Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ontario festivals

Over the years, I've heard about and from time to time attended "festivals" in Ontario. Growing up in Nashville, Ontario, one of my earliest childhood memories was of the Woodbridge Fair, and later, the Kleinburg Bindertwine Festival, both great old fashioned country fairs. Since moving east, I've attended the Cobourg Waterfront Festival from time to time, but I can't say that it really leaves me wanting more; I'm just not sure what the point of it is. Sometime in the spring of this year, I got a call from an old friend looking for a silent auction prize for a fundraiser for the Westben Music Festival. (Funny how old friends tend to think of you at silent auction time). I have to say, if I had heard about Westben, I certainly wasn't consciously aware of exactly what it was. I had definitely heard of the 4th Line Theatre, and may have confused the two, as they are both set in rural venues, but for one reason or another, I just hadn't found the time or the motivation to check either of them out. In any case, we ended up contributing a prize to the silent auction, and although we weren't able to attend the fundraising dinner, a couple of weeks after the fact we received 4 tickets to "Chopin & Champagne" at the Westben. They sat on my desk for several months until, this past Saturday night, a hastily arranged group of Graftonites set out for Campbellford, not quite sure what we were in for. It was incredible. In fact I think it was better than anything I've experienced in Toronto. I just kept closing my eyes to take in the talent of these passionate musicians. If you haven't been, you must check it out. You can always combine it with a couple of nights at the spa. Ste. Anne's to Westben is an easy 40 minute drive through the rolling Northumberland Hills. Besides the quality of the performance at Westben, the other great thing is that it is good value. You don't feel like the event is being staged for the sake of money, as you do with some "tourist targeted" events. Even the snacks offered at intermission were reasonably priced and cheerfully served. We came away feeling enriched and very lucky to have discovered another spectacular gem in your own backyard. I can hardly wait to go again - hope to see you there!

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