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 July 29th, 2011
Meaford International Film Festival (MIFF) lineup announced

Just got back from the press conference announcing the lineup for this year’s Meaford International Film Festival. Yes, I did say Meaford International Film Festival – or as it’s affectionately known, MIFF. It looks like another stellar year of films. (The tagline is “four nights, four films, four parties”, though as MIFF producer Michael Anderson pointed out this morning, some people prefer to phrase it “four nights, four parties, four films”.)

The festival was the brainchild of Sundance-nominated documentary filmmaker (and Meaford resident) Gough Lewis, who together with Anderson shepherded MIFF to an amazing debut at Meaford Hall in 2007.

Using the concept of the best of festival-screened films, the team scoured the globe for works that had won prizes at major film festivals. (MIFF has been the first to show a number of films in Canada, and has scooped the Toronto International Film Festival on more than one occasion, showing a film in Meaford weeks before its Toronto debut.) Opening night of the first festival featured “An Unreasonable Man” which examined the career of Ralph Nader – followed by Shane Jolley, local Green Party candidate, interviewing the subject himself via video teleconferencing (this was pre-Skype, I think.)

After each film, those with party tickets attend a gathering in the Hall to join friends and meet with luminaries who are featured in post-screening discussions.

So… this year’s lineup. Well, I’ll let the MIFF release tell the story:

The Festival opens on Thursday, September 1, with The White Meadows, a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece that takes place on Lake Urmia in Iran. The White Meadows won the Denver Film Festival for Best Feature Film as well as several other international film awards. The story is about Rahmat, who is sent by his job to travel to different islands, something he has been doing for many years. They ask for him to collect the tears of the inhabitants of these islands. Although these inhabitants have been giving their tears to Rahmat for many years, no one really knows what he is doing with them. The film is centered in Iran and the language is Persian. Film will be sub-titled or dubbed where available.

On Friday night, we show Last Train Home. This is an emotionally engaging and visually beautiful debut film from Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan that draws us into the fractured lives of a single migrant family caught up in the annual migration of Chinese migrant workers home for the Chinese New Year. Sixteen years ago, the Zhangs abandoned their young children to find work in the city, consoled by the hope that their wages would lift their children into a better life.

Intimate and candid, the film paints a human portrait of the dramatic changes sweeping China. We identify with the Zhangs as they navigate through the stark and difficult choices of a society caught between old ways and new realities. This film has won numerous awards including Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival. [Anderson mentioned he hoped to line up star Naomie Harris for a post-screening interview, noting that she’s soon to be a Bond girl, which would make his life complete. Looks like she’s going to be Moneypenny, but that’s close enough!]

On Saturday night, we have the true story of a hero from Kenya. The First Grader is set in a mountain village in Kenya and tells the remarkable true and uplifting story of a proud old Mau Mau veteran who is determined to seize his last chance to learn to read and write – and so ends up joining a class alongside six year-olds. Together he and his young teacher face fierce resistance, but ultimately they win through – and also find a new way of overcoming the burdens of the colonial past. This film won awards at TIFF, Teluride, London and Doha Tribeca Film Festivals. The language is English.

Following tradition, the Closing Gala is the film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In a Better World is the story of Anton, a doctor, who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness. Their older, ten-year-old son Elias is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian, a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus. Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship is tested and lives are put in danger. Ultimately, it is their parents who are left to help them come to terms with the complexity of human emotions, pain and empathy. The languages spoke are Danish, Swedish, English and Arabic.

(Here’s a tip based on previous festivals. Three of this year’s screenings are subtitled. While Meaford Hall has generally excellent viewing from all areas, the guest in front of you just might make it hard to read the subtitles, so get your tickets early and be up front, or consider the balcony.)

The afterparties this year have a bonus for the first 400 people to buy party tickets. You’ll get a coupon booklet from Lora Bay Golf Club packed with $400 worth of deals, including two-for-one greens fees and two-for-one meals at the Raven Grill. And a trivia contest each night will reward the winner with a gift basket packed with amazing prizes.

