Great Horned owls, frogs and hot dogs draw many to Wawanosh Nature Centre

26 Aug

wawanosh3By Diva Caroline Thuss

NORTH HURON – Packed up the family, flashlights, bug spray and donned rubber boots this past Thursday to head to the Wawanosh Nature Centre for an evening full of discovery for all ages at the annual Wawanosh By Moonlight event.

Located in North Huron, the drive into the Wawanosh Nature centre leads down a beautiful winding country road. It is not very well marked so it was very handy to have my husband with me to help spot the turns. Once we parked the car, we were greeted by staff and shown through the classroom where several artefacts were on display to teach about owls, bats and other creatures in the nature area.

wawanosh1The leader for the event, Erin, informed the group about some crazy owl facts, like they can turn their heads 270 degrees, and although they have amazing sight and hearing they do NOT have a great sense of smell as one of the Great Horned owls favourite snacks is skunks…yes, you read it here: SKUNKS!  Once we practised a few owl calls and refreshed our bug spray we headed out on our 1.5-k hike with lots of other families. There was also a 3-k route for those who were up for the longer adventure.

wawanosh4We kept up with the pace as we explored the woods, stopping a few times to learn about the different creatures in the conservation area that are nocturnal. This was very interactive as Erin got the attendees of all ages involved in figuring which frog call belong to what frog, using our sense of smell in the dark and working on our hearing to have a better understanding of the amazing abilities owls and others have.

wawanosh2At our last stop, we were very fortunate to spot a Great Horned owl perched on top of a tree. We watched it for a short while before it majestically took off in search of its dinner. We tried our best to call it back but many of the younger group members were ready to head for the campfire for hot dogs and marshmallows as a fun way to end the night.

The campfire was a very social event with many breaking out into traditional songs and sharing tips on how to get the perfectly roasted marshmallow. Conservation Authority staff were available to answer any more questions that attendees had. It was a great evening event that had all my kiddos snoring on our drive home.

A nice bonus was the free bowling pass to the Goderich Little Bowl that we received on our way out.


 

There are many things happening at the different conservation authorities in Huron County.

Check them out:

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

Maitland Valley Conservation Authority

 

Goderich Triathlon: For athletes and spectators alike

25 Aug

By Diva Caroline Thuss

GODERICH – I was up and at it early on Aug. 16 and fuelled by coffee to make it down to the Goderich main beach before the start of the Goderich Tri. Even though I get down there well before 8 a.m., many athletes and volunteers were already there for what would be hours before the event started, getting things set up and going over final details to make this event run smoothly.

triathlon2Everywhere I look I see the orange shirts of the volunteers, so if anyone needs any assistance it’s easy to get some guidance. I can’t even imagine how many hours that Jeremiah Sommer (race director) and the rest of the crew have put in to make this the scale of event that the Goderich Triathlon now is.

Participants come from all over Ontario, even a participant from New York State. The dedication that these athletes put into training for an event that can have athletes swimming 1000 m, biking 40 km and then finishing up by running 10 km is admirable. (Other race categories include the shorter beginner Try-A-Tri and the run / bike only Sprint Duathlon.) traithlonmainLooking at how wavy Lake Huron is this morning, I am sure it would feel like 2000 m for the swim, with the temperature expected to break 32 degrees and the humidex on top of that I can only imagine how spent these triathletes are by the end. A cold beer would sound in order to me:)

It’s exhilarating watching the athletes complete the different sections of the course and push through any negative thoughts they must have to stop and take a break. Many participants cheer on other triathletes as they passed each other and volunteers and spectators keep them going with cow bells, hand claps and cheers. It truly is an inspiring experience. The local triathlon club, the Huron County Tri Hards, are out in full force and sporting 4J on their arms or legs in support of their teammate, Julie Sawchuk, who is recovering from a horrific accident.

For those who are interested in other area events check these upcoming events:

Gateway to Health and Wealth trail run and walk Aug 29th

http://www.gatewaytohealthandwealth.com/

 

The Bad Thing Trail Race Oct. 31

http://www.racethebadthing.com/
If you are like me and would like to start training for next year’s Goderich Triathlon, check out these two local groups for training sessions, tips, and inspiration: Huron County Tri Hards and Huron County Endurance, both are on Facebook.

