Thursday, November 8, 2018

McLean Berry Farm

Every once in a while you meet someone who you consider extraordinary! Sam McLean is one of those people! It’s not that he is an outwardly figure. Actually, he’s not. If fact, he seems to be low key and unassuming (at least to me) However, he exudes a quiet confidence, especially when he talks about his farm and his family.
Sam was a cabinet maker, but not anymore. Now he is a “full-fledged” farmer and a successful entrepreneur!  Although Sam wasn’t raised as a farmer, he has farming in his blood. Both his grandfather and father were farmers, but not the young Sam. Sam was raised in Peterborough, but moved to Alberta as a young man. He and his wife Jane live there for a number of years. Sam liked it there, but Jane “convinced” him to move back home, Ontario and Peterborough. Once they had settled back in the area, Sam traded his cabinet making tools for farm implements. The McLean Berry Farm and the climb for survival were born! Sam and Jane purchased a neglected berry farm located between Lakefield and Buckhorn. There with their two children, daughter Erin and son Ben, they started to build their future. A mere mortal would have been happy just building a successful berry farm, but not our “hero” Sam! Yes, it all started with berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), but then it grew! More varieties of produce were added, sweet corn, peas, beans, potatoes. Eventually he out grew his own 25 acres and started to look for more. Today he now farms 100 acres (75 acres leased). They all contain everything from berries to corn and potatoes to tomatoes! You would think that this would be enough! Remember, this was all happening with two growing children and he and Jane were doing this all on their own! I can only imagine the long days and nights Sam spent building his dream! As the business grew other components were added, “Pick Your Own Berries”, a “Produce Store”, participation in “Farmers Markets” (3 of them, 2 in Peterborough and 1 in Toronto) and they host and run two festivals (one in the spring and the other in the summer)! And, I forgot to mention, they own a larger grove of Maple Trees. In the spring they tap the trees. They do it the old fashion way. They collect the sap with buckets. Sam feels it’s less intrusive. The two festivals I mentioned before are the Buckhorn Maple Syrup Festival and the McLean’s own Strawberry Festival. On top of all this, Sam sells a lot of his produce to local wholesale customers! Fortunately Sam and Jane’s children have grown up appreciating and loving farm life. His son, Ben, is now Sam’s “right hand man” and his helping his parents in their “golden years”! Erin, who has taken a year off to work and travel Europe will be back home mid-summer, to once again “crack the whip” at the Farmers Markets and to look after the McLean’s Country Store. With all this happening Jane will be looking after the family garden and making sure that Sam behaves himself! The dictionary defines “extraordinary” as “exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable: extraordinary speed; an extraordinary man”. This certainly describes Sam and his family perfectly! The McLean’s and the McLean Berry Farm are a wonderful example of what drive, imagination and determination can do! If you love fresh produce, it certainly is worth the drive to Buckhorn and the McLean Berry Farm! You will be glad you did! To find out more about the McLean’s, check out their website at http://www.mcleanberryfarm.com/.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Artist’s Series – Susan Caron


This is the ninth in a series about Canadian artists I have known, and worked with.
Susan Caron’s artistic talents run in her family! Her Father was a graphic artist. Her mother was a gifted crafter as is her older sister. Her younger sister, actually her twin, is also a talented artist. As a matter of fact, I know her sister intimately! No, I am not having an affair! Sue and my Judi are twin sisters! Sue has dabbled in art for years. She initially started out creating architectural pencil sketches. From there she graduated to watercolours, mainly of local buildings. Then, a few years ago she was involved in an industrial accident that crushed her hand. After a long period of rehabilitation and absence from painting, she re-emerged. She had retrained herself to use her other hand and, her art was different! She had started painting with acrylics. Her art wasn’t as ridged as it had been before the accident. It now had flare, imagination and passion, and, she is now experimenting! One of her latest creations is of a line of music, the first few notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. On top of the stretched canvas and the painting, Sue has added blocks of clear glue. The effect is amazing! She calls the painting “Beethoven on Ice”!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Festival and Event News


