A Dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and a six pack of lager – now you can knock off the whole list in one stop.
Earlier this month, the Bracebridge Food Basics began stocking the shelves with suds – making it the first grocery store in Muskoka to sell beer.
Last year, the province announced that beer would now be available at grocery stores – but no stores in Muskoka were part of the initial intake. However, a second wave of intakes earlier in 2016 paved the way for Bracebridge to begin putting beer on the shelves.
“We decided to sell beer at our Bracebridge Food Basics location this year, when the province made additional licenses available,” says Mark Bernhardt of Metro Ontario Inc, Food Basics parent company. “This put us in a position to offer beer for sale this fall.”
Berhardt says there are special rules for selling beer. All cashier who sell beer must be Smart Serve designated, and will be working out of specially designated check out lanes.
The hours for beer sales will be the same as the hours of operation for Food Basics: Monday to Saturday from 9 AM until closing (10 PM), and Sunday from 11 AM until 6 PM.
He also confirmed that gift cards for Food Basics can, in fact, be used to purchase beer.
The store stocks many major national and international brands – as well as some local brewers.
“As part of Metro’s local sourcing program we strive to offer our customers more local products in store, including craft beer,” says Bernhardt. “We offer regional beers. . .such as several varieties of Muskoka Brewery beers. . . and will definitely offer more if customer demand dictates.”
Initial reaction on social media to the move was largely positive. Comments on a Bracebridge community Facebook page ranged from – “ I couldn’t believe it! Yeah! Bracebridge,” to “Great – so Muskoka can get even more deep in booze related problems. Fantastic.”
It might not feel a lot like Christmas yet but the next month is chock full of holiday events in south Muskoka.
This weekend Port Carling plays host to south Muskoka’s only night time parade on Nov. 19, starting off at 6:30 pm.
The parade begins at Ferndale Road and Joseph St., and winds its way along Joseph Street, ending at the Community Centre. The fun doesn’t end there, as the parade will be immediately followed by a visit with Santa, as well as hot dogs and hot chocolate at the Community Centre.
Muskoka Lakes Township continues to be a hopping holiday location on the following Saturday, Nov. 25, as they hold their annual tree lighting and carol sing.
The event takes place at the Bala Community Centre on Maple Ave. The festivities start at 7 PM, and organizers point out that the event is being held outdoors – so dress accordingly. The event’s being hosted by the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and you can reach them 705-762-5663 for more information.
On the same day, the Gravenhurst BIA is hosting their annual Black Friday and Tree Lighting Celebrations in the downtown area.
The event gets underway at 6 pm, with the tree lighting set to take place in the Heritage Square, out front of the Gravenhurst Opera House.The BIA has a lot planned for the evening as they will have Mrs. Claus on hand, Victorian carolers, carriage rides and two different contests running.
The celebration continues the next day with Gravenhurst’s 63rd annual Santa Claus Parade. This year’s theme is “dreaming of a white Christmas.”
“This year we want to take Gravenhurst back to those classic Christmases of yesteryear,” says Sandy Lockhart, the executive director of the Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce which organizes the annual parade. “We can all picture those traditional Christmas scenes – the family gathered around a roaring fire, decorations placed with care, ornaments on the tree and the snow softly falling outside. Where the float ideas go from there is only limited by imagination.”
The parade kicks off at 11 a.m., heading out from the Gravenhurst Legion, before proceeding down First Street and then onto Muskoka Road. Afterwards, Santa himself will be available to meet the young ones (and the young at heart) in the Terry Fox Room at the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre.
It’s Bracebridge’s turn the following weekend with Santa’s Moonlight Shopping Party featuring the Festival of the Lights on Dec. 2.
The annual event officially launches the holiday season with the lighting of Downtown. This year the organizers at the Bracebridge BIA have a lot planned, including wagon rides, a campfire, living window displays from the Bracebridge School of Ballet and Fireworks courtesy of the Bracebridge Rotary Club. The event gets rolling at 6 PM.
The next night on Dec. 3, the focus turns to Bala for the Trek to Bethlehem.
The trek draws big crowds every year, as residents from the town come together to transform Bala’s streets into a biblical village reenacting the first Christmas.
It’s a free event, which runs between 6 and 8:30 PM, starting out from the Bala Community Centre. This one is also an outdoor event so dress warmly.
The final Santa Claus Parade for South Muskoka takes place in Bracebridge and is held on the afternoon of Dec. 4 starting at 1 PM.
Immediately after the parade Santa will be available for the children in Memorial Park, and there will be hot chocolate to help warm up guests as well.
The theme for the 71st annual Bracebridge parade is an International Christmas.
A Chinese-Canadian company has big plans for the former Muskoka Regional Centre.