To learn more and see the trailers, visit the website here.

posted July 29th, 2011
Avant-garde music and art in Meaford’s pastoral beauty

Electric Eclectics snuck up on this year (as did the “August” long weekend, which mainly takes places in July). But this crazy weekend of experimental music, sound art and, well, they’ve called it this themselves before, noise, is something everybody should experience at least once. (And then you’ll want to be back again.) The sixth Electric Eclectics is on this weekend.

The blogger has managed to be away the last couple of years during the event, but attended the second and third editions, and with the way the weather’s shaping up this weekend, might just be able to make it this year.

Highlights from those years, which have acquired the tinge of some psychedelic memory, include listening to the weird dissonance of the Nihilist Spasm Band while gazing across the rolling pastoral beauty of the drumlins from Scotch Mountain; theramin suites to die for by Dorit Chrysler; catching some old favorites (Chris Bottomley, Richard Underhill and Mary Margaret O’Hara, among others) in an extremely intimate setting and with new perspective; and an amazing midnight laser light show of the quality you’d find at a major event for thousands occurring under a tent packed with fewer than 200 people. And then there was the on-site camping.

The costs have gone up a bit in the short years since, and the crowds are getting bigger, but this is still a truly an event like no other in the world – this type of music, sound art and installations in this unparalleled setting.

Rather than trying to imagine it from these pale attempts to describe it, start by visiting the website to see what’s on offer this weekend, check out the Meaford Independent’s video from 2009 (below)… and then be there!

posted July 28th, 2011
Business club for retirees at Meaford Haven

“I used to meet a few retired men for morning coffee – mostly ex-commuters (to London) with professional or business backgrounds and with a wealth of experience behind them,” wrote Rotarian Fred Carnhill in “A Simple Idea”. “Conversation was always brisk and entertaining. One was an architect, responsible for many public buildings over the country, another an ex-borough treasurer, an ex-railway official, an headmaster, an ex-journalist, an ex-newspaper editor and an ex-secretary to a Prime Minister. This gave me an idea: really a very simple one.”

That night in 1965 he phoned 33 retired friends about joining a club of retired business and professional people.

At the same time, another English Rotarian, Harold Blanchard, established the Caterham PROBUS club – the name, which combined “professional” and “business”, suggested by one of the members. “He assured us that probus was a Latin word from which ‘probity’ was derived,” wrote Blanchard.

Before long the two clubs combined, and today hundreds of thousands of retirees are members of thousands of Probus clubs worldwide.

As states, “Retirement can come too early for many people who want and are able to remain active.” We agree.

One of the ideas we’d like to hear input on during our virtual focus group exercises is this:

What would you think of having a kind of employment agency for residents, operating out of the Clubhouse, that would match up skills with local needs, so you could keep active and involved with your community and earn a little money now and then?

Perhaps the Business Club of Meaford Haven would offer services to the community at low rates, and both raise money for the club and pay a small amount to the “volunteer”. And the club could offer services to non-profits at no charge.

We’re wondering if ideas along this line appeal to you, and whether it would be an opportunity to do the work for which you’d like to be remembered.

To get involved with the virtual focus groups, sign up.

posted July 22nd, 2011
Retirees find Ontario’s small towns a value alternative

“Ontario’s historic small-town communities may be the retirees’ best-kept secret to the good life at a fraction of the cost,” wrote Zoomer Magazine in a recent issue. They suggest that while Vancouver Island and the B.C. interior are considered “retirement havens”, people who want true value and enjoyment of their retirement years should look to small-town Ontario.

B.C. residents Louise and Dennis Keller were considering the Okanagan Valley for their retirement, but soon discovered the cost would leave them short of disposable funds for the things they wanted to do once they retired. So instead, they sold their condo and moved to a lakeside small town in Ontario. With what they got for their house sale, they were able to purchase a home and have funds left over to enjoy their retirement. “Out here, we can afford to join the golf club and enjoy all the things we like to do,” Zoomer quotes Louise as saying. “We’re not house-poor. The beaches here are beautiful, and Ontario has many wonderful historic sites.”