What’s new? How many times have you asked that question of a friend or an acquaintance? A lot, I’ll bet! In the festival and event world this is a hard question to answer, for both visitors and organizers alike! That is why we have the Ontario Event Visited website (Ontario Event News). 
This website offers website visitors up-to-date community festival and event news. The news is mainly about Ontario community festivals and events and is gathered from a variety of sources. News items are added daily. The Event News section contains topical festival and event articles and opinions. 
We are hoping that readers will help us out by letting us know of anything news worthy. Simply e-mail the Event News to gary@ontariovisited.ca. Event organizers are welcome to send us information to keep us and our readers up-to-date! We hope that you will visit the Ontario Event News website often and that you will let us know “what’s new” with you!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Artists’ Series – James Lumbers


This is the eight in a series about Canadian artists I have known, and worked with.
We all have memories of “Days Gone By”! Some of my most vivid memories are from my childhood, both at our home in Thorncrest Village, Etobicoke and during the summer at the Matabanick Inn near Minden.
Canadian artist, James Lumbers has taken history and memories and made them into a series of wonderful “ghost” paintings. His unique style of painting shows today’s images while “ghosting” the past. For many years we featured James’ work in our fine art galleries. I was always touched by how people reacted to his paintings. Some of his most popular works included sports figures. They included Joe Montana, “Mr. Hockey – Gordie Howe” and “The Great One - Wayne Gretzky”. Everyone who came into our galleries had a favourite James Lumbers painting. My favourite was “As Time Goes By”. This painting depicted a Grandfather giving his Grandson his pocket watch.
Even though James Lumbers lived in close by Grafton, I never formally met him until I attended a Gallery Owners Advisory meeting at his offices in Toronto.  I must admit that my first meeting with such a famous and talented artist was quite intimidating. However, once the meeting began Jim made everyone welcome and at ease. Since that first meeting I have seen Jim and his wife Dalma at a number of art shows. The show we visit most frequently is at the Bayside Boutique and Gallery summer show near Buckhorn. Jim and several other artists, including our friend Mary Kendrick, showed their work at the Gallery during the Buckhorn Fine Art Show in August. This was a great time and place to meet James Lumbers and view his works.
For me, every time I see one of Jim’s paintings, I am taken back in time and a lump forms in my throat as I remember my past!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Toronto Harbourfront Centre


If you have never been to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, you have missed a lot of fun and entertainment! I first remember visiting the harbour front area when I was a young man working for my father. My family owned a successful insurance agency (now brokerage) in Toronto and one of our commercial customers had their offices in the old “Terminal Building” (now known as the Queen’s Quay Terminal). One of my assignments was to deliver papers to our customer. Although the building was built in 1926 and was used mainly as a “Cold Storage” facility, it was very impressive! It was also one of the main buildings along the waterfront! The area had yet to be developed. That came in the 1980’s when the different levels of government decided it was time for change. One of the first projects was the conversion of the Terminal Building to upscale stores and condominiums. This, along with the development of the Harbourfront Centre started the harbour front “revolution”! Other condos and hotels quickly started to appear. Now the area is alive with “lots to do” and the Harbourfront Centre leads the way! So far I have visited two of their events, the Toronto International Circus Festival (with my grandson Tyler) and the International Festival of Authors (with my friend Paul). Both were great events and I look forward to visiting many more. As a matter of fact, Judi and I have also visited Toronto’s waterfront, twice, for the amazing Redpath Waterfront Festival (it’s actually coming up in a few weeks). These are only one of the many fantastic activities that take place all year long! Check out their website for more information. (http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/)