Representatives from Maple Leaf Education Schools and Systems said earlier this week that if they can come to terms with the Town of Gravenhurst and Infrastructure Ontario they hope to use the 73 acre waterfront Lake Muskoka property to build a boarding school and have 750 students enrolled by as early as 2018.
“It’s a beautiful piece of land and it’s kind of appropriate because Gravenhurst is the birthplace of Dr. Norman Bethune – a Canadian hero to the Chinese people,” says Howard Balloch, a member of Maple Leaf’s board of directors. “Our hope is to take over the Muskoka Regional Centre lands to turn part of them into a park that would be owned by the Town and part of it into a Maple Leaf boarding high school.”
In October, Gravenhurst Town council approved in concept Maple Leaf’s design for the school. If all goes according to plan, the Town and Maple Leaf will partner and acquire the land from the owners, Infrastructure Ontario.
“(The property) was brought to the attention of our chairman…and a little more than a year ago, the chairman and I and another senior person on the school’s management team came up for a visit,” says Balloch. “We got a real sense of what the land could be and we engaged architects to start thinking about what we could do for the school. It’s all rather exciting.”
Maple Leaf bills themselves as China’s leading independent, international schools system – offering international education for students from preschool to high school. They currently operate 46 schools – all in China – and had 1,300 graduates last year.
“At the high school level we have Canadian and Chinese teachers. The kids become completely bilingual and bicultural and the graduates go on to really good universities everywhere. About 60 per cent go to Canada,” says Balloch. “It’s a high quality school. If you take the QS list of the 100 best universities in the world, slightly more than half of our students go to one of these universities”
In Gravenhurst, Balloch says the tentative plans are to start with 750 students during Phase 1 of the project.
“That’s big. It means…20 or 30 classrooms, science labs, auditorium, gymnasium, sports facilities, soccer fields, a baseball diamond, an administration building and dormitories, and dining facilities,” he says.
The construction period would employ a considerable number of local contractors and labourers, he says, but they anticipate many more jobs will come when the school is operational. He expects there to be one staff person hired for roughly every seven or eight students.
“We hope it won’t just be administrative jobs that benefit the town – we hope to have teachers who already live in the town and others who move to town,” he says. “We won’t put up all the teachers on campus, so there will be teachers, administrators, accountants and other people to cook the food and paint the lines on the soccer field. The impact of a school is substantial on a local economy.”
Balloch says the target market for the school comes from three distinct communities.
One consists of families in China who want their children to go to international universities and would like to have their high school in an even more bicultural setting than a Maple Leaf school in China.
The second group consists of Canadians and Americans of Chinese origin who want their children well educated in a bilingual and bicultural environment.
“Those young people will have the option when they’re finished of working here or going to China,” says Balloch. “They can maintain their level of language and culture in a way that Saturday schools just can’t cut.”
The third group is comprised of those who, despite no cultural connection, view it as an asset to be fluent in the Chinese language and culture.
“China is becoming a more important player on the global stage and learning Chinese is becoming a more valuable asset today than it ever has been in the past. It will become even more valuable – and in some cases a required skill in the future,”says Balloch . “There could be Canadians or Americans who have no links to China but would like to, and there kids would like to, learn Chinese. You won’t just get a good regular education, you’ll come out speaking, reading and writing Chinese.”
While Balloch stresses that the plans are still very much tentative and contingent on approval from the proper government authorities, they hope to get work underway by as early as spring of 2017.
It’s the time of year when spectres roam the earth, and they seem to be doing a lot of prowling in South Muskoka this Halloween season.
With over a century of history within its walls, the Muskoka Foundry on Entrance Drive in Bracebridge is the ideal setting for a frightening Halloween experience. Just how frightening the experience will be depends on the date you attend – as the Foundry’s Halloween Haunted Haunt runs Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“It’s definitely geared for children of all ages,” says Audrey van Petegem, the Chief Marketing Officer at the Foundry.
Friday from 3 until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 2 until 4 pm are more for younger kids, says van Petegem.
“For the older kids or kids who want to be spooked a little, Saturday from 4 to 6 would be fun,” she says. “Halloween night is really not for the faint of heart but will be a blast for anyone who dares go through it.”
Volunteers from Monck Public School will play live characters on Friday, students from BMLSS will take part Saturday and Sunday, and adults will provide the big scares on Halloween night. Van Petegem says they’re still looking for volunteers and anyone interested can contact her at email@example.com.
Entry is by donation, with all proceeds going to Muskoka Foundry’s charitable organization Giving Locals a Smile. The charity helps those in need of dental procedures, such as implants and related cosmetic dental care, that is not covered by insurance.
The Bracebridge Sportsplex will also be hosting a Halloween Social throughout the day on Oct. 31 – tricks and treats aplenty.
