There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted June 29th, 2011
Meaford celebrates Canada Day big-time (in our own small town kinda way)!

Back when the Meaford Haven blogger first arrived in Meaford, in the summer of 1992, it was Canada’s 125th birthday. I remember experiencing Meaford’s Canada Day celebrations as a true small town party, complete with cake from the “Cake Lady”, live music, and of course, the fireworks – which were impressive coming as they did from a small town crew.

Over the years, the town has often been busy on Canada Day, with music, fun, car shows, shopping, and a whole lot more. The brother and sister-in-law have often come to Meaford just to take in Canada Day.

Well, this year, Meaford’s planning on setting the bar high once again.

Canada Day in Meaford

It all starts with that perennial tasty kick-off to events in small Ontario towns – the Pancake Breakfast. Hosted by Meaford’s Military Family Resource Centre, you’ll find the usual fixings – plus Beaver Tails! Head down to the Meaford Hall parking lot from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

After you’re done, cruise down for the massive car show from the Golden Town Cruisers, along the harbour wall along Bayfield Street. (From 9 to 4 p.m.)

Are you a motorcycle enthusiast? If so, join in the “Where the heck is Meaford” Motorcycle Rally, starting at the pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. or up at the “base” (Meaford LFATC) at 10 a.m.

The Canada Day Parade starts at the Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre (the arena), proceeds through downtown, and finishes at the harbour, for the flag-raising ceremony and, yes, the birthday cake!

Then there’s the Family Fun Festival, kicking off at 12:30. Dunk the Mayor and other Meaford celebs in the Kiwanis Dunk Tank, get the kids’ (or your) faces painted, head into the harbour on a boat with the Sail Georgian Bay sailing school, or catch the bicycle rodeo.

There’s music all afternoon; it’s Friday, so the Farmer’s Market’s in full swing; and then it’s time for the 60s Dance featuring “Route 66”. And the fireworks, natch.

And that’s just Friday. There’s more stuff on Saturday. Visit Meaford’s website for more details.

posted June 28th, 2011
Meaford permaculture gardener shares her ideas for Meaford Haven

“I’d like to suggest that you include a pretty community vegetable garden and permaculture garden to set you apart from all the other retirement lifestyle properties,” writes Shawn Phelps. “As well as it being a great selling point, I think people would love it and enjoy it.”

We’d asked for input, and Shawn’s note gave us some great ideas in developing the perfect three-season retirement community – as well as the opportunity to meet a truly interesting woman.

Two years ago, the Toronto-based writer and author bought a small two-acre farm on the edge of the town of Meaford (a short stroll from Meaford Haven, in fact.) Over the next two years she planted a small grove of fruit and nut trees (sour cherry, plum, pear, hazelnut, and Korean pine trees) as the start to her food-producing permaculture garden. Permaculture takes lessons from nature, positioning complementary plants together so they nuture and support each other, without the need for many traditional practices, such as fertilizing and spraying.

“Permaculture copies forests,” says Shawn. “Forests don’t need anyone to take care of them. So you have food forests, with a base of fruit and nut trees, then in between you have plants and bushes that support those trees. If they need nitrogen, you put in nitrogen-fixing plants; things like that. It takes some time, but once it’s set up, it doesn’t take much work. It takes care of itself. And you get a lot of food in a very small amount of space.”

As a journalist “obsessed with understanding humanity”, Shawn has travelled to more than 20 countries, and her travels introduced her to countries where food shortages and pollution are taken for granted. “It started me thinking about what solutions there might be,” says Shawn. “I saw this real movement toward things like permaculture and organic farming, and eventually it became an obsession.”

She brought these ideas to her Meaford home (“Meaford’s my favourite place on earth,” says Shawn.), and her environmentally friendly, food producing permaculture garden is well on its way.

She says she finds it weird that none of the other retirement communities in the Southern Georgian Bay area seem to be incorporating anything like this. “They might have a couple of trees, but they haven’t gone out of their way to create anything beautiful. “And why else would you move to Meaford unless you wanted to be near beautiful nature and connect with it?” she says.

Shawn Phelps in her Meaford garden

Shawn Phelps in her Meaford garden

Visit Shawn’s website at Some more thoughts on gardening and retirement living soon.

posted June 25th, 2011
Answers to the Cowboy Quiz

How’d you do? Here are the answers to our Cowboy Quiz. (Don’t peek until you’ve checked out the previous post.)

