Stratford June 28, 2024

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Taxi fares set to rise in September


Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Inflation and rising costs are to blame for the most recent request to raise the taxi fare in Stratford, a request that was approved at the Stratford police services board meeting June 19.

As Gail Cossey of Aunt Gail’s Taxi pointed out, it’s not just the startling rise of the price of gas in the country.

“Insurance, repairs, oil, tires, licensing, cleaning supplies, washing, vacuuming, all of these items have increased in price due to inflation,” Cossey told the board. “And especially the costs of repairs are through the roof. … We really need a taxi-fare increase immediately.”

Cossey petitioned the board with Brad Rickert of Radio Cab, both requesting that the flat fee all Stratford taxis charge increase from $14 to $16 with the senior rate increasing from $13 to $15.

The taxi fares previously increased in 2023, going from $13 to $14 and the senior fare rising from $12 to $13.

Though they were a united front in their request, Rickert also took the time to say he does not agree with the system as a whole, saying the board shouldn’t be allowed to inhibit free enterprise.

“Johnny wants to sell pizzas in Stratford,” Rickert said. “Johnny comes to town. The city tells him where he can set up shop, how big his washrooms need to be, how many handicap spots are out the front – everything. Except the city does not tell Johnny how much to charge for a slice of pizza. No other business is regulated within the city as to how it operates from the business aspect.

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The 2024 Dog Days of Summer dog show winners. See the story on page 5.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The three Stratford citizens suspended from city property will soon be allowed back in council chambers as the suspensions lift on July 2, but that hasn’t stopped a few of them from protesting the suspensions and showing up to meetings regardless.

Just recently, their arrivals in council chambers have upturned two public meetings on top of the council meeting that was cancelled May 28.

At the June 24 council meeting, Barb Shaughnessy came to the meeting late with husband Tim Forster as a motion to

approve a sewer tender hit the floor.

Shaughnessy and company were noticed by Mayor Martin Ritsma as they entered, who looked frustrated, but did not immediately end the meeting.

After the motion to approve the recommended tender passed, Ritsma acknowledged Shaughnessy’s coming and asked her to leave.

Shaughnessy started to speak before Ritsma spoke over her, saying he won’t entertain a conversation and then asked council to take a recess. The room promptly emptied other than Coun. Cody Sebben, who stayed in chambers throughout the recess.


City ban fiasco continues; two more meetings cancelled moments after starting

After some councillors and staff came back in, Coun. Bonnie Henderson angrily said to Shaughnessy, “Come on Barb, show some respect for staff. Disgraceful.”

“You’re being very disrespectful to the whole city,” Henderson said a few moments later. “I’m sorry, I can’t hold my tongue but I can’t believe it. I had a lot of respect for you before. You’re showing exactly how you feel about our city. Disgraceful.”

After asking Shaughnessy again to leave, Ritsma entertained a motion to adjourn, which a number of councillors raised their hands to move.

Sebben objected to the adjournment, asking for a recorded vote, and Henderson again expressed her displeasure with Shaughnessy’s arrival.

Coun. Geza Wordofa and Sebben opposed adjournment in a recorded vote, but the motion passed 9-2.

Just a week earlier, Robert Roth, a retired journalist and former editor of the now-defunct Stratford Gazette, was scheduled to speak at the June 18 finance and labour relations subcommittee meeting about the suspensions, or more specifically the respectful workplace policy which has been the

tool the city has used to enact the suspensions.

After getting through just his introduction, chair Mark Hunter stopped Roth’s presentation after spotting Mike Sullivan, another suspended citizen, entering the gallery with a baseball hat on.

After asking Sullivan to leave, Hunter adjourned the meeting saying they are unable to continue a meeting with staff present since that would open the city up to liability.

Roth subsequently wrote an open letter to city council, strongly objecting to the course of action the city has taken.

“It is profoundly disingenuous, undemocratic and dangerous to a free society to shield city hall decisions from public scrutiny and accountability simply by slapping the label of ‘administrative matter’ on profound actions such as banning people from the council chambers.

“Pulling an ‘administrative’ rabbit out of the political hat does not make the hat disappear. These decisions are political,” Roth wrote.

Roth also asserted the notion that the suspended individuals are unsafe, Sullivan in particular, does not make sense.

“So, on July 2, he is still ‘un-

safe,’ but on July 3 he suddenly becomes ‘safe’ and can attend council meetings again,” Roth wrote.

