This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Most of the week I was trying to come up with ideas for the column. With no shows on the immediate horizon and with none to review from the last two weeks, I was worried. A conversation a few days ago lead to seeing the light and I right away started typing, in case the finer details wandered of before now.

Then something came in at the last minute, so my bright idea will be below in favour of leading with Roots North Music Festival news.

A second act has been secured for the 10th anniversary festival weekend in April.

Begonia is returning to the festival. She was last here in 2019. Since then she’s been nominated for Junos, twice for the Polaris Music Prize and the CBC really likes her, as well as NPR, which named her An Artist You Need to Know.

Roots also has the Red Hill Valleys scheduled as well. Get weekend passes online.

This Is What Happens When I’m Left Alone With My Thoughts

I have an idea. So we went big time over the lighting of the tree outside the Opera House. Laughing stock, some said.  And now the balloons didn’t drop as intended at the City’s New Year’s event for families.

I missed both. The Tree lighting plays out the same every year, and owing to a bit of exhaustion I opted to not go this year and missed all the fun. New Year’s Eve, I was there, early, and didn’t think staying another hour and a half was going to be as much fun for me as it would be for a 5=year-old.

While people feel affronted at what appears to be bad planning and poor execution on the part of City staff, it’s just a bit of bad luck that could happen to anyone who doesn’t possess a bit of foresight.

We are in, after all, Mariposa where enough odd things happen you could fill a book.

So the options. If Fred’s tree is so decrepit it needs to be replaced, then it seems to me the work order needs to specify this year in time for the next tree lighting. Having had some experience with how things go at City Hall, I’d also suggest a sapling won’t do the job. They need to transplant a mature tree. Our downtown won’t look right any other way.


We could embrace the folly and forge an identify no other town cold set out to create on purpose. Our artists (who should have been consulted for ideas about the tree in the first place) took it in stride. Creative Nomad designed t-shirts and coffee mugs – Lit Happens – and raised money for the Sharing Place and The Lighthouse. Leslie Fournier asked artists contributing to the annual Christmas ornament sale to use the Christmas Pole for imagery and raised money for the Couchiching Conservancy.

I say put up a pole and light it up each year (keep it the same weekend as the Santa Claus Parade). Make big deal of it. Turn it into a tourist attraction. I have to admit a few people mentioned the pole idea to me, but I’m embellishing the premise.

Think about it. Sell the idea to media outside Orillia, make a weekend of it. Heck I’ve been to the Barrie Santa Claus Parade, our’s is a lot better. The hotels and Lake Country can create a marketing campaign to get people to stay overnight and take in both events. Restaurants could create turkey themed menus, make Eggnog the official drink of Orillia that weekend, set up a stage in the market parking lot and get Ronnie Douglas, Bleeker to play and maybe get the Orillia Vocal Ensemble and the Cellar Singers to join together for some Christmas carols. Spare no crazy idea.

Downtown merchants could create souvenir items in the same way Creative Nomad did. Can you imagine aprons from
At The Kitchen Shop that say – I Got Shafted In Orillia with an image of our special Christmas Pole? Or how about green overcoat/raincoats that read I Really Don’t Care – Take it to the Board (see below). One more, See The Light crested hoodies from C C Fashions.

We could even create a by-law whoever is the current mayor (assuming there is a 10th, 20th, 30th annual…) must appear as Pete Glover to throw the light switch.

We could make the news every single year as the place to be at the back end of November, just like Punxsutawney, Pa. with their stupid, and often wrong, rodent. I’ll bet people will come here just for the party and the parade – and to get their photo taken with the pole as a backdrop (there’s about 6 local photographers who could make a buck with this one).

Leave the pole to artists to make use of the rest of the year. Does anyone remember the Streets Alive pole year? Who ever thought it would turn out so well? There could be 5 renderings annually, a winter, spring, summer and fall display, and of course December.