The article also sings the praises of condominium living in 50-plus active living communities. “‘I feel like I’m on vacation, and I really like it,’ says [Rick McHale] about the rural setting, friendly neighbours and low maintenance,” the magazine wrote.

posted July 19th, 2011
A scenic Meaford cycling route

If the Centurion Canada video got you interested in joining in, it’s time to start training. This 80-kilometre route starts and ends in Meaford, and offers a lot of great scenery and a lot of climbing (and downhills, too!) Portions of this route are featured in the 50 and 100 mile events in Centurion Canada.

Starting in downtown Meaford, head east to Grey Road 7 (the lights at the east end of town), and turn right. And the hills begin. In the 30-kilometre stretch from Meaford to Eugenia along Grey Roads 7 and 13, you first climb the one kilometre hill out of town, drop and ascend more shorter, steeper climbs (as well as some false flats), and then after descending into the Beaver Valley and through Kimberley, you begin the long multi-stage climb up the other side again. By the time you hit Kimberley, you’ve earned your refreshment at the Beaver River Grill or the Flying Chestnut Kitchen.

(Now, there’s an idea – leave a car in Kimberley first time ’round, and you can end your ride here. Nothing wrong with easing into it!)

Up for the return route? After recharging, you can return to Meaford via the same stretch, or once you’ve gone through Kimberley on your return, continue on Grey Road 13 as it winds and dips along the Beaver Valley toward Thornbury. You’ll pass through the hamlet of Heathcote on the way, where the bakery will entice you with the smell of delicious treats, and soon thereafter you’ll arrive in Clarksburg, with its gallery-lined main street – then on past the old heritage homes into Thornbury. From here, it’s a mere 13 kilometres back to Meaford along the Georgian Trail, or if you haven’t filled your climbing quota, work your way west to Sideroad 33, and ascend one more good-sized hill before turning north on Meaford’s Third Line and following it back to the Highway and into town. Don’t miss the terrific view as the Third Line crests above Meaford.

Cycling route from Meaford

Click on the map to get the route. If it doesn't work at first, try a second time, or paste into your browser.

Of course, you don’t have to be a “centurion” to enjoy the riding around Meaford. If you’re into an easier pace, the rolling hills around Meaford offer an endless variety of less strenuous rides. (Let the sights take your breath away instead!) And if you prefer something that’s definitely more leisurely than laborious, try out the Georgian Trail. The mostly flat rail-to-trail begins at Meaford Harbour and follows the old Northern Rail line along the curve of Georgian Bay to Collingwood, offering stops at Christie Beach, Lora Bay, Thornbury and Blue Mountain.

(If mountain biking’s your thing, you’ve definitely come to the right place. More on that soon.)

To begin exploring cycling routes in Meaford start at Jolley’s Alternative Wheels and checking out the database of rides.

posted July 18th, 2011
Why Centurion Canada chose Southern Georgian Bay

On your drive on one of the many scenic roads into Meaford, you’re bound to notice groups of cyclists in colourful Lycra jerseys, attacking hills that can take your breath away (literally). And if you’re into the harder rides, there’s plenty of those to be found.

When cyclist Ken Petersen arrived in Meaford after getting serious about riding in Vancouver and the Coastal Mountains, he found it a cyclist’s paradise. “Meaford is better than Vancouver or B.C., because there’s lots of flat areas, so for those people who don’t want to encounter a lot of hills when they’re out riding, it’s great. And for insane people like me who’ll ride 30 kilometres so I can ride 15 kilometres up a mountain, there’s still lots of challenging hills.” (Road bike enthusiasts are surprised – and pleased – to discover just how many of the back country roads in the area are well-paved.)

As you explore the routes, you’ll understand why this area attracted Centurion Cycling to stage an event here. After its successful inaugural run last year, Centurion Canada is back on September 16 to 18, offering 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile (yes, mile) rides.

Centurion Canada from Michael Clarke on Vimeo.

(Don’t miss the riders at 3:46!)

Tomorrow, we’ll explore a solid ride out of Meaford.

posted July 15th, 2011
The “secret route” to Meaford

If you’re travelling up to Meaford from the GTA, here’s a route that will make the drive almost as enjoyable as your arrival.  (It’s as nice in reverse, except for the fact that you’re leaving Meaford.)

