Thursday, March 26, 2020

Aaron Bell – Ojibwa Storyteller

We discovered Aaron Bell at the 2007 Mississauga Waterfront Festival. Judi and I had been exploring the festival’s grounds when we came across Aaron and the White Pines Dancers. Aaron was on stage, in full regalia, preparing for his upcoming performance. The White Pines Dancers were also on stage talking among themselves. The beautiful costumes that they were all wearing fascinated me. I walked up to the stage and asked Aaron when they were going to perform. I thought he was one of the Dancers, so I was surprised when he told me that he was an Ojibwa Storyteller and that he would be performing after the Dancers. We talk for a while about the Ojibwa and their stories. I had a little knowledge about them because of my friendship with Ojibwa artist David Johnson from Curve Lake. Aaron suggested that we come back in about ½ hour for the start of the dance. We did come back and set up our folding chairs near the front of the stage. First came the White Pines Dancers who were introduced by Aaron. Their wonderful costumes certainly added to the drama of the dance! Then it was Aaron’s turn. There were a number of children in the audience and Aaron invited them to come closer to the stage. He then began to tell us many Ojibwa stories and legends! The audience, especially the children, were mesmerized! The whole ensemble, Aaron and the White Pines Dancers was very entertaining and I congratulate the Mississauga Waterfront Festival for bringing them to the festival! Aaron and his friends perform all over Canada and especially enjoy performing for and teaching with children

Thursday, March 19, 2020

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 best-selling artists and why so many wildlife conservation groups choose his art to use in their fundraising programs. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Shaw Festival… Part Two

Here she unloaded the truck of the car with chairs, a folding table, glasses, cutlery and a picnic basket! She had packed everything before we left without my knowledge (very sneaky!!). She laid the whole picnic out and we sat in our chairs quietly eating our lunch. It was the perfect start for what was to come next! After packing our picnic essentials back into the car, Judi instructed me to drive to the main street and head away from the downtown. She told me to stop and park at the Royal Park Hotel (now the Shaw Club Hotel). Our accommodations had already been reserved and we settled into the hotel to relax for a few hours. Then it was downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant, the Zees Patio and Grill. To say we had a fabulous meal would be an understatement! During the meal I wondered how much better the day could be. I was in for another surprise! I would get better! Right across from out the Royal Park Hotel was the Shaw Festival Theatre. Judi had purchased tickets to the evening performance! Judi told me to follow her. We crossed the road to the theatre and she presented our tickets! What a wonderful day and a fantastic surprise! Our anniversary extravaganza was topped off the next morning with a gourmet breakfast at the Charles Inn!
The whole experience was choreographed by the Shaw Festival and the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Working together, along with local businesses, they put together excellent “Getaway Packages”. Ours suited us to a “T”! The Shaw Festival has been an artistic force in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Canada since 1962. The Shaw Festival Foundation, established a year later in 1963, as ensured the Festivals continuation. The Festival was originally set up to as a salute to playwright George Bernard Shaw but now features plays each season by many notable authors. From small beginnings the Shaw Festival is internationally recognized and attended by people from all over the world! The strength of the Shaw Festival is the Shaw Festival Foundation and its members! The membership, through their generous donations, helps the Theatre’s creative team, directors, actors, writers, designers and artisans, sustain their work and their vision. There are several types of memberships available for all budgets. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Shaw Festival… Part One

I think anyone who has ever visited Niagara-on-the-Lake has heard of the Shaw Festival! Judi and I have been visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake for years. We had heard a lot about the Shaw Festival, but never really knew it and what it could offer! 

That is, until Judi decided to give me a surprise anniversary gift! Judi had sold quite a number of her original paintings at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival and had earned some extra money. She decided to spend it on a surprise anniversary present. The present, you guessed it, was a romantic weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake! And, the weekend included tickets to a play at the Shaw! Judi had planned everything and wouldn’t tell me anything! 

This silence even included directions to where we were going! Once we were on the Q.E.W. highway and heading towards Buffalo, it finally dawned on me where we might be going, but I still wasn’t sure and I had no idea what was in store for me! Our destination was the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and once we arrived, Judi instructed me to drive to the main town park. 
Continued in Part Two...