In Gravenhurst, there’s a pumpkin carving contest set for Thursday, Oct. 27 at the Gravenhurst Public Library.
The event runs from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm and everyone is invited to bring their own pumpkin for the family challenge.
The little trick or treaters are invited out to the sixth annual Let the Spirits Rise event on Oct. 29.
The event takes over the downtown area and trick or treaters can go door-to-door at businesses sporting black and orange balloons to collect a sweet haul. The trick or treating runs between 10 am and 1 pm.
The family fun continues inside the Gravenhurst Opera House, where there will be face painting by Painted Faces, an Interactive Toy Display by My Special Toolbox, children’s crafts courtesy of Children’s Place and spooky tunes by Muskoka Music Source.
The Opera House is also hosting a pumpkin display courtesy of the BIA. You can vote for your favourite and the winners will be announced at noon.
The streets of Gravenhurst will be crawling with the undead when a downtown zombie walk kicks off at 11 am. The walk runs from the Steadmans parking lot to the Opera House. Everyone’s welcome and encouraged to wear their best zombie costume, as there will be prizes handed out afterwards.
“I think the fact that the trick or treating takes place during daylight hours allows families to enjoy some Halloween fun without having to go out at night,” says Lindsay Fetterley-Cole, the administrator for the Gravenhurst BIA, which organizes Let the Spirits Rise. “The response has been fantastic. Last year businesses had over 250 kids through their doors. It’s a great family-friendly, community event that brings people into the downtown core.”
The chills keep coming on Sunday at the haunted walkway and old fashioned Halloween fundraiser at the Bethune Co-operative, located at 220 Winewood Ave in Gravenhurst.
Guests can come in costume and get their photo taken with “Halloween favourties,” and there will also be games and frights for the brave.
The cost is $2 for kids 10 and under and $5 for 11 and older.
This event’s being hosted by the Bethune Co-operative Fundraising Committee. A significant percentage of the Bethune Co-operative community have some form of disability, and all funds raised will be going to making the common areas more convenient and functional for the disabled members of Co-operative community.
It was lights, camera, action in south Muskoka as the cast and crew of The Lakehouse (a working title) spent the better part of September filming in the Parker’s Point area of Lake Muskoka.
The feature film tackles the intriguing premise of three very different couples navigating their way through an adventurous swingers weekend.
The cast includes Mia Kirshner (Lost Girl), Erin Karpluk (Being Erica), Jonas Chernick (How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town), Randal Edwards (Entanglement), Michael Xavier (Bitten) and Erin Agostino (the Kennedys after Camelot), and is the first feature film for Jon E. Cohen.
Producer Nicola Sammeroff says they were familiar with the Muskoka area when they began writing and they selected the area for its beauty and tranquillity.
“The fact that we were able to obtain a beautiful private residence in which to film was the topping on the cake,” she says. “Also, being a short drive from Toronto, it was helpful in that we did not have to drive hours and hours to set.”
The cast and crew were thrilled at the warm welcome they received from the Gravenhurst community, says Sammeroff.
“We used local caterers, hotels, crew accommodations, and tried to involve as much of the community as possible,” she says. “We are truly grateful for all the support and assistance we received from local businesses and individuals.”
One of those businesses was Well Fed in Gravenhurst, who catered lunches and dinners for the cast and crew of roughly 30 people.
“They just called us out of the blue,” says Anette Gillan, the owner of Well Fed. “We had to come up with a plan and that included some last minute dietary restrictions. We were stretched but in the end it was a fun experience and a sales boost.”
Gillan says the cast and crew were thoughtful and appreciative, and the meals received resounding reviews. Gillan says she also got a behind the scenes look at filmmaking, and one of her blueberry pies even gets a cameo in a dinner scene.
It’s actually the third production Gillan has catered in the last couple of years, which includes the film Go Fish and television series Love It or List It.
As for The Lakehouse, Sammeroff says they have started post-production, which they anticipate should take about six months to complete. They now have a Canadian distribution deal with Northern Banner pictures and there will be a theatrical release in 2017.
On the whole, she says the time spent in Muskoka was a great experience for cast and crew.
“We couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the last few weeks of summer,” she says.
Council again quashes facilitator option
A second bid to bring in an outside facilitator was shot down earlier this week at District council.
During the Monday meeting, a motion came forward to considered hiring a facilitator to help District council investigate a review of council’s composition.
During last month’s meeting, council voted 11-10 not to bring in a facilitator during a contentious debate, but some wanted council to reconsider that decision.
Councillors have argued that the composition of council is lopsided in favour of the more urban municipalities, while others have said the current 22 person council is too large to function effectively.
The estimated cost for a facilitator was between $25,000 and $50,000, and council ultimately voted on Monday not to reopen the issue and hire a facilitator.