Ritsma told the Stratford Times after the June 24 meeting ended that once the term of suspension has come to completion, the term will have completed, when asked whether or not there will be further action taken after the suspensions lift on July 2.

Ritsma further said not one person on the streets of Stratford has stopped him or told him what the city is doing is wrong.

Sebben expressed frustration with the whole debacle.

“I'm hearing from lots of people; they share the same concerns I do and they think things have gotten out of hand,” Sebben said. Henderson, meanwhile, also expressed frustration from the other side, saying in the meeting she has also heard from a lot of people, all thanking the city for addressing the bullying that has been occurring.

Shaughnessy, in the statement she tried to read during the council meeting, wrote that the suspension has had an impact on her health. She is asking for footage from the Feb. 26 council meeting be released to their lawyer, David Donnelly of Donnelly Law, as the


footage would exonerate her.

The suspensions occurred after the February council meeting in which Shaughnessy, Sullivan and Ken Wood were suspended for their actions which the city claims contradicted the respectful workplace policy.

The policy prohibits any disrespectful or inappropriate behaviour on city property, giving the examples of harassment, rudeness, or causing distress to city employees, among other reasons.

Sullivan and Shaughnessy delegated on a few agenda items,

notably a closed-meeting-investigation report and a zoning change for the Bradshaw Lofts, and do not believe their delegations nor their actions in city hall constituted a suspension being necessary.

Sullivan and Shaughnessy, through Get Concerned Stratford, a citizens’ group, retained Donnelly Law to push back against their suspensions.

Wood, although also suspended, did not join with Sullivan and Shaughnessy’s legal action citing financial reasons, though did previously express support towards them in their endeavour.

Taxi fares set to rise in September

“I think the purpose of this board is to ensure that the cars are looked after, the drivers are all vetted,” Rickert continued. “Those aspects are what you're here (for), to protect the public. As to the business side of things … you can't change our expenses, you can't change our profit. We have to deal with what we deal with.”

Rickert also said, according to the by-

law, the board is to approve the fare, but he argued it does not say the board is to set the fare.

Tim Doherty, chair of the board, argued against that, saying this is how the process has been done in the last few years. He also said a number of years ago they considered reviewing the bylaw but didn’t get support from the taxi companies at the time, asking Rickert if he felt the bylaw is no longer serving

him or the other companies in Stratford well.

“From this aspect, no,” Rickert answered.

Cossey’s proposal was approved, though there will be a period of time before the changes are formally approved, likely to happen at the September meeting when the board meets next.

The board also agreed to discuss the bylaw as well, which Rickert expressed

appreciation for.

Doherty said they will work with the city’s clerk office to look at the bylaw and open up a conversation about it, perhaps revisiting the bylaw at the September meeting as well, though Mayor Martin Ritsma noted the clerk’s office has been busy as of late.

Other fees that taxi services charge, such as a waiting-time charge, will stay the same.

Barb Shaughnessy at the June 24 Stratford city council meeting, arriving before the meeting was cancelled shortly thereafter.

Police still looking for leads after inclusionary flag stolen from St. Michael Catholic Secondary School

Stratford police say investigators are still looking for leads after an inclusionary flag was stolen from the flagpole at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School June 10.

In an initial press release issued June 12, police said they obtained video-surveillance footage from the school that showed three suspects arrive at the Stratford school in a white, extended-cab pickup truck believed to be a 2007-2013 Chevrolet shortly after 11:30 p.m. June 10. The suspects then allegedly got out of the truck, walked to the front of the school, cut the flag from the flagpole around midnight, returned the truck and left the area round 12:13 a.m. The truck was last seen travelling on Short Street from Matida Street.

Approved by the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board (HPCDSB) to be flown at both of the board’s high schools during Pride Month, the stolen flag bears imagery akin to the Pride rainbow as well as the phrase, “We Are All Wonderfully Made.”

“The inclusionary flag of the board was

raised at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School in Stratford on June 10. The inclusionary flag is a flag that was approved by the board to be raised during the month of June at our secondary schools and the Catholic Education Centre to acknowledge our support and solidarity with students and staff who identify with the LGBTQ community,” HPCSB director of education Chris Roehrig.

“Later that evening, a person or persons damaged the newly erected flagpole, brought down the board’s inclusionary flag and took it away. The board is deeply saddened and disturbed by this act of vandalism. The board always stands in solidarity with the poor and marginalized in our community –we categorically reject this act of violence.”