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Getting Into Character…

Judi and I visited the Scugog Shores Museum and their Pioneer Fall Fair. We were impressed with village interpreters and how they assumed the identity of the pioneers they were portraying. It wasn’t just the costumes. It was the little things. The way they spoke. The knowledge they displayed about their tasks and staying within character during conversations with visitors. 

We have visited quite a few re-enactments and pioneer villages and they all seem to attract people who have these characteristics in common! Re-enactors and village interpreters are, in most cases, unpaid volunteers. They do it for the love of history and they have a lot of fun doing it! Just think, they are portraying our forefathers in the heat of summer! No air-conditioned buildings! Dressed in “hot” old fashioned materials! I asked one re-enactor how he coped with the wool uniform he was wearing. He just shrugged and smiled and said “You get use to it after a while!” I wondered what he meant by “after a while”! Did he mean when the leaves started to fall and it was time to stoke up the coals in the fireplace? No matter, these wonderful, dedicated historians continue to keep our past vivid and alive! Thank goodness there are people out there that care so much! 

If anyone reading this article is interested in becoming a village interpreter or re-enactor, the pioneer villages and re-enactment groups are always looking for new volunteers. Just contact your nearest pioneer village and they can steer you in the right direction. Who know, the next time Judi and I visit a pioneer village or re-enactment, we might be snapping a picture of you! If we are, let us know. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Attention Animal Lovers…


It’s amazing how well festivals and animal fit together! I had never really thought about it until I started examining festivals and their common links. The more I thought about, the more I realized how large a part animal played in the majority of festivals Judi and I had visited. Out of the last 10 festivals visited, 7 had had animals’ involvement in one form or another! I’ll quickly go down the list. The Fur Trade Re-enactment at Lang Pioneer Village had a number of farm animals plus a horse drawn wagon ride. The Old Time Fiddle Championships in Shelburne had a number of horses in their parade. The Kingston Sheep Dog Trials was really animal oriented! There were, of course, dogs (Border Collies) and sheep, but they also included 2 horse drawn shuttle wagons, a birds of prey demonstration by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy plus two other animal presentations, one by Jungle Cat World and the other by Little Ray’s Reptiles! The Rural Ramble Farm Tour featured numerous farm animals including cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and horses. At the Fort Henry Sunset Ceremony, the Fort Henry Guard’s mascot is a goat named David IX. The Orono Fair had animals galore, chicken (lot of them!), ducks, rabbits, cows and horses! Finally, at the Dine and Shine in Lang Pioneer village, not only did they have their traditional horse drawn wagon ride, but they had their own unique brush with wildlife! Just as Village Museum Manager, Joe Corrigan, was about to welcome the attendees, a flock of Canada Geese flew over the event giving us all a very loud, but appreciated Canadian “fly-by” (NASCAR eat your hearts out!)! So, if you are an animal lover, Ontario festivals and events are a must for you!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Unplugged…


We have been to a number of events that have had loud sounds, such as an air show, several military re-enactments with cannons, a military band performance and a “Rock” concert. They were all very enjoyable, but to a sensitive ear, loud! 

So, what’s the solution? Ear plugs, of course! The only problem with ear plugs is that they can really mute the sounds, both good and bad. If you are close to a cannon being fired off, good! If you are listening to a really great, but loud, music group, bad! Judi and my older grandson have sensitive ears, so ear plugs work for them, especially at battle re-enactments. I guess it’s a matter of choice and it depends on your “sound pain” threshold. Here is an example of what I mean. Judi and I attended a “Rock” concert in Peterborough. A Rock group called “Sweet” was the featured performance. We had the opportunity to hear them practice in the afternoon, so we knew they were going to be loud at the concert, VERY loud! During the concert we were going to be seated near the stage and loudspeakers. The festival organizer offered each of us ear plugs. We gratefully accepted. Judi was very apprehensive and decided to sit at the back of the park, away from the stage and the loudspeakers! I stayed at the front. The concert opened with a Toronto based group, Hello Operator. Although they were fairly loud, they weren’t “ear plug” loud! Then Sweet took the stage. The sound level went up several decibels! I listened to their first song without the aid of ear plugs.  When they started the second song, it was even louder! I put the ear plugs in! I couldn’t leave them in! They muted the music too much and, after all, I was there to listen to a “Rock” concert! I knew what to expect when it started and I wanted to enjoy “Sweet” and their music! By the end of the concert my ears were buzzing, but I had a great time!

