OK Friday Barn Fair: Top 6 Reasons to Visit!

OK Friday Barn Fair_Betty's(4)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
We all revel in a good farmer’s market, and OK Friday Barn Fair, launched by Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, has just taken things up a notch (or four). This weekly arts and market space, located in Oro-Medonte and conveniently en route to cottage country, showcases a wide range of goods from local farmers and vendors, selected Toronto imports, and live musical performances.  I recently had a chance to visit OK Friday Barn Fair and loved it, and am here to report to you my top six reasons for visiting.

1. There’s an amazing and thoughtful array of local goods.  You’ll find wonderful local produce, cheese, meats, maple syrup, honey, as well as jewelry and other crafted goodness at OK Friday Barn Fair. When you meet the farmers and craftspeople doing the growing and the making, you’ll also know that they’ve been selected with care and in collaboration with The Karma Project, a non-profit cooperative dedicated to promoting sustainable and accessible local food.

2. Cottage-goers never had it so good. So it’s Friday and you’re desperate to leave the city and you didn’t quite find the time to buy what you need to make your weekend the culinary delight you were hoping for.  Never fear! You now have delicious local options that are moons away from the jaded produce from Foodland in Barrie or the IGA in Wherever. Stretch your legs, score some great food, and support local farmers and businesses while you’re at it.

OK Friday Barn Fair_fresh produce(2)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

OK Friday Barn Fair_baked goods_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Nocturna Jewellery(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Maddington Farms_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling PicturesOr, if cooking after the commute feels too much, grab dinner from the eateries at OK Friday. Rodney’s Oyster House offers up its famous oysters, mussels, and lobster rolls. Fans of Toronto’s restaurant trinity Fat Pasha, Rose and Sons, and Big Crow will be pleased to know that Anthony Rose also presents a range of his wares for sale.  Enjoy tastings of award-winning VQA Norman Hardie wines, and take a bottle home with you.  And for those of us lucky enough to be guests for a weekend away, it goes without saying that OK Friday Barn Fair is a treasure trove of lovely gifts for host or hostess.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Rodney's Oysters(3)_Image by Daniel WilliamsDowling Pictures
3.  The locals never had it so good.  One of the magical things about OK Friday Barn Fair and Burl’s Creek Event Grounds generally is the boost its giving to its community of Oro-Medonte. The market and grounds provide business development, cultural programming, and visibility to a beautiful region of Ontario. Restoration work on a 1930’s landmark barn with soaring 40 foot ceilings has been undertaken with assistance from the Mennonite community, and will serve as a destination event space, including weddings. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, we enjoyed not just performances by Reuben and the Dark, but also by a local school who treated us to singing and their ukeleles, which were received through a musical grant. The presence of the local community of Oro-Medonte is infused throughout the market and the grounds.

OK Friday Barn Fair_banr(5)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Reuben and the Dark(5)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
4.  Drop by or spend the day.  If you only have time for a quick stop, the amazing vendors will help you make the most of every minute.  But if you have the luxury of a day to spend, it’s worth the trip to go. Time moves easily as you check out the grounds, browse the stalls, or just take in the glorious natural setting.  The eating is great (of course), and the music is an ever-changing series of local Canadian talent – this week is Dan Mangan. You can even heighten your peace of mind with an outdoor mid-day yoga practice at 3pm with Shanti Vira Yoga Studio and Green River Yoga Company.

5.  The music festivals!  OK Friday Barn Fair runs every Friday from 2 to 8 pm except for July 24, when Burl’s Creek hosts WayHome Music and Arts Festival (Neil Young headlines days of jam-packed talent) and August 7, when the huge Boots and Hearts Music Festival comes to town.  With over 700 acres of pristine land, Burl’s Creek is Canada’s largest outdoor event venue, with space for 60,000 people and 45,000 campers.

6.  It’s a labour of love. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting next to Burl’s Creek owner Stan Dunford during lunch (by Anthony Rose!). His goal was unwavering and simple from its inception: to create a world class facility. When asked what motivated Stan to take on this project, he points to his nephew, a fellow lover of music and the person who helped inspire the expansive vision behind Burl’s Creek. Stan talked about how the heart of an endeavour like this was never clearer to him than when a music festival was cancelled, but 40,000 people showed up anyway. They weren’t there for the music (there was none), he explained, but the chance to be together.  The core of Burl’s Creek is not just food and fun, but family and friendship.  It’s a good place to be.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Northwinds planters(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

The OK Friday Barn Fair operates every Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. until October 9, excluding July 24 and August 7 when Burl’s Creek has planned festival events.

Photo credits: Daniel Williams/Dowling Pictures

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All Aboard!

I’m always on the lookout for good day trips with the boys, so when my colleague at work mentioned how much fun she and her sons had riding a steam train in Waterloo, I thought this would be perfect for our train-loving family too.  All of our kids are between 2 and 4, but riding the train would appeal to older children and of course to girls too.

The train leaves from Waterloo and makes two stops, first at the St. Jacob’s Farmers Market and then at the village of St. Jacob’s itself, home to a Canadian Mennonite community.  You choose your stop, mill around, and take the train back to Waterloo.

Most people get off at the Farmers Market, which is a big, thriving place.  There’s definitely a touristy trap feel to parts of the market.  But there also remain rows upon rows of stalls full of food grown, preserved and prepared by the Mennonite community, much as they have been doing since arriving to Canada.

Usually I like to prepare picnic lunches for daytrips, but since I knew there’d be tons of market offerings, I didn’t bother this time.  There was lots to cooked food to choose from, but some of it was kind of junky (like pizza that you could get anywhere).  The best food to me was definitely the whole foods being sold at the stalls.

This is as good a time as any for some relevant disclosure:  I didn’t actually enjoy my trip to the Waterloo Central Railway.  I tell why not here.  So why on earth am I mentioning it to you?  Well, because I think it could be a lot of fun and I am seriously considering going again next year.  With my mother, not my husband.

Some logistics:

  • The trains run until October, at kind of odd times.  You have to check the schedule carefully.
  • Adult tickets cost $14 and kids under 3 are free.
  • Be prepared for a lot of sitting.  If you’re coming from Toronto like us, it takes about an hour and a half each way.  And then you sit on the train, which isn’t a long ride, but it’s more sitting.  Then you’ll likely eat and sit then too.
  • Call ahead just to make sure the steam train is working.  I know, it’s kind of odd to call the steam train to see if the steam train is available, but it’s advisable.  When we went, the steam train had broken down.  But they had a decent old-fashioned looking train substitute.
  • If you like to cook or plan to buy in any amounts at all, it’s nice to have some kind of buggy so you don’t have to carry it all.  I’ll definitely do this next time so I can buy more and not elongate my arms from the effort.
  • It’s busy.  We went on Thursday assuming we’d miss the weekend rush, but it was brimming with people all the same.
  • Bring cash.  There are those ATM’s that charge a fee, but there were queues and if are going with kids, you’ll be glad you avoided them.
  • Bring your own strollers, as there are none to rent.

Do tell if you go and like it.