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Free Stuff…


I haven’t seen too much “free stuff” at festivals lately! I guess I’m not surprised given the economy. I can remember years ago going to The Ex (Canadian National Exhibition) and bringing home lots of “free stuff”. It seemed like a lot back then, but I was just a kid, so anything “free” would have looked good to me!
However, the food court “goodies” were a different story, large cups of pop, candy bars and Tiny Tom donuts! Back then, that was how the food and drink companies promoted themselves. And, if they didn’t give their products away for free, the price was much lower then normal!
Of course, today, companies at industry shows do hand out some promotional items, but most aren’t that appealing! Well, I guess I should qualify that! Judi collects pens, so anyone who offers her a “free” pen, wins her heart! I like the more interesting promotions. I guess that is why I enjoyed the “business card” I received at the Lindsay Model Railway Show! We were just finishing our explorations when we came to a vendor who was selling model trains and train supplies. The store was called Hobbies and Beyond, from Lindsay. I stopped to say hello and to introduce myself. I do this when I find something interesting and I want to take their photo. We talked for a few moments and then I handed the lady my business card. In return I asked for one of hers. I need cards to remember who I talk with and to get their contact information. The lady came back with a small package sealed in a clear bag. Inside were three pieces of wood with instructions on how to put the wood together! It was a balsam wood glider! On the main wing of the glider was the store’s contact information! I was hooked! I thought if this is their business card, it must be a great hobby store to visit. The next time I am in Lindsay I am going to make sure I visit it!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Festivaling with Kids (Continued)


Last week I talked about how to prepare for going to a festival or event with your kid(s). In that article I discussed Preparing for a Festival. This week I want to talk about what to do at the festival or event.
Part Three – Being There
You have now arrived at your festival or event. How do you stay sane and enjoy yourselves? Good question, so here are a few suggestions that I hope will help!
·         Parking - With many festivals or events parking can be a problem. Thankfully a lot of larger festivals have off sight parking and a shuttle service. I would encourage you to take advantage of this service. The other alternative is to arrive at the event before it actually opens. By doing this you will likely find a good parking spot.
·         Boredom – Since kids generally get bored fairly easily, a little preliminary planning goes a long way! This goes for the trip to the festival and the wait time before some events. Bringing portable games, such as a game boy, cards, a colouring book or a ball, can help kids pass the time and keep them from become too bored.
·         Site Planning – Unfortunately many festivals don’t have great site maps or event schedules on their website, so some or all of your planning will have to take place at the event itself. What to look for? First, I think, where are the washrooms located? (A good suggestion for youngsters and “oldsters”!) Next find out where all the “kid’s” events and activities are taking place. Determine which of the events “time sensitive” is and which you and your family want to see. That way you can plan to leave enough time to arrive at each event early. Like the parking, getting to an event early will usually mean good seating. This will likely mean some “wait time”, but you have already thought of that (see above) because you have brought along something to keep the kids occupied!
·         Emergency Plan – Having an emergency plan in place is important. Once you get to the festival you should have a predetermined meeting spot in case you get separated. Everyone should know where it’s located and what the timing should be if separation occurs. In the case of younger children, a cellular phone number should be sewn or pinned to the youngsters clothing. This way if they get lost, someone can reach you by telephone. (Make sure you bring the phone with you!)
I am sure that there is a lot more that could be thought of. If you can think of any more suggestions, please let me know and I will include them in the next issue. Happy festivaling!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Festivaling with Kids (Continued)


Last week I started talking about going to a festival or event with your kid(s). In that article I discussed Choosing a Festival. This week I want to talk about preparing for your visit to the event.
Part Two – Preparing to Visit a Festival
How much preparation and what you need to know and do will depend on the age of your children and the type of event you are going to attend. So, many of the following ideas may or may not apply. Here is my “Kid Friendly Tips” checklist (in no particular order of importance):
·         Stroller or Wagon – if you have a younger child or children, a stroller is a must. Carrying a tired child around a festival is not fun! For you or the child! Plus strollers can be used to carry other things, like a big stuffed panda bear you just won!
·         Meal – most festivals offer the standard festival fair, hotdogs, hamburgers, sausages, French fries, cotton candy, etc. Plus it can be expensive. If you and you family are not into that type of food, prepare a picnic lunch that the whole family can enjoy. If bringing food is not an option, check out the areas for family restaurant before you enter the festival grounds.
·         Water – bring bottled water (in a reusable bottle) is important in the hot summer months. Becoming dehydrated is not fun and can be dangerous to yours and your children’s health.
·         Snacks – Many times you may have to wait for an event to start or your lunch is delayed. Having a few healthy snacks available will keep the children “at bay” and save you a ton of money!
·         Entertainment – Again since there may be some periods of waiting between events, bringing a few toys for entertainment purposes might ward off some of the boredom. What you bring will depend on the interests of your child.
·         Comfort – If you are going to a parade or an event where you will be sitting for a while, you might want to bring a cushion or folding chairs. A blanket would also be useful, either for warmth or for covering the ground.  Bringing an extra empty fold up bag might come in handy to carry purchases or winnings.
·         Extra Clothing – Packing extra clothing or layering is always a good idea. Accidents happen and changes of clothing are needed. The younger the child the more likely the “accident”. Also, weather can change in an instant. Cold weather can become warm. Warm weather to cold and sunshine into rain. I have learned this through bitter experience.
·         Sun – Bring along sun protection, hats, sun block, sun glassed, lip cream, etc. even if it’s a cloudy day. Sun created illnesses are not fun and can be very dangerous!
·         First Aid – You might want to take a small first aid kit with you, Band-Aids, Gravel, aspirin, Lysol wipes, etc.
·         Festival/Events Information – If the festival’s website has a site map or a schedule of event or list of activities, you should print it off and bring it with you. (To be continued – see the June issue for Part Three, Being There)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Festivaling with Kids...