St. Joseph Park: Breakfast and a local history lesson

18 Aug

mainBy Diva Shari Parsons

ST. JOSEPH – Golden sunshine, golden pancakes and golden maple syrup – what more could a person ask for? All of these and more were available at the Breakfast in the Park in the small community of St. Joseph Just north of Grand Bend on Highway 21.

This summer event is organized by the St. Joseph & Area Historical Society and takes place in the shady St. Joseph Memorial Park on the corner of Bluewater Highway and Hensall/Zurich Road. All proceeds from the breakfast go towards the maintenance of the park.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

The breakfast menu featured ruby red strawberries and juicy, freshly sliced cantaloupe, hot scrambled eggs, thick sausages fresh off the “barbie”, and golden pancakes that could be drizzled (or drowned) in sweet, golden maple syrup. To quench your thirst, there was hot coffee and cold juice. All of this was served with smiles and friendly banter. The cost was a “Free Will Offering”, which I thought was a great idea and easy on the pocket book.

You could take your heaping plate and sit at one of the many tables and chairs that had been set up under canopies or make use of one of the park’s picnic tables. It was nice to look around and see singles, couples, families, young and not so young enjoying one another’s company in these pleasant surroundings.

As its name suggests, the park is a memorial to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of Canada. The park features a statue of St. Joseph holding Baby Jesus. The exact spot for the location of the statue was chosen by Brother Andre (now known as St. Andre of Montreal) in 1917, however, the memorial did not get built until 1972.

The park also features a memorial to Brother Andre of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He was famous for his good works among French Canadians and was credited with thousands of reportedly miraculous healings.

IMG_2341The park is also dedicated to the memory of the French Canadians who left Quebec in the early part of the 19th century and settled in the area now called St. Joseph, the only French settlement between Windsor and Midland. A Heritage Walkway contains the names of many of those original families, names such as Masse, LaPorte, and Cantin, with perhaps the settlement’s most famous citizen being Narcisse Cantin, aka “The Father of the St. Lawrence Seaway”. There are also a number of plaques situated along the walkway, which provide some very interesting local historical facts and pictures.

The St. Joseph & Area Historical Society works hard to collect and preserve the local history and has created a wonderful website.

Its Breakfast in the Park is a nice outing for the family where you can fill your tummies with yummy food and your heads with some interesting local history.

Legends. . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll pays tribute to music greats

17 Aug
Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

GRAND BEND – I have been very fortunate to catch every musical offered at the main stage of the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend this season. I was wondering if Artistic Director Alex Mustakas’ most recent creation (yes, he dreamt up, wrote and directed the Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll) would be a favourite as it would be hard to top the other shows, especially Chicago. Yet this musical flashback of the tops tunes from the 50s, 60s and 70s had me dancing in my seat on opening night!

The theatre was packed again and as soon as the audience finished the traditional Huron Country Playhouse “one-clap” recognition of the sponsors, the lights dimmed and the audience was taken back to a more simple time with old advertisements and other video footage playing on two retro televisions on either side of the stage to set the mood. The premise of the show is a popular television host, Roy Solomon, is signing-off after 20 years. The “theatregoers become the live studio audience” who get to relive the best moments of the show.

The 13-member ensemble each has superb talent and individuals got the opportunity to shine while bringing back to life moments

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

from music history. One cast member who really stood out to me, Yvan Pedneault, was able to capture so many different musicians beautifully but two that really moved me were rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. My parents used to play Simon and Garfunkel to help me sleep when I was little.

Right away, I was impressed by the vocal strength of Christine Glen in “Proud Mary”. This continued in “Son of a Preacher Man” and my favourite, “Respect”. Jennifer Kee nailed Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and, along with Laura Ma Neson and Valerie Stanois, brought The Supremes hits to a cheering audience.

Lee Siegel has such a rich voice that he had the audience singing along to “Mony Mony” and “Pretty Woman” to name a few. Gerrad Everad had the audience in stitches over his Mick Jagger portrayal and rocks the keys as Jerry Lee Lewis.

