Thursday, May 21, 2020

Stratford Festival


My earliest memory of the Stratford Festival was when I was a kid in public school! Just getting there was a big adventure! My school friends and I excitedly boarded the school bus and then we were off! Back then it seemed like a really long trip, but in reality, it was only a few hours. I don’t remember much about the play we saw. I am sure it was one of Shakespeare’s. I do, however, remember the box lunch we were served! I know that all the kids really liked it. I had never experienced anything like it. 
Over the years, I have been back to Stratford and the Stratford Festival many times. Stratford is one of my favourite places to visit. The downtown area is very quaint and the Festival Park area is beautiful. Victoria Lake forms the centre of the park with the Festival Theatre overlooking it. The white swans floating effortlessly across the water add to the park’s peace and majesty. There are plenty of options if you decide to stay overnight, from Bed and Breakfasts to quaint inns and everything in between. Of course, staying overnight means “going to the theatre”! The Festival was founded by Tom Patterson in 1953 and has had some of North America’s finest actors perform there. While the Festival’s primary mandate is to present productions of William Shakespeare’s plays, it also products a wide variety of other types of plays. This year’s (2009) plays include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Westside Story and The Importance of Being Ernest. There are some 14 plays in all. A far cry from when the Festival first started. The number of theatres has increased, as have the number and types of plays. If you enjoy traveling to interesting places and want to experience one of North America’s finest theatres, Stratford and the Stratford Festival is a must! To find out more, visit the Festivals Website at http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Artists’ Series – Glen Loates

This is a series about Canadian artists I have know, and worked with.
Glen was sitting at the kitchen window of a friend’s home. The window overlooked a large backyard. There were a number of mature trees in the backyard with one fairly close to the window. The owners of the home were very generous with tossing out bird seed. As a result, the backyard had become a Mecca for song birds! As we sat at the window a bright red Cardinal flew onto a branch close by. Glen already had pencil and paper in hand and was quickly sketching the morning guest. The details and animation of the bird were incredible. I watched with a new appreciation of Glen’s talents! This is likely my most vivid memory of my time with Wildlife Artist, Glen Loates. To me Glen is the epitome of a true renaissance man! He not only draws and paints to perfection. He writes novels and screenplays. He is a talented sculptor. He is an avid collector of many things and he is an explorer of some note. His knowledge of the world is child-like in that he needs to know everything. He has an insatiable curiosity of the world around him. Perhaps that is why he jumped at the chance to join the search for the “Giant Squid”! He is one of the few people who have traveled to the depths of the ocean. His account and renderings of the wondrous creatures he saw leave one breathless! In their ugliness, he sees beauty! In their bizarreness, he sees humour! In their world, he sees magic!

Glen has been painting as long as he can remember, a child prodigy. Glen has always been an innovator. He was one of the first artists to offer limited edition prints. As a pioneer in this area, he opened the doors for many artists to prosper. Even President Ronald Reagan benefited from Glen’s talents. As a thank you from Canadians, Glen presented the President Reagan with a wonderful painting of a Bald Eagle. While President Reagan was in office, the painting hung proudly in the White House. Today it hangs in the Reagan Presidential Library in California. Glen’s works, originals and limited editions can be found world-wide! 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Artists’ Series – Mary Kendrick

Mary Kendrick, like her art, is timeless! Judi and I have known and admired Mary for over 25 years. Over that period of time, Mary has remained the same, talented, modest and, most importantly, our friend. Over the years we have visited Mary at her home in Essex, hosted her at our home in Cobourg, purchased a number of her originals and taken art lessons from her! I guess what I am trying to say is that Mary has been an important part of our lives for many years. We really got to know Mary best when we convinced her to participate and exhibit at the first Cobourg Waterfront Festival. We lured her by promising to host her while she was in Cobourg. That was the start of a tradition that lasted over 15 years. I can’t remember how many good laughs we had during those stays! For many years Judi’s Cobourg Festival booth was next to Mary’s. The wisdom and friendship just kept on building! To say that Mary is modest would be an understatement. I believe that she is one of Canada’s best floral artists. Her works are collected by people from all over the world. While she was exhibiting at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival, she was consistently in the top 5 for sales. The same applied while she exhibited at the Buckhorn Fine (Wildlife) Art Festival. Mary has slowed down a little now, but her work is still as wonderful as ever and, I might add, much sought after.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Shane Peacock – Canadian Author