With the economic times as they are, many families will exchange their expensive “away holidays” for less expensive “local excursions”. Many of these “local excursions” will be to festivals or events that are located close by. Because of this idea, I thought now would be a good time to write about kids and festivals. Most parents know how to “travel with kids” plus there are lots of articles about the subject. So, I won’t talk about “getting there”. Instead I’d like to discuss choosing “kid friendly” festivals and events, how to prepare for them and what to do when you get there. Because this is a fairly lengthy subject, I am dividing it into three parts, “Choosing”, “Preparing” and “Being There”.
Part One – Choosing a Festival
The best way that I know of, to find a “kid friendly” festival or event is through research. I think that the Internet provides the best tools for this research. Most festivals and events have websites. If they don’t, I feel sorry for them. Each website should show you what the festival/event is offering, things such as theme, activities, events, etc. This information should give you a good idea as to how “kid friendly” the event will be. For example, if the event is mainly arts and crafts, it may appeal to you but not to your kids! On the other hand, if it has a midway, music, animals and puppet shows, it likely will appeal to them. Price could also be a big factor, so check out the festival’s admission fees. Most festivals have reduced children’s rates. The distance you need to travel could affect your decision. If your children don’t travel well, long distances may eliminate some events. The festival website will hopefully give you a schedule of events and their times. This information will allow you to plan when to leave home so that you won’t miss any of the events you really want to see. If you don’t find all of the information you want from the website and you still want to go to the event, contact the event organizers by telephone or e-mail and get them to answer any questions you might have. If they don’t respond, it probably isn’t a festival you want to attend. After you have decided on which festival or event you are going to visit, preparation comes next. (To be continued – Part Two, Preparing to Visit a Festival)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Choosing Where To Go…


Going to a festival or event is very personal. Where you decide to go will depend on many factors, interests, location, costs, dates, etc. Finding out about festivals and events can be frustrating. Most people want to get value for money spent. Word of month is probably the best way to find out about an event. It’s also a great way to evaluate an event, especially if you trust the person who makes the recommendation. We hope that you use Ontario Festivals Visited as a source. We are always glad to share our experiences. Unfortunately we can’t visit every festival or event in Ontario (we wish we could), but there are over 3,000 of them! So, to help you choose, I am going to give you some tips. These are some of the techniques Judi and I use to make our choices.
  1. Event Calendars – There are a number of event directories available on the internet. Here is where you can find three of them: Ontario Visited (http://www.ontariofestivalsvisited.ca/); Festivals and Events Ontario (http://www.festivalsandeventsontario.ca/) and Ontario Tourism (http://www.ontariotravel.net/). We check these first to find festivals or events that we might be interested in visiting.
  2. Festival/Event Websites – Most of these calendars have direct links to the different festivals/events that are displayed. So if you find an event that you are interested in, you can go and check out their website.
  3. Review Website – Most website will give you enough details to tell what kind of festival or event it is. Information like costs, location, dates and activities. One note of caution, make sure that you are looking at a current site. Many festivals don’t keep their sites up-to-date or have a different site for each year. Some festivals cancel their event but don’t delete their website. Believe me, it can become very confusing if you don’t pay attention to what you are reading.
  4. Bad Weather – Check the website to see what there weather policy is. If it is an outdoor event, does it run, rain or shine? Many festivals include this information on their website. If not, you might want to check with the organizers. This was especially true last year with all the awful weather we experienced.
  5. Contact Organizers – Where you have any doubt, contact the organizers. Most websites include contact information, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, etc. If they don’t include this information, I would be very leery of going to the event. There many be nothing wrong, but!
  6. Internet Articles – Using the Search Engine, “Google” (http://www.google.com/), can be very helpful. If you go to “Google” and type in the name of the festival or event you are interested in, the list that Google gives you should not only include the festivals/events website, but will likely include a list of people who have visited the event and have written about it. These articles will give lots of information, good and bad, about the event you are researching. I always read the articles, especially the negative ones, with a “grain of salt”. Anyway, they will at least give you a sense of the event.
Happy choosing!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shawn King – SEO Master/Friend