Concerned with the impact this theft might have on LGBTQ students and staff at St. Michael and those in the wider the community, Roehrig said the board deployed social workers to the school to ensure students and staff feel welcome, safe and included.

Roehrig, the school board and Stratford police are encouraging anyone who know anything about this theft to contact Stratford police at 519-271-4141 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Dear Editor,

What is happening with Stratford’s city council? As a concerned citizen, I have to wonder after looking at your June 13 issue.

On the one hand, I read a letter to the editor from a city councilor that said council is open to citizen input as long as it is civil and follows rules and process. In anoth-

Message from the Mayor

Letters to the Editor

er letter, however, a citizen who was not heard by council because members said he contravened process by being uncivil complained he had not been uncivil and that his right to be heard had been denied (though he has done a good job of making his case in other forums!)

What is one to make of this?

Elsewhere in the paper, I read about the


On Monday, June 24th, 2024, Stratford City Council voted in favour of adjourning that night’s Council meeting early. Council, staff and I are disappointed that this meeting could not proceed as intended, and we were unable to discuss important city-building issues. City Council Meetings are critical to move matters forward to ensure our City thrives, including the creation of more homes, enhancing infrastructure, fostering economic growth and preserving our community’s unique character and heritage.

We encourage civic engagement and participation from all of our citizens. This

includes written communication, delegating at and attending meetings, either in person or via livestream, and receiving access to information. It is important that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the democratic process and that includes expressing all viewpoints. That is part of democracy and a part that we are committed to upholding. To that end, plans are underway to hold a public forum to continue hearing from citizens about public engagement.

To maintain decorum in the Council Chamber and respectful discourse, a number of policies are in place, including the Respectful Workplace policy. In the


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citizens of Nelson Street who followed all the rules and process and called upon council to act on their behalf in what they saw as a contravention of the city plan by a committee of adjustment that would negatively impact their neighbourhood. What was the outcome of this? Apparently, the majority of council members said they couldn’t go by their own rules be-

event that policy is not adhered to, there are steps to be followed, including a temporary suspension from attending City meetings in person. At all times, those under a temporary suspension are able and encouraged to communicate with Council and staff via email or by sending in correspondence for adding to an agenda. Unfortunately, due to contraventions of recent temporary suspensions, last night’s Council meeting was the third meeting to be disrupted and ultimately rescheduled. These disruptions are impacting the effectiveness of Council and Committee meetings and procedures, and most critically, the work of the City.

cause a higher, provincial power had other rules which it would be too expensive to question!

Based on these letters and this report, I hope, as a citizen of Stratford, that I have no reason to go to the current city council for their help.

Your sincerely, Julia Schneider, Stratford

The City of Stratford has a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful or inappropriate behaviour that impacts people’s right to be respected and to promote a safe, healthy, respectful, inclusive and positive environment for all members of the public, Council and City staff. It is our goal to respect and enforce that policy for the protection of our staff, members of council and the community.

It is our goal that the meetings of Council, Committees and Special Council, as well as advisory committees, can occur with respectful engagement from the public and avoid further disruption.


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Mayor Martin Ritsma

Dog Days of Summer returns downtown with kickoff in Market Square

Many people remark how many dogs there are in Stratford. It is indeed a dog friendly town, and that includes the downtown core. Dogs of all types descended upon the Market Square June 20 for the kickoff of the second annual Dog Days of Summer. It was paw-sitively packed, despite the heat and threat of rain.

The square was filled with puppy pools, water bowls and a rainbow waterfall to keep pooches (and our mayor) cool as everyone assembled for the launch of the Sniffari Map. The map, the brainchild of Christine Foster of Pawsitive Difference Professional Pet Care and created by local artist Beatrix Danger, highlights 17 spots meant to stimulate your furry friend and help them investigate and explore the world around them.

Another initiative of Foster’s was the yellow zone, where dogs that need downtime or are overstimulated or nervous can go to calm down.

“We have a whole list on our website of dog-friendly places in the downtown core. They have window stickers to identify them. It is all year long that people can bring their dogs in businesses, but (at) restaurants it’s just patios (in the summer). People love to travel with their dogs,” said Jamie Pritchard, general manager of the Downtown Stratford Business Improvement Area, (BIA).

The unveiling of the map was a bit of a

challenge with the wind, but Mayor Martin Ritsma was up to the task.

