Thursday, September 24, 2020

When New Meets Old…


Anyone who thinks that new can’t compliment old and still maintain the integrity of old, has never been to Fanshawe Pioneer Village! Fanshawe is a wonderful heritage village that honors the “old” while conforming to modern realities! You will be able to read about our visit to the Fanshawe Harvest Fest in a few weeks, but until then I thought I would tell you about some of the ways they have handled difficult challenges.
Challenge #1 – Disability Access: It’s not likely that our pioneer ancestors were too concerned with wheelchairs and disability access. So how does a “heritage settlement” handle this modern challenge? Since wheel chair ramps are a must in today’s society, especially for a public facility, not having ramps was not an option! But what about the “modern” look? Fanshawe’s solution was simply to use old distressed wood. As a result the ramps look like they not only belong there, but that they have been there forever!

Challenge #2 – Recycling and Litter: Blue Boxes and metal garbage cans don’t blend in with heritage buildings and gardens! Fanshawe handled this beautifully. They build old rustic “miniature sheds” and then placed them in strategic locations throughout the village. They have been made so well that they just blend into the “heritage atmosphere”. Judi and I had explored most of the village by the time we realized how Fanshawe had disguised their litter and recycling receptacles!

It is amazing that simple solutions like these aren’t used by all heritage facilities. A little imagination goes a long way. If you are in the London area, Fanshawe Pioneer Village is certainly worth the visit! The village, now 50 years old, is located in the Fanshawe Conservation Area. Their next big special event is their “1812 Invasion of Upper Canada” re-enactment on October 3-4, 2009. To find out more about this event and Fanshawe Pioneer Village, visit their website at If you do visit the village, tell them the “Festival Nomad” sent you!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Living History…


Our 15-year-old nephew became a soldier! No, he did not join the Canadian Armed Forces! He did, however, join his fellow students and their history teacher in a re-enactment demonstration at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Seeing him and the other young people becoming involved in re-enacting Canada’s past made me think of the thousands of men and women and their families who dawn period costumes each summer and fall weekend to become “living history”! As David Brunelle, one of the organizers of Wasaga under Siege, said to me, “It’s like taking your family on an ‘old fashioned’ camping trip!”, old canvas tents, open fires, boiled coffee, toasted marshmallows and spending quality time with people who have similar interests. Besides, who doesn’t want to play make believe, shoot muskets and wear neat clothing! All that being said, re-enactments and re-enactors play an important part in Canadian society. With the great number of newcomers immigrating to our marvelous country, it gives them the opportunity to learn about Canada’s history and why it is such a great country to live in. Re-enactments also help show how Canada and the United States became separate countries and how we eventually learned to live in peace together. Even if you are not a history buff, re-enactments are exciting and entertaining! The pageantry, colour and action all add up to a wonderful experience! Whether or not our nephew and his friends become further involved in re-enacting, at least they will have had a chance to experience “first-hand” a part of Canada’s history! My hat is off to his history teacher and all of those other adults who encourage our young people to take an active interest in living Canada’s past!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Sunset Cruises – Captain Randy Potts (Part Two)


So here I was, standing on the bare deck of the Peerless II, as Randy described what he had already done, what was left to do and what it was going to be like when he was finished. Back on the Idyllwood, Randy showed me photographs of the restoration so far. As I said before, I couldn’t believe my own eyes! The work that had been done was incredible, and to think Randy was working alone during most of the restoration!

At that point last year, Randy had hoped that the restorations would be far enough along in the fall of 2009 that he would be able to take the restored Peerless II on its maiden voyage. However, time and circumstances have delayed the launch date. The fall of 2010 was the planned launch target. Judi and I have already taken a number of cruises on this wonderful cruise ship!

So, if you want to see and learn more about Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes, don’t miss a cruise on the Peerless II! Randy knows more stories about the lakes then anyone I know and he is glad to share them with his passengers! Rain or shine, cool or warm, the Idyllwood is equipped to handle all climates! Well, perhaps not ice or snow! Find out more about Captain Randy, his boats and the 2009 cruising schedule by visiting the Sunset Cruises website at

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Sunset Cruises – Captain Randy Potts (Part One)


I would not have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes! One day, I drove to Gravenhurst to meet Captain Randy Potts. Randy owns Sunset Cruises and the M.V. Idyllwood. The Idyllwood is a 40-foot 1920’s era yacht that was faithfully restored by Randy. He has the photographs and scares to prove it! It took Potts several years to complete the restoration, but the end result is a boat that any owner would be proud of! The Idyllwood, under the capable hands of Captain Randy cruises the Muskoka Lakes. Don’t let his youthful looks deceive you, he has been a licensed Captain for over 20 years and has been at the helm of some mighty impressive ships, including the famous R.M.S. Segwun. The Idyllwood accommodates 12 guests in refined luxury. When I traveled all the way to Gravenhurst, I did want to see the M.V. Idyllwood, but frankly I was more interested in Randy’s latest restoration project, the Peerless II. For 49 years the Peerless II roamed the Muskoka Lakes delivering gasoline and home heating fuel to the cottagers and residents of the lakes. In 1994 the Peerless II was taken out of service and sold to become a private vessel. Then in September of 2003, Captain Randy Potts and Sunset Cruises purchased the Peerless II. You would have thought that Potts’ experiences of restoring the Idyllwood would have made him think twice about taking on a project of this magnitude, but obviously that was not the case!

(To be continued in Part Two)