1. Prairie strawberries are b) baked beans.
2. A pick-up man c) helps the bronc rider get off his mount safely after 8 seconds.
3. A slick is a) an unbranded animal.
4. And a dogie is b) a calf with no mother.

Now, get down to the rodeo!

posted June 24th, 2011
Meaford RAM Rodeo returns for second year

Meaford’s Fairgrounds host a variety of events through the year, including the Meaford and St. Vincent Agricultural Fall Fair, a true old-fashioned country fair with plough-horses, wagons and livestock on display. But, beginning last summer, the Fairgrounds welcomed a new, and somewhat rowdier, display – the Meaford RAM Rodeo. One of the stops on Ontario’s RAM Rodeo Tour, this Southern Georgian Bay event features all the wild, western action you’ve been hankering for, including foot stomping entertainment at the beer garden tonight. (Fred Eaglesmith is also playing in town at McGuinty’s pub tonight, so a request for his “Rodeo Boy” might be in order.)

meaford rodeo

Action at the Meaford RAM Rodeo

You’ll find bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, ladies break-a-way roping, tie down roping, barrel racing, junior barrel racing, team roping, junior bull riding, and bull riding – featuring stars of the rodeo circuit, of both the two-legged and the four-legged variety. Get Jiggy, one of the more famous bulls on the circuit, is coming out of retirement to visit Meaford, where top rider Bill Thorn will face a tough challenge staying on.

To get you in the mood, let’s test your cowboy comprehension.

What are prairie strawberries?

a) Cuts from a close encounter with a cactus.
b) Baked beans.
c) Dried fruit carried by cowboys on a roundup.

He’s a pick-up man if
a) he drives a Dodge Ram or other truck.
b) he has a way with the cowgirls.
c) he helps the bronc rider get off his mount safely after 8 seconds.

A slick is
a) An unbranded animal
b) An Easterner
c) A near miss from a charging bull

A dogie
a) A range dog.
b) A calf with no mother.
c) A calf destined to become veal.

Answers tomorrow.

posted June 23rd, 2011
Take the kids or the grandkids fishing in Meaford this weekend

Meaford’s Take A Kid Fishing Bass Derby is in its 28th year, and organizer Alan Craig says some of the youngsters who fished years ago will be making a return visit to this year’s derby.

“People really like it,” he says. “Kids that fished 28 years ago are bringing their kids back to fish now. ”

The family event encourages families to fish together, but it’s the kids who get to enter their catch in the derby and take home the prizes. (Actually, every kid goes home with a fishing related prize – last year it was a fishing pole – and there’s also T-shirts from Tim Hortons and a raffle for boys and girls bikes.)

Families fish the Bighead River in Meaford or the Beaver River in Thornbury, as well as along the Southern Georgian Bay shoreline between the two towns, vying for the biggest catch in their age groups – which range from three years old to 17. The derby encourages live release, with an extra 100 grams added onto your catch if you let it go after its weighed.

“Everybody has a pretty good time,” says Craig. “Little kids don’t mind if they only get a six-inch fish on their line. They’re just beaming when they come to the scales with it.”

Families come from all over Ontario and even further to fish together for the weekend, he says.

The Take A Kid Fishing Bass Derby is held this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon, with registration Friday night between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. or any time during the derby. The entry fee is only $5, with tickets available at Bulk Boys Foods, Rick’s Pro Shop, Stedman’s Department Store, Suzie’s Place and U Catch ‘Em Charters.

And when the kids are done fishing, they can check out the Meaford rodeo. Yep, the rodeo. More on that tomorrow.

posted June 21st, 2011
Have fun at work… enjoy a healthy retirement

If you’ve just “wasted” a couple of minutes joking around with a co-worker while your duties await, don’t feel guilty. You might just be prolonging your life. Last month the American Psychological Association published a study which found that your longevity might increase if your co-workers help in problem solving and show a friendly demeanour.

Work-Based Predictors of Mortality: a 20-year follow-up of health employees monitored 820 healthy adults in Israel’s largest companies, questioning them on their roles and how they interacted with fellow employees. The researchers at Tel Aviv University concluded, among other things, that, “Peer social support, which could represent how well a participant is socially integrated in his or her employment context, is a potent predictor of the risk of all causes of mortality.”

