by Gary McWilliams (aka The Festival Nomad)
I’ve been noticing a trend that confuses me. It seems that a number of communities have decided to limit their participation with local events. Of course, not all communities are taking this route, but enough to make me concerned. Over the past 10 years Judi and I have been traveling across Ontario visiting 100’s of communities and their events. It has always struck me, that no matter how large or small the event, how much pride the event organizers and the residents have. Festivals, fairs and events are the heart of the community. They bring meaning and purpose to those who participate. Many events donate the monies collected back to worthwhile causes in the community.
With community events being so important, I have to ask why many community leaders are turning their backs. Is it because of money? If it is, it shouldn’t be! Most event organizers find inventive ways to raise the majority of funds they need. But honestly, I don’t think that it’s the money.
"The City of Port Colborne holds Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival each year."
What Judi and I have seen is that community leaders (politicians and community staff) are looking for ways to entice visitors to their area, to spend some time there. This, in theory, is a sound policy, but to eliminate or minimize help to community events is, I believe, a mistake. Communities that have great events also have great people organizing them. These people, with their enthusiasm, attract others ~ visitors, business owners, investors and potential new residents.
The best example of this is a small community in British Columbia. Many years ago this town was a one industry town… lumber! When the lumber business downturned, the employer decided to close down. Most of the town’s workers became unemployed. Not only the lumber company workers but those who provided services for the town and its residents. It was a beautiful town, overlooking sparkling waters. Rather than leaving and giving up some of the residents devised a plan to attract tourists. They “invested” in the town’s future by contracting with several artists to paint murals on town building walls. Each mural was to depict a past historic event or scene of the town. However, each artist was instructed to include one anomaly in the painting. After all the initial murals were completed, the town announced that the first person to correctly identify all anomalies would win a large cash prize! People from all over Canada visited the town to try to find these anomalies. As a result of this inventive event, the town flourished and the residents prospered. Today the town is a major tourist destination, featuring not only the murals, but many other attractions. The town, as many of you likely know, is Chemainus.
"The Village of Buckhorn holds a number of events each year at their Buckhorn Community Centre."
My hope is that community leaders continue to look for ways to “attract” visitors, but that they don’t forget the “heart” of their community, the event organizers and the events who make living and visiting the community an “adventure”!
by Carol Law (Festival Nomad Correspondent and Winter Camping Expert)
Winter. So refreshing: warm sun. Crisp wind. A joy to be outdoors if you prepare...
Wear Sun screen. Yes, in the winter. Sun screen helps prevent wind burn and sun burn.
Dress in layers and make sure the top layer stops wind. If you plan to be out for a day take extra socks and change them after about four hours. Trapped sweat can make you feel cold.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather” J. Ruskin. Benefits to being outdoors in the winter? Soak up the sun. The fresh air and sun will energize you, help you sleep, and can improve your mood.
"Judi and Carol (age?) enjoying the wonders of winter!"
Extreme winter conditions can occur anywhere in Ontario. When winter camping, the coldest I have slept in was -36C. Except it might have been colder: that was as low as our thermometer went! Did you know that if you bury a plastic jug of water in the snow it will not freeze?
Take in a winter festival, walk in a forest, find a great toboggan run, or try skating at a local pond or rink. Find a quiet place in a park and watch the snowflakes fall: follow one from the air to the ground, try to catch one on your tongue, look up and watch swirling snow dance, make a snow angel. Stop by the local rink to watch a hockey game or help the neighbourhood kids build a snow fort.
"Carol with friends (Judi and twin sister Sue) riding a SNOW CAMEL!"
Make shoveling fun. Yes, fun. Play in the snow: snow angels, build snow sculptures and forts. Plan a special treat with hot chocolate and family game time too.
Promise yourself that you will find at least one new way to enjoy this season, as rich in weather and activity as any other season. If it still is not your cup of tea enjoy watching a snow storm from a museum, art gallery, or conservation area centre over a cup of tea.
Going the Extra Mile ~ Hospitality…
by Judi McWilliams (aka Scoop McWilliams)
A quick reflection that would sum up our 2016 Season of Adventures & Discoveries for the Festival Nomad and “Scoop” McWilliams would have to be “HOSPITALITY” … Throughout the entire 2016 Season, we received extraordinary receptions from our colleagues, organizers, customers, volunteers and community residents across Ontario.
It seems wherever we traveled in 2016, we were not only welcomed with open arms, but, treated like “royalty”.
To share just a few examples …
"Judi with Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney and Michelle Cuthbert, Marketing, Customer Relations and Communications Co-ordinator."
At the City of Port Colborne’s “Canal Marine Heritage Days”, Mayor John Maloney took time out of his busy day to join us to participate in our “Oh Canada eh! Game”. Not just once, but twice. With a major “technical issue” in the first shooting, Mayor John Maloney kindly meet up with us again in the morning for a “re-take”.
The Volunteers were extremely kind and generous to make sure we had water (on this very hot day) and great food shared at the Volunteer Centre.
It was the residents of the City of Port Colborne that surprised us the most. As we walked from the beautiful HH KNOLL LAKEVIEW PARK to the downtown core for more “Canal Day Celebrations”, many residents on their front porches waved, yelled out “welcome” and helped with directions.
“PORTicipate” for the City of Port Colborne truly exceeded our expectations.
"Judi with Jenny Greensmith (Executive Director) and Tracy Drysdale (Fund Development Officer) ~ Pathways Health Centre for Children."