Pardon! I can’t hear you! Did you say something?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Staring Down the Competition…


I always have great fun when I go to a fundraising auction dinner. Most have good basic food and an atmosphere that is happy and festive. But the real fun is people watching! During a “silent” auction it’s fascinating watching people’s strategy! Some people “sneak up” to the bid sheet, look around to see if anyone is looking and then quickly write down their bid. If a bidding number is available, they use it rather then disclosing their name! While some bidders may be “sneaky”, others are “bold”! They walk up to the bid sheet, look around defying anyone to challenge them and then boldly scrawl their name on the sheet! Then they look around again telling anyone who will listen that they will “win” this item! Once an initial bid has been made, most bidders become very possessive when it comes to “their” item! They tell their friends that it’s “theirs”. They jump up when anyone goes near “their” item! If someone has the audacity to bid against them, they become quite defensive even “stock’ the offender in extreme cases. And, if they lose, they become pouty and withdrawn (at least for a little while)! It’s all in great fun and for a worthy cause. Live auctions can be even more entertaining. Many times, it’s like a boxing match! At first “opponents” just spare, checking each other out. They make little bids and then stop as though they are giving up, out of the bidding. Then they start again, bidding in a flurry! Finally, one of them many “throws” the “big”. They step up the bid so high that they “knock” their opponent out of the bidding! Sometime the “big bid” doesn’t knock the opponent out. They just become more stubborn and start to borough in. The bids go higher and higher until someone flinches and a winner is declared! The beautiful thing about this type of bidding is that everyone wins! The audience wins because the “fight” has been great entertainment! The organizers win because the item that was bid on brings a big profit for their cause! The winning bidder wins because he/she won! The losing bidder wins because he/she didn’t! At the end of the evening everyone goes home happy because they know that they have helped a “great cause”!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Best Laid Plans... Part 2


We were fortunate with these two destinations. Both had multiple performances, so if we missed one, we could reschedule. We weren’t so lucky with Canadian Open Fiddle Championships in Shelburne! Even tough the weatherman suggested that there was a possibility of showers, we decided to make the trip to Shelburne. It was an event we really didn’t want to miss! So we packed our car, picked up our 4 year old granddaughter and started off on our 3 hour plus trip. The weather was sunny and bright when we started off. However, as we progress towards our destination the skies grew cloudy and then dark! We were three quarters of the way there, so we were committed. Besides, I am the perpetual optimist. The weather was sure to clear up? When we arrive the rain was coming down in buckets! Undaunted the three of up climb out of our car, bundled up and walked to the main street. Other brave souls we lined up on the street, so we joined them! After a short while, the parade started and it, of course, was a long one! The rain was still pouring down! By the end of the parade we all looked like drowned rats! The rain was letting up a little, but it hadn’t stopped. We headed back to our car. We looked for the other planned activities but could find them. Our guess, since they were outdoor activities, that they were cancelled. Even with all the rain, the parade was great and our granddaughter loved it. There were many puddles to jump in and lots of thrown candy to pick up! It was disappointing to travel that far and not to see the whole event! Oh well, “the best laid plans”!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Best Laid Plans… (Part 1)

Judi and I schedule our festival visits a month or two in advance. We try to visit as many Ontario festivals and events as possible! It is sometimes difficult to keep up our schedule. Rain and thunderstorms are the main cause of cancellations. Once we planned to visit the Peterborough and three times we had to cancel. The first due to illness and the other two due to rain and thunderstorms! The first planned visit was successful and we had a great “rockin’” time! Perseverance, as they say, pays off! Then there was our planned visit to Fort Henry. We made arrangements to visit their famous Tattoo performance. In Cobourg, it was the worst storm of the last 10 years. Record amounts of water fell that day. It was hard to justify a 3-hour trip (there and back) when the chances of the event being cancelled were very high, so we cancelled. It took two attempts to finally visit the Fort. On the second attempt the weather was fantastic as was the Sunset Ceremony that we were privileged to enjoy! 