Commercial waste disposal could jump significantly
District staff put forward a proposal that would see a 12 per cent increase in the draft 2017 budget for the cost of disposal for commercial, industrial and construction waste. That figure is significantly above the budget guideline of 2.1 per cent. The minimum load fee for the sector is also proposed to increase from $5 per load to $10 per load.
According to a report, staff have observed very little diversion or recycling activities from the Commercial/Industrial/Construction sector, which is estimated to account for 60% of the waste disposed of in District Landfills. As a result, there’s an abundance of recyclable material being buried in the landfills when it could be diverted to recyclable markets. That includes items such as clean wood, cardboard, metals and shingles.
The strategy to increase the fee is intended to recover the true cost of handling waste, according to staff.
The report was strictly for information purposes and more consultation with the sector is expected before any decision is made.
How much does the taste of the turf affect the flavour of the brew?
That was the question the team from Sawdust City Brewery hoped to answer last month when they traveled to eastern Ontario to undertake the “terroir project”.
The idea was to brew two beers using the the same recipe but with freshly picked Chinook hops from different Ontario hop farms. The goal of the experiment was to taste the difference between the same hop grown at different farms – or as the experts put it – a difference in the terrior.
On September 5 and 6, Sawdust City’s brew team travelled to the Clear Valley Hop Farm in Nottawa, ON and the VQH Farm in Tillsonburg, ON, respectively.
The brew team helped with the harvest at each farm and before noon each day had successfully picked and bagged 140 lbs of fresh Ontario hops. These hops were then brought back to the brewery and were used to brew the beer that same day.
“Since we used ‘wet hops,’ the hops needed to be picked, packed and used in the brew within 24 hours of harvesting,” says Sam Corbeil, brewmaster at Sawdust City,
The results of the experiment were put to the taste test during Sawdust City’s Oktoberfest celebrations held the weekend of October 1.
According to the brewmaster, the results of the terroir test indicate where the hops are grown does, in fact, affect the flavour of the beer.
“There most certainly was a difference,” says Corbeil. “The brews were so very similar, that the only possible taste difference could be attributed to the hops. Now, that being said, we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it was solely the terroir that affected the beers, but it’s fun to speculate, and by speculate I mean drink.”
Corbeil says the project corresponds with a spike in the growth of Ontario hops, something he says the brewery is excited to see in terms of facilitating more locally grown ingredients.
There’s a limited opportunity for members of the public to get out and taste the difference geography makes, as the the Terroir Project can currently be found in 473ml cans at the Sawdust City retail store and at select taps across Ontario.
Fall has arrived in all its colourful glory but this weekend in Bracebridge the action is back on the water.
Now in its fifth year on the Muskoka River, the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience has seen steadily increasingly numbers, and organizers are expecting in excess of 240 boats this weekend.
“Last year’s event saw 211 boats, including canoes and outriggers, with two paddlers each on board so there were at least 240 paddlers,” says organizer Sandy Schofield. “Our online registration is out pacing last year’s – 105 versus 73. I think we could see 240 boats this Saturday – fingers crossed.”
However, Schofield says numbers can be very hard to predict because they are largely weather dependant. That includes not only the weather In Bracebridge, but the weather in regions where the paddlers are coming from.
“If it is pouring at their home they’re less likely to make the trip,” says Schofield.
A number of factors have helped to play into the event’s success, says Schofield, one of the most significant being the race was named 2015 Race of the Year by the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association. In fact, it’s the third time the race has earned the distinction in its five year history.
“This is a big feat, earning this recognition over 18 other races held in Ontario,” he says. “Many criteria come into consideration – event management, race course design and management, volunteers, sponsor involvement.”
Falling on the Thanksgiving Weekend every year has actually played to the event’s advantage, says Schofield, as they’ve been able to position themselves as one of the major “end of season” events.
“It’s a long weekend and you still have Sunday and Monday to recover,” he says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie by paddlers who have been competing all season long.”
The event also has a dedicated core of volunteers who offer a “Muskoka quality,” welcome, says Schofield, and 10 motorboats (including the Town’s fire boat) patrolling the water for safety purposes.
“We think it’s necessary as the water is much colder than in the summer,” he says. “Paddlers note and appreciate this sort of attention.”
The fact that the event supports the Muskoka Watershed Council also tends to entice paddlers, as the Council is well regarded as the primary steward of water quality in the region.
Grants from the Town and increased media support have also helped the cause, as has word of mouth among paddlers from across the province.
The course will once again feature 5 km, 10km and 20 km distances, but the age groupings have been changed slightly to encourage younger paddlers to take part.
Spectators are encouraged to come up, cheer on the paddlers and enjoy the spectacle – which will include a 40 foot dragon boat being powered by 20 rowers.