Zero your trip mileage whereever you see the speedometer icon:

Find your way to Airport Road.  You can reach it direct from the city, or by meandering down scenic Highway 9 from as far east as the 404.

Head north on Airport, whose name belies the bucolic scenery it passes.  North of Highway Nine, signs advise you to be careful when passing, as the road dips and sweeps through the area.

Not long after Highway Nine, you’ll encounter a couple of wide sweeping turns, after which the road swoops into the green Hockley Valley.  As you climb after passing through the valley, glance back now and then to admire the view.  The hills continue as you reach Highway 89, where the Dufferin county museum has been raised like some massive barn, complete with green walls and a red roof.

The road continues to wind and dip and climb toward Mansfield.  Three km. after the highway, you’ll pass the unique Olde Stanton Store on your right.  Pass through Mansfield, and around the 8 km. mark, note one of many 19th century schoolhouses you’ll see on your travels today.

Almost 15 km from 89, you’ll drop into a glen, where County Road 21 heads west to Honeywood.  Turn left here, and wind through the tall pines of the Dufferin Forest.  21 bends and dips and climbs as you gradually work your way up to a ridge overlooking the valley formed by the Pine River on your left.

Shortly after passing through the hamlet of Honeywood, you’ll hit a stop sign.

Turn right, or south.  For awhile, you’re back on the straight and flat again.  Consider it a breather.  14 km down this road, you’ll reach Highway 4, at which point you’ll turn left, heading west.

About 12 km along, you’ll pass through Maxwell.  Immediately after the village, take note of the white church on your left.  It looks as if it had been lifted intact from P.E.I. and dropped in the Ontario heartland.

22 km along Four, turn right on Grey Road 13, at a Viceroy Homes office.  This road will lead you into the beautiful Beaver Valley.  Passing through Eugenia, take note of the large old house on your left.  As you begin your descent into the Valley, you may want to stop at the Beaver Valley lookout on your left.  The village nestled in the valley is Kimberley.

Just past the village, turn left on Grey Road 7.  When the bridge crosses the Beaver River, stop for a moment, and glance behind you.  Kimberley Rock, or Old Baldy, looms above you, a favorite lookout on the Bruce Trail.

Old Baldy, or The Rock, at Kimberley, from Google Earth

Continue on, past Talisman Ski Resort, and climb the other side of the valley.  Through the trees on your right, you may catch glimpses of the Blue Mountains and Georgian Bay.  At the top of the hill, stop to stretch your legs at the Epping Lookout, which offers a broad view of the Beaver Valley, and on clear days, the Bay beyond.

Continue over the top of the escarpment toward Meaford.  You’ll see a sign for the Old Mail Road on your right.  Try and set aside some time to explore this historic route during your stay.  Around this time, you’ll get your first glimpse of blue directly ahead… Georgian Bay.  Before long, the town spreads under leafy trees to your left, and the Bay and Cape Rich stretch off in front of you.

A left turn at the bottom of the hill takes you into town.  We’ll finish the drive with this description of Meaford by Lynne Barnes.  Writing in Daytrips on the Backroads “The best kept secrets of Southern Georgian Bay revealed.”

“If an artist were asked to paint a picture of the quintessential Ontario town, that artist would paint Meaford.  The view of this town as one enters from the east is one of the prettiest on Georgian Bay; the tower of the United Church stands tall among the trees, while in the background looms the massive wall of the Dobie building.  Initially, these structures overwhelm all else, leaving a lasting impression, but with the descent into town, one begins to notice the sidestreets, crowded with trees, the classic homes trimmed in gingerbread and white paint, and a downtown that seems untouched by time…

“…The history of this town remains alive in its streets, which are named for such British Admirals as Collingwood, Trowbridge, Nelson and Sykes, and in the extraordinary number of turn-of-the-century buildings that are still in use.”

posted July 14th, 2011
Meaford’s perfect summer weather

As I was enjoying another fresh, sunny, warm, crystal-clear Meaford morning, looking out to see Christian Island rising above the waters of Georgian Bay – some 40 kilometres away – I thought about how nice the weather had been recently. While we could use a little more rain right now, the threatening hot, humid days hadn’t materialized. And even when we did get some 30 degree weather on Monday, the humidity dropped before day’s end for a perfect summer night.

