything in Tamworth, Ontario, so I was pleasantly surprised by the shops, antique stores, and cafes located in this quaint town. Bon Eco Suites, where we stayed during our trip to Land O’ Lakes, was absolutely beautiful. Located in a historic building, there were 3 separate apartments. The apartments are furnished with many reclaimed materials; such as tires, old trim, hubcaps and more. It’s very easy to be inspired here, so close to the wilderness.
MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co.
MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Co. has a special place in my heart. When I first moved to Kingston, I wasn’t a huge fan of beer. One day while visiting Red House Kingston, I had some of the MacKinnon Brother’s Brothers House Ale and I fell in love with their beer. It is very lightweight and a bit too easy to drink. Since then, Crosscut (Canadian Ale) and Red Fox (Summer Ale) have become my favourites. I was extremely excited to visit their farm in Bath, Ontario.
Both Ivan and Dan MacKinnon showed us around the farm, and we were able to taste some of their beer. Unsurprisingly, they were all fantastic. If you’d like to visit them, they’re hosting an event called “Back To The Farm” on August 20th, from noon to 10 pm. There will be a bunch of really great bands playing; such as The Mahones, Lost Cousins and more.
Our next stop is Kingston! I’m excited to see what my home city has in store for us. Make sure you’re following our live stories on The Great Waterway’s Instagram @greatwaterway!
*Because I Knew Nothing About It.
Bay of Quinte: This region is pretty much in my own backyard but I knew very little about it. I’m glad that changed!
Day 5: July 8, 2017
We started our fifth day of this adventure by heading to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. Nev, our guide, told us personal anecdotes about his experience flying planes for the Air Force. The craziest and most exciting part of the museum for me was the Handley Page Halifax. This plane was shot down over a Norwegian lake and was located by sonar detectors in 1981. It took 14 years to raise the plane from the lake and another year to transport it to Canada. Then 10 more years and many volunteer hours later, the Halifax was unveiled. To further appreciate the Handley Page Halifax, know that the museum was built around this incredible plane that is fully functional. Don’t expect to see her in the sky though, there’s no way of getting her out of the museum! After our interesting and informative tour we said goodbye to Nev and we were off to Port Bistro Pub in Trenton.
The Port Bistro Pub is located by the water, and has a beautiful patio to enjoy the view. We were served an amazing charcuterie of La Cultura Saluma cured meats and various house cheeses and pickles. Then it was time to sample some authentic pub fare. Scott ordered “The Phil Burger”. This wonderful creation is custom made for you; you tell the chef your allergies and he makes a burger! Crazy, right? Crazy awesome. Scott had a deep fried patty, which I had never seen or heard of before. Pretty neat and oh so good. I had the Crispy Chicken Sandwich; that had apple, brie, red onion, red pepper and was a refreshing change from a typical Crispy Chicken Sandwich. The crew had the Tower of Nachos and the title perfectly describes what it was: literally, a tower of nachos.
After eating, we headed to Trenchtown Wake Park, which is a cable wakeboarding destination. Let me tell you something crazy, I don’t swim. And I can’t swim. I’m basically a doggy paddle champ. Before joining this trip, I had actually signed up for adult swim lessons in Kingston, because I thought it would be an important life skill to have. If only I was psychic and knew to sign up for these sooner! Needless to say, I was a bit worried about heading to Trenchtown. I was convinced I would be horrible at wakeboarding and drown. Luckily for me, I wasn’t horrible and I didn’t drown! I consider this a win.
On our arrival, we were greeted by Will, who along with Kaelen is one of the owners of Trenchtown. This fun place is located at the mouth of the Trent-Servern Waterway. It has a two system 2.0 cable system, a 350 foot beginner cable, and a 600 foot advanced cable.To top it off, it’s locally owned, family friendly and affordable. Will was by far was the best instructor/teacher I’ve ever had. He was super motivating, very kind and was really helpful with making sure I didn’t drown (just kidding). It was a blast to be on the water and so satisfying to be able to do a lap without falling. I liked it so much, that I’m heading there soon with some friends to do it again! Take it from me, you need to stop by Trenton to check this out.
