Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ken Jen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo

Some time ago I wrote a Blog article called “Attention Animal Lovers”. In the article I described how well animals and festivals went together. Very few animal attractions create the attention that the Ken Jen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo does! Owner Ken LaSalle and his wife have put together a magical mix of lovable animals. The animals are hand raised from babies and are completely tame for children to freed and pet. Each animal has its own name and personality! In addition to petting zoo animals, Ken has a full “stable” of animal stars! His friends (the animal stars) have appeared in many movies, commercials and TV programs. Here’s a short list. “Sassy” the Zebra starred in the MacGyver series. “Tony” the “Kissing Llama” is world renowned for kissing the Duchess of York. I wonder if Ken also tried to get in on the action?! These are just two of Ken’s long list of “Animal Stars”! I can remember meeting Ken some 15 years ago. We were holding the Great Farini Festival in Port Hope and the Ken Jen Petting Zoo was participating. Ken’s truck rolled up, on time, to our location in Port Hope. Ken and his staff quickly set-up the Petting Zoo. Their attention to detail and their professionalism was amazing! He delivered what he promised and more, and once the festival was over and Ken had left, the area where the Petting Zoo had been was spotless! Animals certainly do go well together with festivals and so does Ken LaSalle and his wonderful Ken Jen Petting Zoo!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Artists’ Series – Eddie LePage

Many of the festivals Judi and I visit feature the art of Canada’s fabulous artists. We have had the pleasure of knowing and working with many of them. They are all different and yet, they all have one thing in common, their passion for their art! To honour our art community, I am going to write about some of the artists I have known and relate a few personal anecdotes about them. I am calling it the “Artists Series” and it will run frequently over the next several months. The first artist to be featured is portrait artist, Eddie LePage. Although Eddie is known he his wildlife portraits, his native portraits are outstanding and grace the homes of many collectors. I am starting with Eddie simply because I know him the best. We have been friends for over 20 years! When I was in the custom framing business he was the first artist to trust me with his framing. This was a big step considering I had just started my own framing company and was a real rookie at it! He liked my ideas and instincts and we formed a great team for many years. With Eddie you always know when spring has arrived because Eddie became hard to reach during the daytime. He was working on his other passion, golf! Eddie starts golfing in the spring and finishes in the fall. He only lets up in August to prepare for the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival. Only once have I been able to reach him on the golf course by cell phone and I am pretty sure that was a mistake! I too love golf, but not to the same extent as Eddie. We have golfed together in a few tournaments and when we partner, we almost always win a prize! Believe me this is his doing, not mine! Eddie has a natural talent for both golf and art. The only difference is that he earns his living as an artist! Eddie’s animal and native portrayals are timeless. He captures the essence of each subject he paints. That is why he is one of Bradford Exchange’s bestselling artists and why so many wildlife conservation groups choose his art to use in their fundraising programs.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Where History Comes Alive (Lang Pioneer Village Museum)

Over the last 11 years, we have had the privilege of visiting the Lang Pioneer Village Museum a number of times. It would have been more, but for a flat tire that was caused by a safety pin stuck through the inside sidewall of our back tire! I quickly discovered that you can’t repair a tire with a hole in the sidewall, but that is another story! Every time that we have visited the village I have discovered something new! During our first visit to Lang’s Christmas by Candlelight, we saw Christmas gifts being made at the Fitzpatrick House and how pioneer Christmas was spent in the Fife Log Cabin. At the Keene Hotel we tasted hot chocolate and homemade cookies. At the Douro Town Hall we sang old time Christmas Carols. At the South Lake Schoolhouse my grandson made a homemade “Cracker”! We experienced a horse drawn sleigh ride, wandering carolers and gingerbread man cookie face decorating. On another visit, Judi and I learned about the fur trade in Canada at the Lang Pioneer Village’s Fur Trade Re-enactment. While we were there we heard some great music played by “Hardtack and Harmony”. At the re-enactment we also learned how to paddle a canoe, build a Tipi and smoke a goose! We saw many pioneer crafts including jewelry making, rock collecting, ironworks, knitting and more. And, I got to explore the village in the daylight! At another event, Dine and Shine, we tasted fabulous steaks prepared by 8 of the area’s best chefs. During dinner we heard the old time music of Sheesham and Lotus. Their playful approach to old time music was captivating. After dinner, rifle and cannon shots sounded the start of the Shine portion of the event. Once again I was able to experience the village by candlelight. As we walked through the village buildings, we felt the warmth and charm of the village and its volunteers. Lang Pioneer Village Museum is a magical place, where “history comes alive”!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Shaw Festival… (Part One)

I think anyone who has ever visited Niagara-on-the-Lake has heard of the Shaw Festival! Judi and I have been visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake for years. We had heard a lot about the Shaw Festival, but never really knew it and what it could offer! That is, until Judi decided to give me a surprise anniversary gift! Judi had sold quite a number of her original paintings at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival and had earned some extra money. She decided to spend it on a surprise anniversary present. The present, you guessed it, was a “romantic” weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake! And, the weekend included tickets to a play at the Shaw!
Judi had planned everything and wouldn’t tell me anything! This silence even included directions to where we were going! Once we were on the Q.E.W. highway and heading towards Buffalo, it finally dawned on me where we might be going, but I still wasn’t sure and I had no idea what was in store for me!
Our destination was the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and once we arrived, Judi instructed me to drive to the main town park. Here she unloaded the truck of the car with chairs, a folding table, glasses, cutlery and a picnic basket! She had packed everything before we left without my knowledge (very sneaky!!). She laid the whole picnic out and we sat in our chairs quietly eating our lunch. It was the perfect start for what was to come next! After packing our picnic essentials back into the car, Judi instructed me to drive to the main street and head away from the downtown. She told me to stop and park at the Royal Park Hotel (now the Shaw Club Hotel).