“The map shows off all the areas of downtown, shows dog stations and great places for a dog to go for stimulation by sniffing around. We have the maps available at Destination Stratford, BIA and there is a map in every grab bag,” said Pritchard.

There were grab bags available free to the

first 50 dogs and their owners who registered for the dog show.

“BIA, you’re doing amazing things just to bring people down to the downtown core, and it’s kind of neat when the dogs come down and hang out with you,” added Ritsma.

The Dog Days of Summer was established in collaboration with the BIA, Fos-

ter and Danger. The dog show commenced with judging in seven different categories that owners signed their dogs up for when registering.

The first category, waggiest tail, was a charmingly popular one, but there was one clear winner and that was Ginger the spaniel. Next up was best dressed which was difficult to judge. The category featured dogs dressed as a biker, in tuxedoes and dresses, but the winner was the groovy Grover in the rainbow-glittery disco outfit. The third category was the youngest dog, which went to adorable four-month-old littermates Dexter and Daisy, two dachshunds.

Old timer went to senior-pup Hunter, comfortably ensconced in a stroller of their very own. The category most anticipated by the mayor was dog that looks most like their owner, which was without a doubt a worthy win for Mizumi and her owner, both dressed in tiaras. Best trick was won by Duke the golden retriever and, finally, the smiliest dog went to Tank.

All the winners went home with prizes. Participating dog-friendly businesses can be found displaying a window sticker with a green circle outlined in blue with a paw print in the centre. A list of participating businesses is available on the BIA website, The Sniffari map can be picked up at the Destination Stratford BIA office or at participating pet stores.

LISA CHESTER Times Correspondent
Jamie Pritchard, general manager of the BIA, and Mayor Martin Ritsma unveil the new Sniffari map outlining great spots for dogs to sniff and explore.

Stratford’s Loreena McKennitt steps down as RCAF honorary colonel

After nearly 18 years, Juno Award-winning Stratford singer-songwriter and musician Loreena McKennitt has stepped down from her post as honorary colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

McKennitt concluded her record-breaking tenure of civilian service and said goodbye to her military family with a speech during the Royal Canadian Air Force honorary colonel change-of-appointment ceremony in Ottawa June 12.

“It has been an extraordinary 17 years and an education like no other. Indeed, it greatly compensated for what I had not learned in school,” McKennitt said during her speech.

“It’s been a privilege to witness firsthand, and often from the back of a Hercules aircraft, re-supply missions to our northernmost communities, search-andrescue procedures, air-to-air refuelling during major coalition training exercises in Cold Lake, Alta., and far-reaching national sovereignty operations across Canada and the far north. I experienced the rigours of a Snowbird’s training flight in Moose Jaw and, during the Afghan conflict, the sobering repatriation ceremonies in Trenton.”

From 2006-2015, McKennitt was honorary colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue


Squadron based in Winnipeg, Man. From 2015 to June 2024, she was honorary colonel of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The usual term of service is three years.

Honorary colonels assume an honorary

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and advisory role. They act as a bridge between the civilian population and the military, helping to build a public profile for their unit, essentially becoming the public face of it. They also strive to elevate the morale of military members and their families. All appointments are approved by the Minister of National Defence.

“All these terms are normally three years, so they kept renewing mine and with each commander – I was an honorary colonel with four commanders –they’d say, ‘Would you stay on for another term?’ So, (RCAF Commander) Lt.-Gen. (Eric) Kenny and I had a conversation and I said, ‘You know, of course I’m here to be of whatever service I can. At the same time, I also recognize the value of having new people come into positions and they bring different strengths and so on.’ So, we kind of felt at the time he was going to start moving things along and I would be transitioned out and the next person would come in.”

During her tenure, McKennitt participated in more than 175 events – everything from mess-hall dinners to foreign trips to visit Canadian troops. She attended repatriation ceremonies in Trenton and funerals in Petawawa and Woodstock. She once diverted her tour bus while in Quebec to visit the family of a long-serving member of the Canadian forces who had

been killed.

McKennitt performed at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial during the 2017 ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and in 2018 she wrote “Breaking of the Sword,” a song about a mother’s love for her war-bound son and the loss and sacrifice that transcends borders, cultures and time, donating the song’s digital-sale proceeds to the Support Our Troops Fund. She has participated in almost every Remembrance Day service since 2006, most of them at the Cenotaph in her home base of Stratford, although last year while on tour she sang in Saskatoon, Sask. at the largest indoor Remembrance Day service of its kind in Canada.