And over this time, Shawn and I have become friends, so much so that we are now partnering on several projects. Judi’s fine art website (http://judimcwilliamsfineart.com/) was one of them, but the one closest to my heart is the restructuring of the Ontario Visited Websites. We are working, right now, to make the site the best festival and event website in the world! A tall and daunting task I know, but one I feel worthwhile and, better yet, achievable! The next few years will tell the tale, but with friends like Shawn, who can miss!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Artists’ Series - Edwin Matthews (Artist/Entrepreneur)


This is the sixth in a series about Canadian artists I have know, and worked with.

Many years ago, friends introduced Judi and me to the Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival (now known as the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival) (website: http://www.buckhornfineart.com/) and to the Gallery-on-the-Lake (website: http://www.galleryonthelake.com/). Judi and I were living in Mississauga at the time. Little did I know then how closely we would become linked to the Festival and Gallery and Edwin Matthews. Edwin was the founder of the festival and owner/creator of Gallery-on-the-Lake. Our relationship started as visitors to both the festival and gallery. It quickly grew to purchasers/art collectors and then, ultimately to representatives of Edwin’s fine art publishing company, Buckhorn Publishing. Edwin was not only a fine artist, but an astute businessman! He built both the art gallery and the publishing company from the ground up. Both became very successful businesses. The energy around the art business to the early to mid-1980 was electrifying and Ed made the most of it. Anytime we visited Ed and the Gallery, the Gallery was a “beehive” of activity! During the years, the Gallery-on-the-Lake was a destination attraction and seemed to be always teeming with enthusiastic visitors! Barbara Matthews (Ed’s wife) and her staff ran the gallery with quite efficiency. At the back of the Gallery were the Buckhorn Publishing offices. Edwin’s own office overlooked scenic Lower Buckhorn Lake. Whenever I visited the offices, I was with a friendly greeting from Ed’s longtime assistant, Penny Beliveau. The publishing company represented many great artist, including Michael Dumas, Edwin himself, Terrence Andrews, Mary Kendrick and, later, in Canada, Terry Redlin. One of my favourite memories of Edwin, was taking an art class from him. Ed convinced Judi and I to join one of his art classes and take a lesson from him. Ed was an excellent teacher and walked us through the different stages of developing a painting, from preparation to framing the finished piece, he taught us all phases. This even included going out to a field location and sketching a scene. Most of his class, Judi included, had painted before, but this was my first (and last) attempt. Ed patiently helped me and I ultimately completed my painting. It may not have been a masterpiece, but it was mine and I hung it proudly in my home for many years. What the lessons really gave me were a greater appreciation of art and artists. Something that has given me a great deal of pleasure for over 25 years! Unfortunately, over the years, circumstances change. Edwin and Barbara eventually decided to retire and they sold both businesses. Edwin has stayed close to the art business since his retirement but now, due to age and ill health he has slowed down from the art scene. His legacy, however, lives on. In 2007, the 30th anniversary of the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival. Edwin was honoured for his contribution to both the festival and the community of Buckhorn. A tribute fitting for a man dedicated to promoting and improving his craft!
NOTE: Since this article was written, Edwin has passed away. We will miss him.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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/.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Artists’ Series – Glen Loates

This is the fifth in 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!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Artists’ Series – Mary Kendrick


This is the forth in a series about Canadian artists I have known, and worked with.
Mary Kendrick, like her art, is timeless! Judi and I have known and admired Mary for over 20 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.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Artists’ Series – Judi McWilliams


This is the third in a series about Canadian artists I have known, and in this case, married.

