July 07, 2010

Making Wellington County a vacation destination

As published in The Erin Advocate

If you still need some summer vacation ideas, you don't have to go to cottage country or the big city attractions. Try looking in our big back yard – Wellington County.

It is a competitive market out there, as municipalities vie for a better slice of the tourism dollar. The city to the west even has a brochure entitled "Top 10 Things To Do Downtown Before Leaving Guelph". But they are not part of Wellington, at least not yet.

There’s a ton of information at www.visitguelphwellington.ca, but it is mainly about Guelph, with only a smattering of Wellington. (Not that I have anything against Guelph – it’s OK, for a city.) The site has sections like Where to Eat, What to Do and Bed & Breakfasts, with no Erin listings. You will find better B&B choices at www.bbcanada.com.

Even though Erin is now part of a huge Ontario tourism region that includes Wellington, Waterloo, Perth and Huron, it still gets significant promotion from Hills of Headwaters Tourism, which includes Caledon, Orangeville and Dufferin. Go to www.thehillsofheadwaters.com. Or for a broader scan, drop a destination into the search engine at www.ontariotravel.net.

For rural and small-town events, check out the tourism website developed by Wellington County and its member municipalities: www.wellingtonfestivals.ca.

Hillsburgh is prominent in the Agritourism field, thanks to the Sustainable Living Workshops hosted by Everdale Organic Farm. Instead of lounging on a beach, you could foster your creative side by learning about Cement-Lime Plastering, or discovering The Lost Art of Canning and Home Preserving. Go to www.everdale.org.

Speaking of Hillsburgh, Century Church Theatre attracts many out of town visitors. Find out about their Summer Festival at www.centurychurchtheatre.com

Looking around Wellington for weekend outings or day trips? How about the Fergus Truck Show, July 22-25, the largest truck show in North America. Or various truck and tractor pulls – July 31 in Palmerston or August 28 at the Grand River Raceway in Elora. Or the Antique and Classic Car Show, August 29, at the County Museum near Elora (www.wcm.on.ca).

There are major artistic events like the Elora Festival, with top-notch classical music from July 9 to August 1 (www.elorafestival.ca), and the Hillside Music Festival, July 23-25 at Guelph Lake (www.hillsidefestival.ca).

Art in the Yard will be held July 10-11 at the Elora Centre for the Arts. Get your fill of pipe bands and highland dancing at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games, on August 13. Or sample regional cuisine at Food Day Canada, at the Grand River Raceway, July 31.

There are specialty events like Afternoon Tea in the Victorian Garden, with Tarot Card readings, July 28 at the County Museum. Or check out the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival, July 16-18. My choice for the best event name is the Summer Sizzle Piano Pedagogy Symposium, including the Keyboard Kamp for Kids, July 18 in Mount Forest (www.cncm.ca).

Of course, you should give some consideration to attending summer events in Erin that are sure to attract vacationers. This Saturday, July 10 Doors Open Erin is a chance to explore heritage homes and learn about local history. There is the Erin Garden Tour on July 17 (www.eringardenclub.ca), and on August 7, the Erin Fest Sidewalk Sale, Festival and Concert.

Saturday, August 14 will be bustling with activity, with the start of the two-day Erin Rhythm & Ribs music and BBQ festival at McMillan Park. On August 19, Hillsburgh hosts the Wellington County Plowing Match (www.wellington.ca), then on August 21, the Spirit of the Hills Fun Day.

So, there you have it, more fun summer stuff than you can shake a stick at, without setting foot in a cottage or a city, and I’ve only scratched the surface. Go to www.wellingtonfestivals.ca for more, including autumn events like the Wellington Rural Romp and the grand-daddy of them all, the 160th Erin Fall Fair on Thanksgiving Weekend.