To keep the adrenaline pumping, we met with Twiggy of Cruising Canoes and kayaked around the Moira. Pro-tip: If you don’t have the strongest upper body strength (like me), don’t do wakeboarding and kayaking on the same day. Needless to say, I got pretty tired, pretty quickly. Although as a former rower, it was great to be gliding on water again, it’s such a satisfying feeling. At the end of our adventure, Twiggy found us a new friend. Our new friend almost jumped on my face… that would’ve been baaaaaaaad.
To end of the day (and to celebrate that I made it through alive) we were off to try some beer at Signal Brewing Company. It was a neat experience to meet the owner and taste some of their beer. Their branding is on point; their beer names relate to signals/radios and they use local artwork on their chubby bottles. The brewery is located on a piece of land that has a lot of history and the building was built by the owner of Signal Brewing Company. Their soft opening date is set for July 23rd and I highly recommend checking out this awesome beer and beautiful space!
Day 6: July 9, 2017
Day 6 was a fairly relaxed and slower paced day. We left the hotel around 6 AM and headed to the marina to meet Ozzy, who took us on a boat ride around the Bay of Quinte. I’m not much of a morning riser, but the view could not be beat. It was stunning and so fun to listen to Ozzy’s experiences and life story.
After taking a break, we headed to Burger Revolution. According to their description, Burger Revolution is a “flavour revolution between two buns”… and this is highly accurate. We tried a few different burgers and my personal favourite was The Chevre Guevara. This yummy burger was topped with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, bacon, and smoked tomato jam. (Drooling, yet?)
Coffee is the fuel for this trip, so we headed to The Brake Room to grab some. The Brake Room is hands down one of best places we went to in Belleville. Not only do they serve some delicious Pilot coffee, they also serve amazing local food. The cafe is also complemented by a bike shop (hence The Brake Room, get it?!). The owner was incredibly friendly, and the shop in general had a really awesome atmosphere.
We were more awake and energized after drinking coffee, which was perfect because we were going to try yet another activity I’ve never done before – golfing. We arrived at Black Bear Ridge Golf Course, which was much bigger and far more beautiful than I would’ve imagined. Located in Corbyville, this golf club was rated in ScoreGolf’s Top 100 Canadian Courses. Unfortunately Mother Nature was uncooperative so we were only able to go to the driving range. Let’s just say I won’t become a golf pro anytime soon…
The day ended on a beautiful patio on the water, The Boathouse in Belleville. They had the best caesar I’ve ever had, with the most perfect looking shrimp on top. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals and the dessert was to die for. Braden and I split a delicious cheesecake slice, which I would highly recommend.
And there ends the Bay of Quinte portion of our trip. I had never taken the time to explore this area before and boy was I missing out. I learned of the many things that this region has to offer and I’ll definitely be heading back to check out more of them.
P.S. If you’d like to follow along “live”, make sure you follow @greatwaterway on Instagram. I’ve taken over the instagram stories and will be posting at every location and destination. You can also follow myself @melissaeapen and @scottcavalheiro– Scott posts some pretty funny content about our trip.
BAY OF QUINTE BLOG BLOOPER CONTENT
So… my first time getting up while wakeboarding wasn’t the most successful. I may have fallen… hard. Check it out below, it’s even in slo-mo.
It all started when Braden of Make Hay Media reached out to me to see if I could take 5 weeks off work to go on an adventure. I was definitely intrigued, to say the least. It involved travelling to 85 different stops in The Great Waterway. I learned there would only be six of us on this journey.
To start off, there’s me: I’m Melissa, and I moved to Kingston in May 2015 to start a business. Prior to this, I lived in Kitchener-Waterloo to study Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. Shortly after I pursued firefighting at Conestoga College, and then decided to move to Kingston with my business partner to pursue opening Improbable Escapes, an escape room.
