The Ashwood Bourbon Bar: New, yet pleasantly familiar

26 May
Even the bar is filled with patrons on this busy Saturday night.

Even the bar is filled with patrons on this busy Saturday night.

By Diva Heather Boa
BAYFIELD – It’s Saturday night on the American long weekend and there’s a sense of anticipation at The Ashwood, this village’s newest hotel with bourbon bar and restaurant.

In its first days of opening for The Ashwood Bourbon Bar, people have come to see first-hand what they’ve only seen in pictures

The Ashwood owner Kirsten Harrett at the front counter.

The Ashwood owner Kirsten Harrett at the front counter.

on the website and social media – the massive tree trunk that serves as the lobby counter, living edge highly polished tables with leather placemats, barrel vault ceilings above the bar that are lined with oak staves held in place by metal straps, an expansive L-shaped bar with oodles of bottles filled with all sorts of exotic liquids, and wait staff in aprons of heavy canvas and leather straps.

It’s all so new and intriguing and yet there’s something comfortably familiar about the bar. First, there’s owner Kirten Harrett who is greeting people this evening. She’s owned the Deer Park Lodge, just across the road, for a number of years, before purchasing the old Bayfield Village Inn and transforming it into its current state. There’s Peter Meades behind the bar, well-known for Meades Bros. Productions, which books entertainment at various venues in the village – and now he’s booked an eclectic lineup of Canadian and international artists with an emphasis on roots music and singer-songwriters for the bar. See what the summer season brings on its event listings. Some of the wait staff are the teenaged children of people we know. And, of course, there’s opportunity to stop at various tables to say hello to folks who haven’t been seen all winter long. Even before we enter the bar, we meet up with some friends who have spilled out of The Ashwoody Shuttle, its funky shuttle bus.

In these early days of opening, chef Robert Whyte has created a limited menu of lunch and dinner items while the staff settle into

The Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, with King crab leg, is a favourite.

The Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, with King crab leg, is a favourite.

the routine. Tonight there’s a Mexican beef soup – I’ve forgotten it’s name, but I know that if I close my eyes while eating a mouthful of the spicy soup that’s topped with chopped avocado and sour cream, I am once again in Ajijic, Mexico. Also on the menu are: pan seared 10 oz New York steak with crispy fingerling potatoes, green beans and horseradish butter ($29), ratatouille with arancini and parmesan tuile ($18.50), lamb burger with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, dressed with a tzatzki and tomato jam, served with chick pea fries ($16), trout with roasted fennel and tomato purée served with wilted spinach and a panzanella salad ($22).

It’s a wise decision on the chef’s part to create a small menu, and our service is seamless. Water glasses are always full and drinks are efficiently replaced. My lamb burger special ordered with no bun did indeed arrive bunless and, as requested, my glass of red wine arrived with the meal. I would dearly have loved to have ordered the Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, which comes with a King crab leg, or the Don Draper ($14), a mixture of double Makers Mark, bourbon soaked cherries, giant ice cubes and a Popeye smoke, but alas, I’m driving.

By the time we’re offered dessert, there’s only one taker for the bread pudding with a bourbon caramel sauce ($9), although the spoon does get passed around, with agreement that the sauce is just a bit too boozy.

When we leave, the place is full, with a long table of people who are filling time between a wedding and its reception, Americans on vacation, and locals who’ve come to check out the newest hotspot in Bayfield.

It’s shaping up to be a great summer in the village.

The high ceilings and line of windows give the bar an airy feel.

The high ceilings and line of windows give the bar an airy feel.

Music lovers get their fill at jamboree and campout in Blyth

23 May

headshot (1)By Diva Karen Stewart

I love music! All types of music! There is nothing better than watching talented musicians make their instruments “sing” and a crowd of people moving to the beat.

This weekend – May 21-24 – is the 18th annual Barndance Historical Society’s Jamboree and Campout Weekend in Blyth. The event kicked off Thursday night and Friday afternoon with Campers Jam Sessions. These are Open Mic-type events where audience members perform to the crowd.

Friday night the Society presented its annual Bluegrass Concert. Wikipedia describes Bluegrass music as a form of American

There was standing room only at the Jam Session Thursday night in Blyth. Photo by Gord Baxter.

There was standing room only at the Jam Session Thursday night in Blyth. Photo by Gord Baxter.

roots music, and a subgenre of country music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of Appalachia. It has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English traditional music, and was also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements.

