Kempenfelt Bay Waterfront, Barrie
Kempenfelt Bay Waterfront

My mom has been living in Barrie since 2002 – I stayed for 5 years and once I went  to university, I only came home for the requisite holidays. Last summer, after living abroad, I couldn’t afford to go live in Toronto again so I moved home. Being back in my pink and orange room – yes, I’m actually very girly – wasn’t my first choice, but I tried to embrace Barrie once again.

A lot had changed since I was a teenager and my new interests really fit into the city. Barrie is a great place to live if you enjoy the outdoors, and I often biked down to the renewed waterfront to explore trails and the new shops in the downtown area. Skiing, stand-up paddling, and hiking are among the most popular activities. It’s also a thirty minute drive to Wasaga Beach – the longest fresh water beach in the world – and an hour to Honey Harbour from where you can ferry over to Beausoleil Island for hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

It occurred to me that I had never written anything on this blog about Barrie, even though I have really come to appreciate living in what I used to think was ‘suburban hell’. This fine long weekend, I could have talked about Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival or Montreal’s Osheaga…but I’m instead dedicating this post to Barrie’s Kempenfest.

Ferris Wheel, Kempenfest, Barrie
Ferris Wheel, Kempenfest

ALYSSA JAMES     Special to the Examiner

Arts, food and family fun is on the agenda for this year’s Kempenfest.

In its 43rd year, Kempenfest is bringing everything you know and more: handmade pottery, propane tanks turned planters, and a ferris wheel at the midway.

“We have added misting stands in Centennial park,” said Amanda Dyke, assistant for Kempenfest. “They had been requested in previous years but this is the first (year) we’ve done it.

“Shop Barrie is giving out goodie bags with stuff from all of their shops, and there will be product sampling by some of our vendors,” Dyke said.

Kempenfest started as an initiative by the Barrie Art Club and Kiwanis Club of Barrie to support local artisans from Barrie and the surrounding area.

This year, there are more than 400 arts and crafts vendors, plenty of entertainment and activities for children.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Dale Rowe, chair of the Kempenfest planning committee. “The celebration of culture and creativity in our community is really just a great thing.”

The event is a delightful outdoor and family event, but what is the biggest draw for people?

“Definitely the variety of art,” said Rowe.

“It’s unique. Many of the pieces are one of a kind.”

Vendors of artisanal wares are offering very unique pieces and antique dealers are coming in from Ontario, Alberta and Quebec to inspire and be admired.

“The excitement is building,” said Rowe. “People come from all over Ontario to participate.”

Five hundred volunteers and ten not-for-profit groups come together and work year round to help make this premier event a success.

This really makes the event community-led. Proceeds from Kempenfest go to assist local youth groups and supporting local organizations in their efforts to bring arts, theatre and music to youth in the community.

“We use Kempenfest to raise money from food sales and sponsorships and it goes right back into the community,” Rowe said.


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