(To be continued in Part Two)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Getting Into Character…

Some time ago, Judi and I visited the Scugog Shores Museum and their Pioneer Fall Fair. We were impressed with village interpreters and how they assumed the identity of the pioneers they were portraying. It wasn’t just the costumes. It was the little things. The way they spoke. The knowledge they displayed about their tasks and staying within character during conversations with visitors.
We have visited quite a few re-enactments and pioneer villages and they all seem to attract people who have these characteristics in common! Re-enactors and village interpreters are, in most cases, unpaid volunteers. They do it for the love of history and they have a lot of fun doing it! Just think, they are portraying our forefathers in the heat of summer! No air-conditioned buildings! Dressed in “hot” old fashioned materials! I asked one re-enactor how he coped with the wool uniform he was wearing. He just shrugged and smiled and said “You get used to it after a while!” I wondered what he meant by “after a while”! Did he mean when the leaves started to fall and it was time to stoke up the coals in the fireplace?
No matter, these wonderful, dedicated historians continue to keep our past vivid and alive! Thank goodness there are people out there that care so much!
If anyone reading this article is interested in becoming a village interpreter or re-enactor, the pioneer villages and re-enactment groups are always looking for new volunteers. Just contact your nearest pioneer village and they can steer you in the right direction.
Who know, the next time Judi and I visit a pioneer village or re-enactment, we might be snapping a picture of you! If we are, let us know. We will make sure the photo ends up in one of the articles we are writing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Attention Animal Lovers…

It’s amazing how well festivals and animal fit together! I had never really thought about it until I started examining festivals and their common links. The more I thought about, the more I realized how large a part animals played in the majority of the festivals that Judi and I had visited. Out of the 10 festivals visited, 7 had had animals involvement in one form or another! I’ll quickly go down the list. The Fur Trade Re-enactment at Lang Pioneer Village had a number of farm animals plus a horse drawn wagon ride. The Old Time Fiddle Championships in Shelburne had a number of horses in their parade. The Kingston Sheep Dog Trials was really animal oriented! There were, of course, dogs (Border Collies) and sheep, but they also included 2 horse drawn shuttle wagons, a birds of prey demonstration by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy plus two other animal presentations, one by Jungle Cat World and the other by Little Ray’s Reptiles! The Rural Ramble Farm Tour featured numerous farm animals including cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and horses. At the Fort Henry Sunset Ceremony, the Fort Henry Guard’s mascot is a goat named David IX. The Orono Fair had animals galore, chicken (lot of them!), ducks, rabbits, cows and horses! Finally, at the Dine and Shine in Lang Pioneer Village Museum, not only did they have their traditional horse drawn wagon ride, but they had their own unique brush with wildlife! Just as Village Museum Manager, Joe Corrigan, was about to welcome the attendees, a flock of Canada Geese flew over the event giving us all a very loud, but appreciated Canadian “fly-by” (NASCAR eat your hearts out!)! So, if you are an animal lover, Ontario festivals and events are a must for you!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Staring Down the Competition…

I always have great fun when I go to a fundraising auction dinner. Most have good basic food and an atmosphere that is happy and festive. But the real fun is people watching! During a “silent” auction it is fascinating watching people’s “strategy”! Some people “sneak up” to the bid sheet, look around to see if anyone is looking and then quickly write down their bid. If a bidding number is available, they use it rather than disclosing their name! While some bidders may be “sneaky”, others are “bold”! They walk up to the bid sheet, look around defying anyone to challenge them and then boldly scrawl their name on the sheet! Then they look around again telling anyone who will listen that they will “win” this item! Once an initial bid has been made, most bidders become very possessive when it comes to “their” item! They tell their friends that it’s “theirs”. They jump up when anyone goes near “their” item! If someone has the audacity to bid against them they become quite defensive even “stock’ the offender in extreme cases. And, if they lose, they become pouty and withdrawn (at least for a little while)! It’s all in great fun and for a worthy cause.

Live auctions can be even more entertaining. Many times it’s like a boxing match! At first “opponents” just spare, checking each other out. They make little bids and then stop as though they are giving up, out of the bidding. Then they start again, bidding in a flurry! Finally one of them many “throw” the “big bid”. They step up the bid so high that they “knock” their opponent out of the bidding! Sometime the “big bid” doesn’t knock the opponent out. They just become more stubborn and start to borough in. The bids go higher and higher until someone flinches and a winner is declared! The beautiful thing about this type of bidding is that everyone wins! The audience wins because the “fight’ has been great entertainment! The organizers win because the item that was bid on brings a big profit for their cause! The winning bidder wins because he/she won! The losing bidder wins because he/she didn’t! At the end of the evening everyone goes home happy because they know that they have helped a “great cause”!