The evening started with a concert by the Peace River Band, an award-winning group of five who reside in the Niagara region. They played a number of their own original songs as well as popular tunes such as John Denver’s Country Roads, Gordon Lightfoot’s Did She Mention My Name, Hank William’s I Saw the Light and audience favourite Mule Skinner Blues where lead Mary Lou Fitzgerald really got to show her pipes. Closing with The Orange Blossom Special the musicians had a chance to highlight their talent as they took turns playing the melody and improvising around it. This is typical to the style of Bluegrass music in contrast to old-time music in which all the instruments play the melody together. Rapid tempos, unusual instrumental dexterity and complex chord changes are typical and allow the viewer to appreciate the talent of each musician as well as the unique sounds of their instrument – in this case the banjo, the mandolin, the fiddle, and two guitars – one bass.


The second part of the evening was Open Stage. The House Band accompanied individuals from the audience who had pre-registered their intent to perform. They opened with a familiar tune.

BD from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

As the event name suggests, camping is a large part of the fun for Jamboree participants. Wednesday saw the arrival of the first

campground40 camping units – more than they had in Year 1 – says representative Gord Baxter. By Friday night, 350 campers were on site (approximately 700 people).

Over 100 volunteers help to co-ordinate this annual event. Baxter reports it’s not hard to get help as they break it down in to two or three hour shifts. I asked one volunteer why she keeps coming back and she replied, “For the music, and for the friends – new and old!”

Featuring traditional Barndance Musicians and their special guests.

Featuring traditional Barndance Musicians and their special guests.

On Saturday, there is a Musical Flea Market and Silent Auction, Open Stage events, a sold out pork chop dinner prepared by Blyth Lions Club and the ever popular Barn Dance Show followed by dancing until midnight.   Sunday’s Gospel Concert is one of the most popular events (You can catch the Peace River Band performing there on Sunday if you missed them), with 800 tickets sold already.

Read more about The Barndance Historical Society and its work at its website. All events still have tickets available that can be purchased at the door, and everyone is invited.


Barndance Historical Society & Entertainment Museum
273 Josephine St.
Wingham, ON N0G 2W0

There’s a lot of history packed into village of Auburn

21 May
Main Street of Auburn.

Main Street of Auburn.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

The main street of Auburn is pretty this time of year.

The road is surprisingly wide and grand trees are just starting to come into bloom. There’s a post office shingle and a number of sheds in which business might take place, but most of the buildings, including an ivy-covered church, on main street are now homes. There are no cars parallel parked at the side of the street and my car rolls quietly.

At this time of day, people are outside waiting. Waiting for the bus that will bring their children home from schools in neighbouring communities. A woman sits in her idling car in the church’s driveway. A mother and a her two youngsters sit on the steps in a doorway. A man on a bike waves as he rides by.

It’s worth a day trip to come poke around Auburn, if you’ve never turned off Cnty. Rd. 25 or Base Line Road. Check out the Huron Bay District Co-operative for garden flowers and supplies, maybe grab a bite to eat at the Auburn Grill or pack a lunch and enjoy it in the park down by the Maitland River. Or stay overnight at the Auburn Riverside Retreat, a family-run campground, which also has timber framed cottages and pine cabins for rent.

And while you’re there, keep in mind these historical notes that were gathered by researcher Diane Smith for a project done by the Municipality of Huron East to expand the Huron County Historical Society’s Driving Tour a few years ago:

Auburn – The village is divided, east from west, by the Maitland River. The lines of four different township boundaries auburnsignintersected here, and those lines also divided Canada Company land open to settlement from the government-owned hinterland beyond. Later, streets and plans were divided along the same lines, thus creating Auburn’s distinctive layout of “dogleg roads and offset lots.” Auburn, as with many other locations, became an area of settlement because water power was readily available here. The village was called both Auburn and Manchester – early maps of parts of the village dated 1854 and 1856 called it Manchester while the post office name assigned in 1854 was Auburn. In fact, the name of the village was Manchester, for all other purposes except postal service, until 1978 when it officially became the Police Village of Auburn.

United Church – The Presbyterians had begun a congregation in Manchester in June 1860. They were the first to construct a unitedchurchchurch building, which opened in March 1863. In the early days, the service was given first in Gaelic and then in English. The old Knox Presbyterian Church became Knox United Church when the three Protestant denominations united in 1925. The church building you now see dates to 1904. The red brick manse to the west was built in 1913, but the original Presbyterian Manse on the east side dates to the 1870s.

Apple Farms – (Maitland Terrace) The once abundant orchards of Auburn and the rest of Huron County supplied maitlandterracethe local apple evaporator plant. The Caldwell General Store was converted into the plant in the late 1890s. It continued in business until it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Local apple supply dwindled and by the 1930s the rebuilt plant was closed.