Several years ago, Judi and I were involved with the founding and organizing of a new festival in Port Hope. We wanted to create a festival theme that would be specific to Port Hope. We found that theme in the form of William Leonard Hunt or, as he became known worldwide, the Great Farini! Hunt, or Farini, was a larger than life character who roamed the world in the mid to late 1800’s. From tightrope walking over the Niagara Falls to inventing the Human Cannonball and beyond, Farini’s career was nothing short of spectacular! In order to find out more about Farini and his life and feats, we turned to Canadian author and Port Hope native, Shane Peacock! Shane’s book, “The Great Farini”, is the definitive reference book when it comes to William Leonard Hunt. The Farini Festival only ran for 3 years, but Shane’s input allowed us and the whole community to celebrate the extraordinary life of one of Port Hope’s favourite, but largely forgotten, sons! Over the years I have gotten to know and appreciate Shane’s many talents. His ability to “spin a yarn” is second to know one! The Farini biography could have been staid and stuffy, but that’s not Shane’s style, nor was it Farini’s! Instead the book was a wonderful tail of mystery, intrigue and adventure. Shane’s attention to accuracy and detail is amazing. Since writing the Farini book in 1995, Shane has taken on many other challenges. His play about another Port Hope native, Joseph Scriven who wrote the Hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” played for two seasons at the 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook. Other works have included several children’s novels. His newest are sure to become classis. They are about the “Boy Sherlock Holmes” and are rich in detail and mystery. Although I purchased the first two in the series for my Grandson, I couldn’t miss that opportunity of reading them first myself! They were both a great read and I can’t wait until Shane brings out the next book! It’s great to know that Canada breeds such amazing authors! 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Canadian Raptor Conservancy (Part Two)

After his introduction, James started the show off by bring out one of his birds. At one point he had one of the birds flying overhead and then encouraged it to land on someone’s head… MINE! This was a “close encounter” and it certainly was “PERSONAL”! 

Fortunately, I was wearing a baseball cap so no damage was done to my “delicate” scalp! As the show progresses James talked about each bird, where they came from, what they ate and what they mean to us. He even told us that he was trying to promote the Red-tailed Hawk as Canada’s National Bird! Over the coursed of two years, Judi and I have seen James or his wife, Shauna, demonstrate these magnificent Birds of Prey several times. Each time we have been impressed with James and Shauna’s love and knowledge.

Unfortunately, at least for the time being, the Canadian Raptor Conservancy Birds of Prey can only be seen at shows like the Plowing Match. I hope, some day, that James will open up a permanent location. In the meantime the Conservancy group will travel across Ontario and beyond, educating us all on how precious these Birds of Prey are and how they affect our Eco system and our world! And. Who knows, James’s campaign to have the Red-tailed Hawk become Canada’s National Bird may just succeed! “RED-TAILED HAWK FOREVER!” 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Canadian Raptor Conservancy (Part One)

How many times when you have driven along Highway 401 or one of the other Ontario highways have you seen large birds soaring overhead or sitting high atop a tree? It is definitely a common sight! What kind of birds are they? Eagles, hawks, vultures, falcons? As often as Judi and I have experienced seeing these magnificent creatures, we had never seen them “Up Close and Personal”! That is, until we visited Ontario’s festivals and events! Our first “close encounter” was at the 2007 International Plowing Match held near Smith’s Falls. As we passed through the gate, we immediately noticed a large sign telling us that the Canadian Raptor Conservancy was there and that they were having a “Birds of Prey” demonstration. Judi and I walked over to their show area and stood watching and waiting with other onlookers. Finally, the Conservancy Director, James Cowan, came into the roped off enclosure and started to tell us all about the Conservancy and its birds.