So if a healthy retirement is in your plans, encourage friendly support and cultivate an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie among your colleagues. You might be doing yourself – and them – a big favour.

posted June 17th, 2011
A rare opportunity for classical music lovers

Discovered that the benefit for the Sweetwater Music Festival featuring renowned conductor Bramwell Tovey has been cancelled due to illness. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Tovey, and ticket holders should know that they can still enjoy a performance of light jazz by Mark Fewer and Friends in the Meaford Hall Galleries tomorrow night. (Plus free appetizers and a cash bar.) Fewer is the Sweetwater Music Festival’s Artistic Director, and was to have played with Tovey in the second half of the performance, which will be rescheduled soon.

Back in 2004, the first Sweetwater Music Festival introduced yet another world class option for music aficionados in the Meaford area. (I usually hate the term “world class”, but in this case, it fits.)

Founded by Keith and Jean Medley and guided by Mark Fewer, the annual festival showcases internationally respected classical music performers in the splendid acoustics of the 146 year-old Leith Church and Owen Sound’s grand stone Division Street Church.

These musicians usually play before large crowds in large centres, but over the three-day festival, you have a rare opportunity to see and hear them in unique, smaller scaled and accessible environments. (The acoustics at Leith’s “auld kirk”, in particular, are perfect for quartets and soloists, and the audience has an opportunity to meet the musicians in the post-concert soirées.)

We’ll check back in on the festival closer to the date.

posted June 17th, 2011
Spirit of the West rocks Meaford Hall

Last night they were literally dancing in the aisles of Meaford Hall. Attending dozens of musical performances over the years, I’ve never seen the like. The grand old Opera House, elegantly renovated in recent years, rarely echoes with such abandoned behaviour. But when Spirit of the West, the Canadian Celtic/folk/rock fivesome, launched into “Home For a Rest”, a good chunk of the audience leapt from their seats and rushed the area in front of the stage to jig and reel. The overflow spilled into the centre aisle and halfway to the rear. The band capitalized on the giddy momentum with their encore, another rousing crowd pleaser, “The Crawl”, with Geoff Kelly noting, “Okay, we’ve got you pegged – here’s another drinking song.”

Spirit of the West

The band keeps a shine on the bar with their sleeves

John Mann and a Meaford fan

John Mann and a Meaford fan

(Hope to post a video clip here soon)

I’ve written here before about some of the opportunities to hear live music in Meaford, but this seems as good a time as any to bring it up again. Last weekend, it was GBSS Idol. And still hyped from hearing Spirit of the West last night, we’ll be catching Fred Eaglesmith, another Canadian stalwart, next Friday night in the cool upstairs bar at McGinty’s.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Sweetwater Music Festival. While it’s held in September, it kicks with a fundraising performance by Grammy award-winning conductor Bramwell Tovey, Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony and Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

More on that in a bit.

posted June 14th, 2011
GBSS Idol showcases Meaford high school musical talent

Meaford’s very own “Idol” competition, Georgian Bay Secondary School Idol (or GBSS Idol), wrapped up last Friday. The three finalists, chosen a few weeks back, took to the stage to perform their renditions of popular songs and submit to the votes of the audience.

Cam Fletcher and Jordyn Smith, long-time GBSS favourites, went home with the golden statuette. Ellie Baecklund came second. And Lauren Poetker took third.

The crowd was also treated to a special appearance by Connor Vilaca, winner of the 2009 GBSS Idol, who was back in town from NYC for a brief vacation from his courses at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

posted June 10th, 2011
Vintage cars at Meaford harbour

Early evening on a Meaford Tuesday, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve slipped back in time. With its heritage buildings, old-fashioned main street, and leafy trees, Meaford already has the feel of a small Ontario town lingering in a nostalgic past. But when the 1955 Buick cruises by with a ’66 T-Bird on its tail, you might just find yourself humming some old rock ‘n’ roll and looking ’round for a malt shop.

This past week, I dropped by the first gathering of the season for the Golden Town Cruisers. Down at the Rotary Pavilion at Meaford Harbour, every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m., you can check out vintage and classic cars, or cruise on down in your own. Door prizes, jacket draws and great music round out the evening.

Drop by Cruise Night any time through September and get a look for yourself.

Golden Town Cruisers

Golden Town Cruisers

Golden Town Cruisers

Golden Town Cruisers

Golden Town Cruisers

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