Michel LaFleche does it all from the rockin’ Chuck Berry to softer hits from The Lovin’ Spoonful. He teams up with Pedneault as Sonny and Cher…words can not even describe the comedy when those two are together. Michael Clarke goes from Stevie Wonder one minute to Ray Charles the next. His voice changes ever so slightly for authenticity of the artists.

It is the funny man Michael De Rose who ties it all together as the announcer, Sheldon Lubliner, of this Ed Sullivan style television show that gets the audience laughing throughout.  De Rose brings the audience some great belly laughs – especially in his rendition of “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips with Me.”

A warning to those who end up with front row seats. You may become a part of the show as De Rose selects audience members to be past American presidents and one First Lady. Two lucky ladies were picked out by the performers and became the focus of their amorous songs, which provided the rest of us some great laughs. Fortunately, the audience members did not seem to mind in the least little bit.

The ensemble  encouraged audience participation throughout the show and I did not hold back! Clapping to the rhythm of each song and singing along when appropriate (okay, maybe singing very quietly along with the cast to most of the songs) secretly hoping that I would be pulled up to dance with one of the cast members.

I look forward to seeing what this talented ensemble will be performing in for the 2016 Drayton Season. Did someone say Mama Mia?!

Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll runs through Aug. 29. Regular performance tickets are $42 for adults; $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Huron Country Playhouse, online or by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000 or 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

 

High-speed excitement waits for you at the 24th TransCan in Walton

13 Aug

motocross1By Diva Caroline Thuss

Well, I have always said that I will never turn down the opportunity to try something new. Boy, this assignment was well out of my comfort zone.

As my family and I approached the Walton Raceway, signs were everywhere indicating the large scale draw that this event has. Once through the gate, we met people from all over Ontario, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Michigan who were here to participate either as competitors or as spectators; some of the friendliest bunch of motocross fans on the earth.

motocross9Motocross was new to me. I have heard about it and understood a little about what would happen but had no clue as to how an event of this scope would be. Thank goodness we were handed a program that provided some background information and a schedule for the weeklong event.  It was thrilling to watch riders as young as four and well into their 20s (and beyond) zooming down an almost three-km dirt track that included a bunch of sharp turns and jumps with the sounds of their cc engine echoing across the raceway. Dirt was flying as they cut the sharp turns on the track and, at times, ear protection was a good idea for my children. As we moved around the track area, we were greeting by so many helpful people (spectators, competitors, volunteers and paid employees) who could tell we were greenhorns and helped enlighten us to this intense sport.

40cc, MX2 Jr B, VET jr, Supermini and Hot Lap are just some of the events that are happening at the Trans Can. As the week’s events were just getting under way, there were about 5,000-plus people there enjoying the excitement with us. That will explode to over 20,000 motocross people by the weekend. They will set up trailers and tents and camp out while enjoying and participating in Canada’s largest motocross event. Food vendors will be set up at various locations selling typical a variety of treats from local non-GMO beef burgers, sausages, spiral potato on a stick, funnel cakes and deep fried Mars bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

motocross5I was lucky to have some inside tips about what to expect. I have been told that Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the best days to come as that is when the final events are starting and the pros are going to be there. Friday night is the party of the week with the Huron County Throwdown with Brett Kissel hitting the stage. Saturday is the amateur finals with the fan pit party and Sunday the pros are there. I already have my two-year-old asking for a dirt bike so he can go “fast, fast, faster!” We have some new motocross fans at our house.

Weekday passes are: Adults, $15;  and Children  6-11 yr old, $5. Friday: Adults, $20; Children, 6-11 yr old $10. Motocross and Concert: Adults, $40; Children, 6-11 yr old, $20. Saturday: Adults, $25; Children,  6-11 yr old, $10. Sunday: Adults, $30; Children 6-11 yr old, $15. Your best bet is to purchase a weekend pass for a deal at: Adults, $60;  Children, 6-11yr old, $30. For more information, please check out the website www.waltontranscan.ca

Mary’s Wedding is comfortable but has classic elegance

13 Aug

marysweddingBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – If the secret to a successful play is for the audience to see a bit of themselves reflected in the characters, then Mary’s Wedding at the Blyth Festival should be a box office hit.