Judi McWilliams is one of those artists whose art triggers the imagination. As a result, collectors from around the world have purchased her paintings! Judi has had a love and flare for art ever since she was a little girl. As a matter of fact, her father was a graphic artist and her mother and sisters were very crafty! Her twin sister, Sue Caron, exhibits her acrylic paintings locally. Judi’s and my first real foray into the world of art was our visit, so many years ago, to the Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival! We met so many wonderful artists at the festival and I am sure that many of these artists inspired Judi and caused her artistic passions to flow! A few years after our first art show, we entered the art world ourselves by becoming sales agents for Edwin Matthews and Buckhorn Fine Art Publishing. Eventually this led to our owning two fine art galleries and a wholesale custom framing business. By immersing herself in the art world, Judi discovered the infinite opportunities to pursue her own artist talents. Although Judi has tried several mediums and styles, she always comes back to free flowing watercolours! She likes the immediacy of the watercolours and by using her unique techniques, they seem to have a mind of their own! The images and subjects she paints come from reality, but are translated onto paper through her imagination. Over the years Judi has participated in many fine art events and festivals. She is always amazed and appreciative of how people enjoy her creations!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Artists’ Series – Michael Dumas

This is the second in a series about Canadian artists I have known and, in some cases, have worked with.
Michael Dumas, too many, is known as an “artist’s artist”. The first time a saw Michael’s art was at the Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival (now the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival). Back then I didn’t know much about art or Canadian artists. Judi and I had been invited to visit the festival with friends who lived in Peterborough, and it was our first “ART FESTIVAL”! Little did I know then how involved we would become in the “World of Art”! But that is another story! At the time I was working in Toronto for a real estate relocation company. Judi and I went back to the festival in subsequent years and got to meet many of the participating artists along the way. One of the artists we got to know a little was Michael Dumas. Years later I contracted to work for Buckhorn Publishing, Michael’s publisher! It was there that I got to work with and know Michael much better. At first I was very intimidated, but as I got to talk with Michael, I began to realize that he was not only a fabulous artist, but a wonderful and caring person. The number of organizations that have benefited from his generosity is immeasurable!

I guess the time I got to know Michael best was when we were promoting a fundraising program for Canada Parks. Buckhorn Publishing and Michael developed a print program for the “Friends” of Canadian Parks, through their association, the “Canadian Parks Partnership”.  Several of Michael’s art originals had been reproduced into “art print packages”. These packages were going to be sold Canada wide and featured in Park gift stores. The proceeds were going to be donated to the Park Partnership. Since I had been involved with the promotion of the program, I was asked to accompany Michael to Banff, Alberta for the “Grand Unveiling” by the then Minister of Natural Resources. Because of airline pricing rules, Michael and I had stay in Banff a few extra days (a real hardship!). During that time I really got to know Michael and how he functioned as an artist. I can remember taking our rental car on some of the areas back roads. While I was driving, Michael was observing and pointing out various animals and their habitat! He instinctively knew where to look and what to look for! Occasionally he would ask me to stop the car. He would jump out of the car with his camera and take many photos. A number of times he showed me animals tracks that were near invisible to me but obvious to him! The trip certainly made me realize that the creation of a wildlife image was much more than just sitting down to draw! For Michael it has always been much more than that! Observation is second nature to him and his attention to detail is a legendary!


