Kempenfest Barrie Visited
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Off To Kempenfelt Bay…
It is a beautiful warm summer day and we are driving to Barrie and Kempenfest. Are we NUTS? It’s long weekend and we are going to cottage country AND we are going to take Hwy 400! Anyone who knows will tell you NOT to take the 400 highway north on a long weekend, but we were going to. We eventually arrived in Barrie and headed for one of the shuttle locations and found it easily.
The shuttle bus was already there, so we hurriedly gathered our festival gear and ran for the bus. The bus was full, so we had to stand for the short ride to downtown . The bus driver wound his way through the traffic.
Finally we were there, we had reached the festival safely! Now we are off to explore the festival…
Once off the shuttle bus, we started to look around. This festival is huge! So, where to start? We bus had let us off at the north end of the festival, so we started there.
Our first stop was the Midway. It had most of the rides we were use to seeing, but for one ride. It had a “bumper car” ride! I can remember many pleasant trips to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto) were they always had “bumper cars”.
I spent a good deal of my CNE stash on crashing and demolishing anyone who got in my way. I was especially fond of crashing into my mother who was always a good sport. Mind you, she gave as good as she got. It seems to me she drove our family car in a similar manner.
From the Midway we headed towards the water and Kempenfelt Bay. Here we found a beautiful expanse of clear blue water. Boats were anchored in the bay, just off the festival and the sandy beach.
Sun worshipers lined the beach glistening with suntan oil. Children were laughing and playing either in the water or in a nearby play area.
As I looked north over the bay, I could see the outline of downtown Barrie. To the south was the festival. Colourful tents seemed to stretch forever. We have visited many festivals, both large and small, but this was the most impressive. It was truly a sight to behold!
It was time to move on; we had a lot to see. There was nothing scheduled at the main stage at this time, so we bypassed it for the time being and headed for the tents, and I mean lots and lots of tents…
Arts and Crafts Along The Waterfront…
Although staying at the beach was very tempting, the arts and craft tents were calling our name! Judi and I started to make our way through the maze of tents.
The variety of goods being offered was terrific. There were artists, potters, wood worker, jewelry designers, cabinet makers, seamstress, folk art and floral arrangers.
Interspersed were Service Clubs offering food and refreshments.
The number of artists and crafters was overwhelming. We tried to take it all in, but at the end it was all a blur. Just as we were nearing the end of the arts and crafts, we transitioned into the antique section…
We now left the familiar into a new world of antiques and cast offs. Judi immediately spotted a jewelry tent and made straight for it.
For $5.00 she purchase a hand made bracelet. While she was making her purchase I wandered around investigating all the different dealers and their products. Most carried a theme. First there was a tent devoted to old clocks.
Then there was the dealer who seemed to specialize in old sports equipment and paraphernalia. Everywhere you looked there were items that brought back memories of days gone by, silverware, table, chairs, table, clocks and old milk bottles.
When they were used many years ago they were considered ordinary everyday product that were used constantly.
Now most are expensive treasures cherished by those who collect. Slowly we moved through this sea of memories and moved towards the present.
The change happened quickly. One moment we were in the past and the next moment we were in the present, the present being the commercial area of the festival. Here corporations told us their stories and showed us their products. The products varied greatly.
Napoleon had a showcase of their wonderful barbecues. Other products included hot tubs, pizza and bibles.
At the end of commercial row an oasis appeared in the form of a Kiwanis refreshment and entertainment area.
It was a very hot day, so Judi and I went into the compound, purchased 2 bottles of cool refreshing “water” and sat down to listen to the band playing music in the beer tent. Rejuvenated from our rest, we re-entered the streaming crowds that were headed south…
Back Into Familiar Territory…
We walked into another arts and crafts area. The types of products sold, were much the same as the first arts and crafts area.
This time the aisles were a little wider, so it was easier to maneuver through the crowds and see what the tents had to offer, clothing, stained glass, floral arrangements, jams, soap and art.
A little further down we came to what appeared to be another commercial area.
Included in the area where a “Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell inflatable, an ATM machine and a Golden Rescue information tent.
Passed them the space opened up and we could see the waterfront again. We walked down a small incline towards the open water. It was a beautiful sight. Sailboats were gliding across the waves, pushed by a gentle breeze.
Motorboats lay anchored in the bay. Their occupants were lazing in the warm summer sun. Some had left their boats to join the crowds enjoying the sights and sounds of the festival. Having enjoyed our side trip to the waterfront, we turned back to continue our walk through the arts and crafts.
The long hot walk had made us hungry and thirsty. The sign across the path was just what we needed…
Reaching the End and Back Again…
The sign said “Food Court”. A couple of service clubs had set up good sized food tents. We chose the Knights of Columbus tent and ordered our midday snack and, of course 2 bottles of cold water.
After resting for a little while, we carried on with our journey. The wide spaces we had come from narrowed when we entered the food court and continued for a short distance past a few vendors’ tents.
From there the festival grounds opened up again. We walked through the uncrowded space towards a “buzzing” sound.
It turned out to be a chain saw carver working on a wood sculpture. Passed the wood carving area we came to the YMCA Children’s’ Village.
Here kids had all sorts of attractions to amuse them. There was a Lego building tent, a NASCAR remote car track, several inflatable and a pony ride.
We watched the kids enjoy themselves wishing, perhaps briefly, that we could go back in time and play with them.
It had been a long day and we had a lot of distance to cover to get back to our starting point and the bus ride back to the shuttle bus. We retraced our steps and made in back to the shuttle stop in plenty of time.
So much so, we were able to enjoy the one attraction we bypassed initially, the main stage.
The first time we passed, the stage was empty, but now a group was playing to an enthusiastic audience. The band entertaining was “After Tuesday” This is a Canadian trio who play their own country music.
The shuttle bus had arrived and we reluctantly took our leave of Kempenfest for the long journey home.
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