Every senior citizen – that age demographic that is predicted to soon comprise the majority of the population in Huron County – will surely be able to see themselves, or at least wish it for themselves, in the two young lovers whose sweet romance is interrupted by the start of World War I. And certainly, the audience for the matinee performance on Tuesday was a sea of grey-topped heads that hummed and tapped along to familiar-to-them wartime songs that played while they waited for the performance to begin.

The story itself is pretty standard stuff. Girl meets boy of lower social status. They have an adventure and fall in love. They get separated by life’s circumstances, yet continue to try to get back to one another. And yet, playwright Stephen Massicotte has taken this simple story and given it classic elegance, with a crisp script, clever handling of timeline, and repetition of phrases about fear and regret in the dialogue that serve to drive home its messages.

Sophia Walker, as the high-spirited new girl in town, Mary, is an incredible force on stage. She is entirely and equally believable as a precocious young woman who sees every bit of life as a great adventure or as a gruff and compassionate military sergeant. Eli Ham, as the dirty farm boy with a sense of duty to country, Charlie, is a competent actor who’s strong enough to share the stage with Walker, but gets less opportunity in his role to really shine. There are a number of lovely scenes where the two actors seem to be completely in synch with each other, as Mary reads from his letters while Charlie lives war experiences like being shot in a skirmish and riding full throttle into a line of Germans.

Director Gil Garrett has fully and effectively carried the audience through a story in which they could easily become lost if it weren’t well executed.

There are also a few really creative elements on the set, including a unique horse that you’ll have to see for yourself.

The setting for Mary’s Wedding spills far beyond those pieces of polished wood where the drama of this wartime romance unfolds. Although the acting is restricted to the stage only, it’s complemented by the building that is home to the Blyth Festival, a structure called Memorial Hall that was built by the will and spirit of the community to commemorate its fallen during the First World War, and by the nearby small white building that serves as the social centre for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 420 and its ladies’ auxiliary, both of which are sponsors of this theatrical production. This is a play with relevance to the community.

If you want to see a play this summer that allows you dream, then Mary’s Wedding is it.

Mary’s Wedding runs until Sept. 12. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., evening performance days 9 a.m. -9 p.m.; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0.

The Daisy Theatre: Puppeteer takes audience far over the line

12 Aug

ruralchurchBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – For stretches at a time, it was easy to be invested in the cast of colourful marionettes artfully manipulated by puppeteer Ronnie Burkett.

During opening night of Edna Rural’s Church Supper at the Blyth Festival’s intimate Phillips Studio, the beautifully crafted marionettes playfully poked fun at Blyth and rural living, had fun with a few patrons – include the Blyth Festival’s board chairman David Armstrong, and slipped in more than a couple raunchy thrills, as Burkett made good on his promise that he would “go as far over the line as you goad me to go.”

Small marionettes with huge personalities trotted out lounge numbers, vaudeville acts, French chanteuse solos – all with a parodic twist, and looking smashing in their clever costumes and detailed features.

If there were any doubt whether the 100 or so people in the audience were supposed to laugh, all we had to do was to look upward to the puppet master and see how much fun he was having to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were indeed meant to laugh.

Burkett tugged at our heartstrings with unexpected emotional monologues from the elderly Edna Rural and the fairy-like Schnitzel that left us in near despair. Sweet, innocent Schnitzel could easily have found a new home in a snap after her poignant appeal to the audience.

Buried under the dazzle of the characters is the brilliance of the guy who dresses in black and tries to blend into the background above the stage. The script was a blend of humour and heart-warming moments that were embraced by the audience. And I wonder if we – if I –underestimate the skill required for the timed movements and distinct voices of the marionettes because Burkett made it look so darned easy. Certainly, there were people at the performance who have watched Burkett’s career and were keen to have the opportunity to see him and The Daisy Theatre in Blyth.

There will be some disappointments for those reading this review. First of all, every show has improvised elements to it, so there’s no guarantee the remaining shows will have all the characters noted here. Secondly, there’s a rumour circulating that the four-day run is now sold out.

Also, there’s no pie at Edna Rural’s Church Supper.

Edna Rural’s Church Supper runs until Aug. 15. While it is sold out, there are other plays still running, including Fury and Mary’s Wedding. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., evening performance days 9 a.m. -9 p.m.; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0.

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