Dam – Manchester Park – In the mid-1840s, most of the land of what would become the auburnparkfuture townsite of Auburn was bought by the first settler to arrive here, William Robert Garratt. Because the provincial government had reserved all the waters of the Maitland River for its own use, Garratt was stymied in his plans to build a mill, and he soon left. Eneas Elkin was next to arrive in 1850, buying land in the Hullett section. Elkins ran a ferry service across the river. In 1854, Elkin had the northern part of his farm surveyed into a town site he called Manchester Village. Sales of lots enabled him to build a dam and a four-storey grist mill on the Maitland River just south of the main village site. In the late 1860s, a spring flood destroyed Elkin’s mill dam and it was then rebuilt by James Cullis. A short distance downstream the Cullis sawmill provided another essential service to the village.

Have a look, too, at the unique entrance signs on Cnty. Rd. 25 that announce your arrival in Auburn. These blocky cement letters are listed among the Folk Art Treasures of Huron County, a book written by Ron and Bev Walker.

Mud bogging at Walton Raceway for the pure fun of it

17 May
Driver Derek Tout and Heather Boa in front of Knight Rider.

Driver Derek Tout and Heather Boa in front of Knight Rider. Photo by Melody Hodgson.

By Diva Heather Boa

Dressed in a strappy, fitted rose-coloured gown, I could have been going to a formal party. Except for the brilliant magenta rubber boots.

Although I’d picked up a formal dress at a thrift shop to wear just for fun on this mud bogging adventure, the boots reflected my practical side. After all, it’d be tough sloughing in heels if the car stalled in a massive mud puddle during Walton Raceway’s mud bogging event.

Of course, I could have followed driver Derek Tout’s lead and abandoned shoes for bare feet. And he wore a 10-gallon hat. A hat would have been a good idea too. But then, Derek’s been mud bogging for a decade and this was my first time. I’m usually more at home with a good book and a glass of wine.

Derek finds me a plastic lawn chair to help in the climb up to the passenger seat of Knight Rider, his custom built ’84 Racaro package Trans Am set on a ’72 bus frame with ’94 Chevy half-ton axles. The interior is riddled with dried mud from previous rides, the seatbelt and harness ready to put on.

We line up to take our turn on the course, engines revving around us, the smell of gasoline hanging in the air. There are ATVs, side-by-sides, jacked trucks, off-road trucks, farm trucks and even family vehicles. From here, I can see people of all ages, children and dogs, gathered at the fenceline to watch. Atop a cattle trailer, four men in jeans sit on a couch, getting a clear view of the pit. There are rows of trucks, a scattering of tents and campfires. There is a record crowd of nearly 3,000 on the grounds, and 316 trucks and ATVs registered. Many have stayed overnight, camping in the campground set further afield. Walton Raceway is also home to the annual Parts Canada TransCan National Championship that draws thousands from across North America to watch and compete in motocross competition every August.

Mud bogging at Walton Raceway from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

Our windows are down and the view out the sides are clear, unlike the front windshield, which still had a sheen of mud from previous mud bogging adventures. Derek expects he will make about 10 trips through the course today, running through a small pond of mud, through a tight track in the trees, and along a hilly path that runs the length of the spectator area. In this first run, he will take it slow because his car has been acting up. I don’t know if that’s a polite way of saying he’s going slow because of his inexperienced passenger.

He taps the emergency brake (I think) and tells me the handle will be my best friend. I hang on to it and to the door handle.

Photo by Melody Hodgson.

Photo by Melody Hodgson.

We tip over a hill and ease into what looks like a small lake of mud. The tires grab hold of the muddy bottom and propel us forward, the murky water swallowing the tires. We stall. A few pumps of the red button on the dash and we sluggishly move forward again, water rippling around us. So far, we’re dry and mud free, settled firmly in our seats.

I relax, release my hands from their death grip around the holds. I don’t know whether to talk to Derek or leave him alone to concentrate on his car, so I say nothing. It’s almost like we’re in a paddle boat, gently propelled forward. Not at all what I expected. In my mind, I had envisioned a bumpy ride where I’d be grateful for the harness and handholds, and worried the car would tip on its side.

We make it through the massive mud puddle, unlike many who need to be pulled from the heavy mud through the day, then the tires gain traction at the exit on the far side. The engine revs, the tires spin, and mud flies. It lands like a bunch of dead bugs on my dress, my hair, my lips. I eat gritty mud that reminds me of the dregs from campfire coffee – just not as tasty. Even with sunglasses on, the mud sticks to my eyelashes.