Friends visiting from Dundas, Ontario last weekend commented on how the weather was so much nicer – warm and bright, but not oppressively hot and humid. We threw out the old line that it’s usually about 2 degrees cooler in Meaford than in the GTA. Have been saying it forever, and wondered just how true it is.


Owen Sound average for today

Toronto averages for today

In fact, the historicals on Environment Canada’s weather site show our weather two to three degrees lower than Toronto’s over the summer months. Package in less humidity, and your summer’s a lot more comfortable. Of course, you can also head down to the beach, where a sweet breeze or a quick dip in Georgian Bay will refresh your body – and your whole outlook. See you down there!

(And have another look at the stats above… looks like we’re getting another six minutes of daylight to enjoy today.)

posted July 12th, 2011
Attracting retirees for more than a century!

The other day, we met with a Meaford resident you may know of if you keep up on real estate in Ontario. Roberta Avery writes about real estate (and other topics) for the Toronto Star, among other publications, and she was interested in meeting with Meaford Haven developer Pierre Boiron to learn more about all that Meaford Haven has to offer in an active retirement community.

(Roberta and her husband, John, also own the Irish Mountain Bed and Breakfast, a beautiful place to get away from it all, commanding the best view of the sweep of Nottawasaga Bay.)

Over coffee on the deck at McGinty’s we looked out across the deep blue of Georgian Bay as white sails filled in the refreshing summer breeze, and discussed the concept of a Three Seasons Retirement Community, the opportunity for residents to help develop the concept by participating in virtual focus groups, and some of the ideas that have been proposed in terms of community gardens, a community business club, clubhouse amenities, and more.

During our conversation, Roberta happened to mention something about Meaford’s history. “Many of the old red brick houses in Meaford were built by farmers who retired to town,” she explained. So Meaford has been seen as a desireable retirement community for more than a hundred years!

When we first arrived here, Meaford was still known as the Golden Town, which I think was intended to reflect autumn and the apple harvest, but was occasionally used as a cheeky reference to its ability to attract those in their “golden years”.

Fact is, with its quiet, almost nostalgic, small-town ambience, its beautiful scenery, its year-round activities, and its high quality health care, Meaford is a perfect place to make your retirement home.

posted July 8th, 2011
100 Mile Market on the move

100 Mile Market

For the last four years, this beautiful, circa 1880 Second-Empire-style building has been home to Meaford’s 100 Mile Market. Well, the Market’s moving soon, but it will continue to offer the local produce, meat and other goodies that have made it a popular Meaford destination.

Barb Kay and David Harper moved to Meaford originally to raise elk at their farm south of town. Stonyfield Antiques and Elk Farm which produces and markets elk velvet antler, a natural medicine used in China for thousands of years, as well as delicious low-fat elk meat. When they bought the building on Trowbridge Street in Meaford, they initially looked for a business to occupy half of the ground floor. But then an idea struck. Inspired by the 2007 book, The 100 Mile Diet, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, the couple decided to open a store that sold only goods produced within 100 miles of Meaford. It provided a welcome outlet for local food producers and artisans, and it became an almost instant hit.

David passed away suddenly two years ago, and Barb has continued to run the successful business. But she knew there was potential to grow it more than she was able to on her own. So recently, she suggested to the operators of another unique local business that there might be a fit.

EcoInhabit sells environmentally friendly building supplies; organic and natural kitchen, bed, bath and personal care products; and locally crafted custom furniture and cabinetry.

The store, which operates out of a beautifully converted barn on Highway 26 just east of Meaford, seemed like the perfect place in which to grow the 100 Mile Market. Owners Jan and Tim Singbeil and Rob and Kara Wildeman agreed.

“I’m really pleased that these folks are willing to take it the next step and the next level and do bigger and better things with it,” Barb told the Owen Sound Sun Times.

The new owners took over the Market a couple of weeks ago, and will change locations once everything’s in place.

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