Starting a business was probably my first and biggest adventure. Like many entrepreneurs, there were many long days and a lot of stress. Until a few months ago, I worked 7 days a week, and wasn’t able to explore Kingston or the surrounding area. My goal for this summer was to explore new destinations, so when this opportunity arose, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.
The next four individuals on this journey are Braden, Brody, Taylor, and Noah of Make Hay Media. I met Braden a bit over a year ago, and soon after became a client of Make Hay Media. They made a few videos for my company, and we quickly learned how talented they were. Make Hay Media has a wide variety of clients, such as Tourism Kingston, Kick & Push, Theatre Kingston, and more. Their videos are authentic and full of adventure and curiosity.
And the last individual: his name is Scott, and I know absolutely nothing about him. Him and I are completely strangers, and we know nothing about each other. We’re the two strangers on this journey. This is pretty crazy, right?!
Our journey officially began this morning. After struggling with how to pack 5 weeks worth of gear and belongings into two bags, I arrived at Make Hay Media’s office in downtown Kingston. Shortly after, we hit the road and took the Glenora Ferry to Prince Edward County. After checking into the beautiful Huff Estates Inn, we went to Midtown Brewing Company and the Drake Devonshire Inn to kick off this adventure.
Starting tomorrow, we will be visiting various destinations ranging from Bay of Quinte up to Cornwall and the Counties. As someone that hasn’t had a chance to explore most of the regions along The Great Waterway, I am incredibly excited. Throughout the next 5 weeks, you’ll be able to follow our journey here, on Instagram and Facebook. You’ll catch sneak peeks of us fishing, camping, visiting The Kingston Pen, experiencing the Kingston Food Tour, and so much more.
Last but not least, tomorrow I’ll meet Scott. Once he arrives in Prince Edward County, we will officially be On The Way!
South Eastern Ontario is a world famous destination for summer escapes. Places where you take your family, or friends to do away with the trifles of urban existence. You know what I’m talking about. That place where you can kick back, unwind, and be immersed in pure tranquillity. [Read more…]
Oh yes, my friends! Time for another Instagram photo challenge post! This has to be one of my favourite things about this job. Every two weeks I put out a new #PhotoChallenge to our amazing community via Instagram – and each time I am absolutely blown away by the response. [Read more…]
As summer comes into full swing, South Eastern Ontario becomes a hotbed of fun outdoor activities. Whether it’s on dry land, or out on the water there is a nearly endless list of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Last week, I asked the fine folks within our amazing Instagram community to tag us in their outdoor adventures. As always, the result was fantastic. All across the board, people were tagging us in a series of breathtaking images of the natural splendour that surrounds us in South Eastern Ontario.
Thanks again for sharing your adventures with us! Here are our ten favourite Instagram posts from our last photo challenge!
All built in the 1800’s. Sort of hits you as you paddle along that you are looking a some pretty cool history. 1846. 1896. 1896 left to right. Oh and the #cruisersup board is 2017! #standuppaddleboard #paddleboarddirect #sup #suplifestyle #waterfront #greatwaterway #findygk #kingston_on #ig_photooftheday #teamygk #weekendvibes #godiscover #canada150 #historicbuilding #discoverontario #ig_great_shots_canada #paddleboarding #paddlecanada
Exploring our local assets today with some cross country explorers! Everywhere we went with our @greatwaterway film crew location scouts from @makehaymedia we kept running into the amazing members of the C3 (coast to coast to coast) ship on a similar tour. Crew members got tours of the Aquatarium, the railway tunnel, and even got to take a quick discovery scuba lesson. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t leave us time for a deck tour, but I did run off in between locations to snap a few quick pics of their ship. @canadac3 #ExploreBrockville #C3 #1000islands #greatwaterway #brockville
As the rains of spring give way to the welcome warmth of summer, there is a beautiful phenomenon that takes hold of South Eastern Ontario. There is an overall sense of joy, as countless people open up their sheds, roll up their sleeves and tend their beloved gardens for another season. [Read more…]