Then we fly through the bush, between trees and over small knolls. Contrary to what I thought beforehand, I’m not scared at all. How can I be? Between a muddy windshield, muddy sunglasses and mud in my eyes, I can’t see anything anyway. As we come out of the bush, Derek barrels down on a patch of mud. Thick globs of mud fly around us, and there’s a sound kind of like a metal snap from the underbelly of the car.

“That doesn’t sound good,” he says, as he casually removes a hunk of mud the size of a small rock from between his shoulder blades. He hops out of the car and checks its underside, and determines the noise wasn’t what he thought it might be. But the ride is cut short anyway.

I slide out of the car, a bit disappointed we’re done but grateful to Derek and Walton Raceway for making the mud bogging experience happen.

Next time, I want to go faster.

Below, you’ll find some photos from today’s event. Just click on any of them to view in a larger size.

Blyth Festival Art Gallery showcases students’ creative works

15 May
Forefront: Purple Haze, an oil by Kaitlyn McLeod of F.E. Madill.

Forefront: Purple Haze, an oil by Kaitlyn McLeod of F.E. Madill.

By Diva Heather Boa

Approaching from the left, the ivory-coloured ceramic sculpture looks like a classical Greek bust, with its textured hair, heavy

If You Prick Us Do We Bleed, sculpture by Carley Burke, F.E. Madill.

If You Prick Us Do We Bleed, sculpture by Carley Burke, F.E. Madill.

brow and chiselled chin. But walk around to the right side, and a shocking transformation takes place. That side is stripped of flesh, with a gaping eye socket, jawbone and teeth exposed by the artist, Carley Burke, of F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham.

Hers is one of a handful of sculptures and three-dimensional art on display alongside dozens of pieces of art by students from Grades 9 to 12 in high schools across Huron and Perth Counties that’s on display in the Student Show 2015 at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. The art is as varied as teens are apt to be, with only the fact that the artists are students to tie together the show.

Sunsets and puppies, tulips and avocados, corn and dolphins share space on the

Crimson Sunset, an acrylic by Mathias Ball of Goderich District Collegiate Institute.

Crimson Sunset, an acrylic by Mathias Ball of Goderich District Collegiate Institute.

walls. Oils and acrylics, digital and mixed media hang side by side. Some works are for sale, while others will remain part of the artists’ private collections. And as one might

expect, much of the subject matter is drawn from the media and popular culture – those things that capture the attention of teens, like Spiderman, The Joker, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Williams, Darth Vader and the Beatles. All burst with energy, with vibrant colours and bold strokes.

Self-portrait, an acrylic by Emma Johns of Central Huron Secondary School.

Self-portrait, an acrylic by Emma Johns of Central Huron Secondary School. 

A visit to the gallery, which could take up to 45 minutes to contemplate, coupled with lunch or tea at a nearby restaurant makes for a nice afternoon getaway in Huron County.

The free show will be available for viewing during the Blyth Festival box office hours and continues on display until May 21.

Then from May 23 to June 19, works from artists from the region will be on display in a non-juried Community Show. Opening reception is on May 23, starting at 6 p.m.


What: Student Show 2015

Where: Blyth Festival Art Gallery, beside Blyth Festival box office, 423 Queen St., Blyth

When, Until May 21, Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free

Pavo, a mixed media work by Lily Pella of Goderich District Collegiate Institute.

Pavo, a mixed media work by Lily Pella of Goderich District Collegiate Institute.

Mouth-watering exhibit at Huron County Museum

11 May
A 25-minute is chock full of interesting recipes, cookware and tips.

A 25-minute is chock full of interesting recipes, cookware and tips.

rachellynnBy Diva Rachel Lynn

When I first heard the Huron County Museum was going to hold a Delicious exhibit I was very excited. Why? Because it’s about food. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love food; I love eating, cooking, baking. I love sweet, salty, savoury. I. Love. It. All.

The Delicious exhibit combines a look at favourite foods from our ancestors with cookbooks and kitchen items from the Huron County Museum & Archives Collection. Will Kernohan, acting assistant curator, told me they wanted to create an exhibit that added a community engagement piece. In all, 70 people have donated recipes for display.

20150502_155844As soon as I walked into the front doors on opening day I could smell the coffee, sweets and delicious spread of cheese wafting down from the second floor. Scattered in the mezzanine were round tables covered in adorable red and white checkered table clothes where visitors could sit and enjoy the food spread provided. But where was the food?! I found the source in a separate room on the same floor; a sampling of locally produced foods. Included were coffee (Coastal Coffee), maple syrup (Robinson Maple Syrup), donuts, cheese 20150502_152704(Pine River and Blyth Cheese), bread (Burdan’s Red Cat Farm & Bakery), salamis (Metzger’s), preserves (Bayfield Berry Farm) and apples (Laithwaite Apple Park). The sampling of local products was only available opening day.