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ken Jen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo

Some time ago I wrote a Blog article called “Attention Animal Lovers”. In the article I described how well animals and festivals went together. Very few animal attractions create the attention that the Ken Jen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo does! Owner Ken LaSalle and his wife have put together a magical mix of lovable animals. The animals are hand raised from babies and are completely tame for children to freed and pet. Each animal has its own name and personality! In addition to petting zoo animals, Ken has a full “stable” of animal stars! His friends (the animal stars) have appeared in many movies, commercials and TV programs. Here’s a short list. “Sassy” the Zebra starred in the MacGyver series. “Tony” the “Kissing Llama” is world renowned for kissing the Duchess of York. I wonder if Ken also tried to get in on the action?! These are just two of Ken’s long list of “Animal Stars”! I can remember meeting Ken some 15 years ago. We were holding the Great Farini Festival in Port Hope and the Ken Jen Petting Zoo was participating. Ken’s truck rolled up, on time, to our location in Port Hope. Ken and his staff quickly set-up the Petting Zoo. Their attention to detail and their professionalism was amazing! He delivered what he promised and more, and once the festival was over and Ken had left, the area where the Petting Zoo had been was spotless! Animals certainly do go well together with festivals and so does Ken LaSalle and his wonderful Ken Jen Petting Zoo!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Artists’ Series – Eddie LePage

Many of the festivals Judi and I visit feature the art of Canada’s fabulous artists. We have had the pleasure of knowing and working with many of them. They are all different and yet, they all have one thing in common, their passion for their art! To honour our art community, I am going to write about some of the artists I have known and relate a few personal anecdotes about them. I am calling it the “Artists Series” and it will run frequently over the next several months. The first artist to be featured is portrait artist, Eddie LePage. Although Eddie is known he his wildlife portraits, his native portraits are outstanding and grace the homes of many collectors. I am starting with Eddie simply because I know him the best. We have been friends for over 20 years! When I was in the custom framing business he was the first artist to trust me with his framing. This was a big step considering I had just started my own framing company and was a real rookie at it! He liked my ideas and instincts and we formed a great team for many years. With Eddie you always know when spring has arrived because Eddie became hard to reach during the daytime. He was working on his other passion, golf! Eddie starts golfing in the spring and finishes in the fall. He only lets up in August to prepare for the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival. Only once have I been able to reach him on the golf course by cell phone and I am pretty sure that was a mistake! I too love golf, but not to the same extent as Eddie. We have golfed together in a few tournaments and when we partner, we almost always win a prize! Believe me this is his doing, not mine! Eddie has a natural talent for both golf and art. The only difference is that he earns his living as an artist! Eddie’s animal and native portrayals are timeless. He captures the essence of each subject he paints. That is why he is one of Bradford Exchange’s bestselling artists and why so many wildlife conservation groups choose his art to use in their fundraising programs.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Where History Comes Alive (Lang Pioneer Village Museum)

Over the last 11 years, we have had the privilege of visiting the Lang Pioneer Village Museum a number of times. It would have been more, but for a flat tire that was caused by a safety pin stuck through the inside sidewall of our back tire! I quickly discovered that you can’t repair a tire with a hole in the sidewall, but that is another story! Every time that we have visited the village I have discovered something new! During our first visit to Lang’s Christmas by Candlelight, we saw Christmas gifts being made at the Fitzpatrick House and how pioneer Christmas was spent in the Fife Log Cabin. At the Keene Hotel we tasted hot chocolate and homemade cookies. At the Douro Town Hall we sang old time Christmas Carols. At the South Lake Schoolhouse my grandson made a homemade “Cracker”! We experienced a horse drawn sleigh ride, wandering carolers and gingerbread man cookie face decorating. On another visit, Judi and I learned about the fur trade in Canada at the Lang Pioneer Village’s Fur Trade Re-enactment. While we were there we heard some great music played by “Hardtack and Harmony”. At the re-enactment we also learned how to paddle a canoe, build a Tipi and smoke a goose! We saw many pioneer crafts including jewelry making, rock collecting, ironworks, knitting and more. And, I got to explore the village in the daylight! At another event, Dine and Shine, we tasted fabulous steaks prepared by 8 of the area’s best chefs. During dinner we heard the old time music of Sheesham and Lotus. Their playful approach to old time music was captivating. After dinner, rifle and cannon shots sounded the start of the Shine portion of the event. Once again I was able to experience the village by candlelight. As we walked through the village buildings, we felt the warmth and charm of the village and its volunteers. Lang Pioneer Village Museum is a magical place, where “history comes alive”!