At “ARTZscape by the Bay in Sarnia”, a fundraising event for the Pathways Health Centre for Children, we were treated to an entire day of extraordinary hospitality. From the welcome and ARTZscape tour, to the “Sarnia by Water Boat Cruise” (exploring Sarnia Cityscape by waterways), to candid “on location” interviews with Pathways Team, to the “Volunteer & Artisan” meet and greet dinner in the park bit top tent. They too went the extra mile.
"Gary with Buckhorn Fine Art Festival Director Allyson Allin."
At the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival, held in Buckhorn at the Buckhorn Community Centre, we were welcomed by the organizers, feed in the volunteer area, greeted by many “old artist friends” and “new artists”.
Here what stood out were the “Volunteers”. The BCC has a large quilt hanging proudly in the foray of their building … “Where Volunteers Make it Happen”. They went above and beyond!
"Judi with Laurie Siblock, Assistant Lang Pioneer Village Museum Manager."
At Lang Pioneer Village Museum, in Keene, Ontario, just outside of Peterborough, again, a warm welcome and great hospitality.
Here it was the Visitors who participated in our “Oh Canada Eh! Game” that really seemed to be enjoying the experience. It was such a pleasure to bring the “history of Canada, Lang and the Region” to the Visitors.
"James Cox, Goderich Economic Development/Tourism Co-ordinator"
In Goderich, “Canada’s prettiest town”, the welcome was fabulous. We were provided with maps, details of events and activities, and the hospitality of the organizers and residents again was magnificent!
One more … without a doubt, our experience with the project “For the Love of Grey Barn Quilt Trail” was amazing. From meeting out in the “barns” to watch the wooden “quilt” panels being painted, to the “HANGINGS” … it was an exceptional experience. Organizers Lorraine Irwin, Hiliary Breadner and Kimberley Lewis (and their families) who were most hospitable. Congrats to this strong Team of Agricultural, Farm and Community members.
"Oh Canada Eh! Game video ~ Love of Grey Barn Quilt Trail"
We were humbled by the welcome from one host family at their “hanging of their Quilt”. 5 generations contributed to the painting. As we watched the Quilt being hung on their family barn, the kids ran, laughter all around, Popsicle and ice-cream treats, cows, goats, and the chickens all made for a special experience.
We could go on and on, as 2016 was a very busy year.
The overall experience for 2016, was “HOSPITALITY”! … We hope you too will have such magnificent experiences as you travel Ontario for your 2017 Adventures & Discoveries.
Festival Nomad’s Report…
by The Festival Nomad (aka Winterman)
WOW! Christmas has come and gone, and now were are about to begin planning to our 2017 visits! It’s hard to believe how quickly 2016 has passed. At this time of year, I usually reminisce about our past year’s visits. This time, I won’t bore you with the details, but I will tell you that we visited over 60 communities and events in 2016. Frankly, I was just exhausted remembering them all! It was an exciting year, full of exploration and discoveries. One our more memorable visits was to Port Colborne for their Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival. Part of the festival was the Canal Days International Kite Festival. I have never seen so many wonderful kites! The kite flying demonstrations were spectacular! Another memorable event was in Sarnia at the ARTZscape by the Bay. This is a fabulous art show, were both the art and the people were wonderful! While there, we were event treated to a boat tour of part of the St. Clair River. The highlight of the year, however, was our visit to the 39th annual Buckhorn Fine Art Festival. It was great seeing and talking with so many talented artists! Next year marks the Festival’s 40th anniversary and I know that great activities are being planned!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this report, Judi and I are now starting to consider our visits for the upcoming year. So far, only one has been confirmed, the 2017 Ontario Association of Agricultural Society convention. This will be our third visit to the Fair Convention, and once again will we be hosting our Ontario Visited booth at the convention’s tradeshow. As for other visits in 2017, who knows where we will travel. I do know that it will be a VERY exciting year in Canada and Ontario. Canada turns 150 years old and there will be CANADA 150 events in all Canadian communities!
Over the past year and a half we have been celebrating CANADA 150 with our Oh Canada Eh! Game. During the past 1 ½ years, Judi and I have been traveling across Ontario, visiting communities and producing Oh Canada Eh! Game videos. All of the past and future Game videos can be found on our Oh Canada Eh! Game website (www.ohcanadaehgame.ca).
Well, 2017 is here! Judi and I hope to see you along the “visited” road!
"Our Booth at the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS) convention."
Exciting New Looks...
Over the past year we have been working to improve our Ontario Visited Websites. 2016 was a great year attracting a Tourism niche audience with over 635,000 “Visits” and over 4.1 million “PageViews”. Here are a few examples of the some changes we are working on…
ü ONTARIO EVENT DIRECTORY ~ While we implemented this new Ontario Event Directory, which looks great, there are still a few “search” issues that we will be ironing out with our team. Shortly, this will be working smoothly, offering over 7 Regions across the Province with 17 Categories for Visitors to choose from. All with great Slider Photographs to welcome the Visitor!
ü NEW FRESH INFORMATION PAGES ~
- Colourful “slider" photograph depicting the subject and area.
- Each Information Page now has “icons” with photographs and short specific details letting the Visitors know what’s inside
ü ONTARIO VIDEO ADVENTURES ~ A picture says a “thousand” words
- NEW ADVENTURES & EXPERIENCES ~ Our “Ontario Visited Articles” are now being presented on their own “Article Page”, with Slider Photograph at top depicting Adventure … Ontario Visited YouTube Video Experience … 10 – 20 photographs depicting our “experience” with short captions and story under each photograph.
- OLD ADVENTURES & EXPERIENCES ~ Over time, we will be updating our “Ontario Visited Articles” to reflect the NEW EXPERIENCE FORMAT. This will ensure our “visits” will be “timeless”.