Someone else suggested putting up a board decorate by artists and supplying cards for people to write their grievances on and post them. I don’t think it would be wise to take the Festivus route that far. We don’t want to get the attention of Jerry Seinfeld’s lawyers. We could call it the Wall of Outrages, or the Board of Resentments.

I think it’s a winner, in a couple ways. I just saved a ton of money having to pay City staff to go to endless meetings for months figuring out what to do, so they’ll be able to concentrate on more important stuff. If done right, when the tree comes down the pole can be a suitable replacement for the photogenic quality of that corner. We’ll have an original public art project (not that Streets Alive isn’t original, we’ll just have another one).

Somehow, we could do the same for New Year’s Eve. Call it the Balloon Thud, maybe even use some lead weights so it’s over quicker. The kids could held back and released at once to attack the netting and grab a balloon, and just when everyone thinks it’s safe, drop foam on them. It could even be shaving cream, which would help mom and dad get the cotton candy off their faces.

Maybe have one golden balloon and the kid who grabs it gets to announce who the Citizen of the Year is in February or March (and gets a tour of City hall, sit in the mayor’s chair for 2 minutes, and also gets one of the dozens of Orillia pins Mayor McIsaac keeps stuffed in his pockets).

We could have planning meetings at Miss Jones Sunshine City Outpost (alternating with Happy Dayz) where I’m sure some great ideas for tag-along-events for both Christmas and New Year’s will emerge.

The Shorts

  • Bleeker has a relatively new video out for their single, Walken, which will be on their new album being released in the spring. Sportsnet re-cut it with footage from NHL games and used Bleeker’s video and music for the opening montage to last Wednesday’s maple Leafs Game. If you missed it, you can watch it here.
  • The Opera House has the Mudmen playing Jan. 27; Mariposa Folk Festival’s Gospel and Blues Feb. 3 and MAT’s The Play That Goes Wrong starting Feb. 8. Tickets for those are online.
  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History is changing exhibits; Jan. 6 is the last chance to see 50 Years Of Mariposa Arts Theatre, A Close up on Carmichael (showcasing OMAH’s collection of related items), Jennifer Zardo’s Home Sweet Home and Jan. 13th The Canadian Landscape Show comes down; up next are Grant’s Legacy: Capturing Orillia’s History on Film and Sybil: Connections Fibre Artists both up Jan. 13 and Seeing Beyond – a solo exhibit by Robyn Rennie, an opening reception for all three exhibits is Jan. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m.;  They’ll always show you the jail, or at lea the permanent exhibit  in the basement, The Orillia Police And The Sir Sam Steele Memorial Building… St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery… Hibernation Arts’s January guest artist is Renee van der Putten.
Mark Bourrie
  • OMAH also has their annual gala fundraiser happening Jan. 27 at Hawkridge Golf Club.. The guest speaker is Mark Bourrie. He’s a lawyer , former journalist and author of Big Men Fear Me, which is a biography of Globe and Mail founder George McCullagh. Bourrie was most recently the lawyer defending Ottawa Life Magazine in a lawsuit brought by Ottawa Police Services chief Peter Sloly over a story claiming mismanagement of the police force. You can get tickets online. On the same evening an online raffle of six pieces of art by Pam Allen, Paul Allen, Dave Beckett, Charles Pachter, Roger Kerslake  and Tony Bianco ends. You can make a bid right now online.
  • St. Paul’s Centre is doing The Music Man Jan. 24 to 28. They’ve given up finding 75 trombones and players, but have a need for volunteers to take tickets and usher (, serve dinner (, and some backstage positions ( and you use those email addresses to get involved. Dinner? Yes, before showtimes Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can get tickets for the show only online. If you are hungry, grab a snack in, the meantime and get dinner/show tickets at the church office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. There is a preview performance Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and admission is pay what you can.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Jeremiah Hill playing Jan. 12… Quayle’s Brewery has J J Blue playing Jan. 6and Kyle Wauchope Jan. 12… The The Offcuts, with special guest Bernadette Connors, play a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre Feb. 3 at Creative Nomad Studios; get tickets online.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Begonia plays the 2024 Roots North Music Festival

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