To be continued in Part 2...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Economical Travel…


With the high price of gas these days, it’s hard for the “Festival Nomad” to travel inexpensively. Unfortunately, unlike my desert namesakes, I don’t ride (drive) a camel that can go forever on a tank of “water”! Although my vehicle (so the manufacturer says) is fairly gas efficient, it’s not perfect and neither is my driving. I’m like many people, I want to get there yesterday! I usually push the envelop by driving 20 km above the highway speed limit. That is, I did this until a while weeks ago. Judi and I had scheduled a visit to Morrisburg and Upper Canada Village. Taking the 401 Highway, it’s about a 6 hour trip. For this trip I decided to experiment with my speed. As soon as we got in to the highway, I set the cruise control for 103 kms. It was weird being passed by so many people, especially the big 18 wheelers! Yes, it did take us a little longer, but our gas mileage was terrific! I couldn’t believe we had gone so far on so little gas! We did the same on the way back, only this time I opened the windows and turned off the air conditioning. I continue driving at the lower speeds until my gas tank was almost empty. I had increased my mileage per tank by about 40% or in my case by 250 kms. I couldn’t believe the final results! I mentioned my experiment to a car expert friend and he said he wasn’t surprised by the results, although he didn’t think turning off the air conditioner and opening the windows was that helpful. He felt that the air drag caused by open window would offset any cost savings. I continued the experiment on all subsequent travels with similar results! My experiment has now turned into a way of life (driving that is)! So if you are still driving fast, “honk” as you pass me!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Magic of Cameras! Part 2


Now, having a camera is one thing, using it properly is another! I am still a big amateur in this area, especially when trying to take video shots. A few months ago I had the great idea to include video clips in my Ontario Festivals Visited (www.ontariofestivalsvisited.ca) articles. I thought that this would add a new dimension to my depiction of the festivals and events Judi and I visit. The problem is. I still haven’t mastered keeping my hands still as I am videoing. To make matters worse, my zooming in and out isn’t consistent and I’m having problems focusing long distance shots! I know I will improve over time, but it is frustrating because I want everything to be perfect! My other camera “Challenges” include forgetting to take the camera lens cap off before shooting, forgetting to change the shooting modes from still to movie and my favourite, trying not to tip over when videoing fast moving aerobatic airplanes at an air show, especially when they are traveling at Mach 3! 
This happened at the Canadian Aviation Expo during their air show. I was videoing three- time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, Patty Wagstaff. I was doing fine until Patty came over us at full speed. I was so caught up in videoing her I almost toppled over. If my son-in-law hadn’t been there to catch me, I would have fallen straight on to my behind! I did get some great shots though! Photographing can be a dangerous business! 
So, if you see someone fiddling with their camera at a festival, it’s probably me! If you know anything about cameras, stop and say hello and then HELP ME!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The “Magic’ of Cameras! Part 1


The worst thing that could happen to the “Festival Nomad” is to forget his camera! Now I know that you are probably saying “Boy, what a big baby!” Perhaps that’s true, but my camera is my crutch! I use it as my ears and my memory. Since I write most of my articles a few weeks after Judi and I visit an event, I use the photos to “jog” my memory of what I saw and heard. Without my camera, I would be lost or. At least, severely hampered.

I always pack my “festival kit” the night before. It includes business cards, notes about the festival or event we are visiting, a festival evaluation sheet and my camera, with batteries (can’t run the camera without batteries – 4). By the way, never give any of your spare batteries to anyone without replacing them. I gave my daughter two batteries and then forgot to replace them. At the next event I went to I needed four new batteries and I only had two. Fortunately it was near the end of the event some I didn’t need to take many more photos. If it had have been early, It could have been a disaster!

To Be Continued ~ Part 2