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”!