DSC_0095Huron County Museum Registrar Patti Lamb advised me there are 200 artifacts and cookbooks on display. The oldest ones are the wooden “Bread and Dough Mixer and Storage—Made by William Johnston in 1860”; the silver tea services circa 1840s; the hand egg mixer circa 1881; and the pink Victorian furniture circa 1880.

DSC_0081There is also a wonderful display for children to come and interact with. The original cookbook was provided by local resident Rhea Hamilton Seeger: Fun to Cook Book (1960).

Will showed me around the exhibit and shared some wonderful stories from people who submitted their favourite family recipes, memories and food related photos. Here are a couple of my favourites:


Photo on left side of this is a picture of local Goderich mother making Christmas pudding, photo on the right is a picture of grandmother who developed the Christmas pudding recipe. I love the picture blown up as it shows how well used it is with the stains on the corner. That’s my kind of recipe.
Here is a snap shot of some of my favourite family recipes:


One of my other favourite pieces was watching the 25-minute video that was compiled of all the different types of recipes, cookware and famous people like Julia Child providing tips. At the end of the video there is a special appearance (you’ll have to watch to see who it is) and a recipe is made from one of the ones found at the Museum. The recipe originates back to 1890 created by dispensing chemist F. Jordan.

DSC_0107There is still lots of time to submit your own recipes. You can email it, or my suggestion is to visit the exhibit and while you’re there add your photocopy of the recipe on the recipe board.

There was so much history in that room, it’s too hard to share it all with you. You’ll have to go check it out yourself. The exhibit is ongoing until Sept. 13 so you have plenty of time.

Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol
110 North St
Goderich ON N7A 2T8

Click here for details of admission fees and hours.

Click here for a detailed list of their exhibits for 2015

The perfect catch in Huron County

7 May

fishingontheninemileBy Diva Jenna Ujiye

Poles, rods, lines and reels can really get confusing when it comes to me and fishing. On April 25 I decided to head down to the

There were plenty of happy fishermen on opening day this year.

There were plenty of happy fishermen on opening day this year.

river for opening fishing weekend (always the 4th Saturday in April for Zone 16 which is most of Southwestern Ontario). I went looking to catch a fish, but I caught much more than that!

One of my first memories as a child is ice fishing on a small lake in northern British Columbia with my family. I’m fairly sure I spent more time looking down the holes in the ice and gallivanting around the snow-covered lake than actually fishing. After moving to Goderich, I gave up fishing and moved on to different hobbies!

Living in the hamlet of Port Albert, Ontario, I had heard we have some really great fishing, especially along the Nine Mile River. I woke up early(ish) and headed down to the river. I was amazed at the number of vehicles in the parking lot near the bridge. There were cars, trucks, trailers and lawn chairs set up, showing me that there must be many fishermen along the river.
As I walked up to the river, there were 15-20 people fishing right under the bridge and as I walked along to see what people were

doing I ran into a fisherman carrying a fish he had just caught. I was super excited and asked him if I could take a photo. He then took a photo of me holding the fish… this is when I learned how not to hold a fish (the above photo is how not to hold a fish, the below photo is kind of how you’re supposed to hold a fish).

And here's how not to hold a fish, this diva learns.

My next stop was to find out a little bit more about fishing. I ran into a group a

fishermen who were taking a break and asked if they could share some fishing knowledge with me. They were a super welcoming group handing me yummy Italian IMG_5250style charcuterie and beverages and giving me a comfy place to sit. My first question was: What kind of fish are running right now? With a response of – Steelhead Trout! My second question was: How many fish are you allowed to catch? And the responses to this question got a little muddy. So I decided that I would do more research later on.

Port Albert General Store.

Port Albert General Store.

Another amazing asset to the area is the Port Albert General Store. I stopped in to check in with Steve, Brigitte and Angus and found the store filled with customers purchasing everything from pizza to snacks to bait and fishing gear. This store has truly embraced the community. They offer wonderful food, gas, convenience items and more. One of my favourite offers they have is their farmer’s market, which runs from May to October, but I’ll save that story for later.

So in the end, I really didn’t go fishing, but I made some new friends and found out some great fishing information! I also found out that there are quite a few rules for fishing, which can all be found online.

Find out more about outdoor recreation and other activities that make Ontario’s West Coast an ideal family getaway, by visiting online.


The Port Albert bridge is a fine place to pass time fishing.



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