McKennitt was also awarded The Canadian Forces Decoration in December 2019 in recognition of her 12 years of service as an honorary colonel. She has twice been presented with a Command Commendation by National Defence, awarded to recognize deeds or activities beyond the demand of normal duty.

McKennitt says she is still willing to work in service of the Canadian Armed Forces in whatever capacity asked of her, and she and her record label, Quinlan Road, will continue to assist the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 8 with Stratford’s annual Remembrance Day Ceremony.

“I think the very first thing that struck me was how little I knew as a citizen. That I found very alarming because (Canada’s armed-forces personnel) are so invisible in our society in terms of what they do,” McKennitt said. “ … There’s combat, there’s peacemaking, there’s peacekeeping, there’s sovereignty patrol, there’s search and rescue, there’s humanitarian support, disaster relief … repatriating people. They do a lot and I really didn’t know any of it, and I got reflecting on, ‘Why did I not know this?’

“I would come to know that most citizens were like me. One then reflects on the education system. I think what’s of particular significance at this time is … we’re really living at a momentous time – this time of a kind of poly-crisis where you have migration of people, you have climate, but you’ve got these challenges of the international-rules-based order. We are truly living in a very different time. … When I reflect on this period of time of what people know or they don’t know, first of all there’s knowing what the Canadian Armed Forces do, but then there’s also an appreciation of where we are at in this point of history.”

Stratford singer-songwriter and musician Loreena McKennitt stepped down from her role as honorary colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force during a Royal Canadian Air Force honorary colonel change-of-appointment ceremony in Ottawa June 12.

First donor impact celebration highlights facility, equipment upgrades

The Stratford General Hospital Foundation demonstrated endless gratitude to their donors during their annual general meeting (AGM) and first-ever donor impact celebration.

The AGM and celebration was held June 12 at the Stratford Country Club. Staff members of the maternal child, medical-imaging and lab departments spoke about the new equipment and upgrades made possible thanks to donations. The donor impact celebration also outlined what to expect from the new pharmacy unit and cancer-and-medical-care clinic.

“Our staff members were really excited to be engaged with our donors and share their excitement about the pieces of equipment that they get to use day in and day out to diagnose or to treat patients and make sure that our community has great care," said Cheryl Hunt, executive director of the Stratford General Hospital Foundation.

The volunteers of the Stratford General Hospital Foundation also presented a $85,000 cheque towards the new cancer-and-medical-care clinic.

All of the equipment and upgrades at the Stratford General Hospital are funded entirely by donations. Facility upgrades will receive some government grants, but Hunt said the grant funding is a small part of the cost with most of the funding coming from donations.

The pharmacy project and the new cancer-and-medical-care clinic are part of the foundation’s In Our Hands campaign, a $30-million capital campaign tackling equipment needs and facility upgrades.

Pharmacy technicians Jennifer Jacklin and Amberley Elder spoke about changes coming to the pharmacy including IV-cleaning facilities and rigorous cleaning and biological safety measures to ensure the medications are as safe as possible.

"To say that pharmacy is excited for this move is an understatement,” Elder said.

“When I started as a student, when I started in 2009, since the day I've started, they told us we're going to get a new pharm in. It's been a long time in the making.”

The new pharmacy will also be a larger space, so pharmacists working across the street can return to the hospital site and have closer communication with patients. The upgrade will also allow the pharmacy department to work more closely with the chemotherapy department. Jacklin said she has a relative who utilizes the chemo-department services, so she is pleased with the changes.

“It will be nice to see that it will be a safer and more informed clinical experience for all of the patients,” Jacklin said.

Dr. Janis Nicholson, an internal medicine physician with the cancer-care-and-medical clinic, also said a new facility for her department was promised for several years, and sometimes it was hard for her to believe it would happen one day. Nicholson has since toured the facilities under construction, expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

“It is happening and it's all thanks to the generosity of our community and our donors. This would not be happening without you,” she said.

Stratford General Hospital’s cancer-and-medical-care clinic is a satellite of the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre in London. Currently, the patients will first come to London and all treatments are prescribed by specialists in London, then

medical staff in Stratford can administer the drugs and monitor side effects.

"Beginning the treatment here; it decreases the number of trips to London and also the costs, which is really important especially in the winter months,” Nicholson said. “We're a smaller unit; we're much more able to reschedule appointments than they are in London because they are so busy."

The new facility will also be a larger and more comfortable space for patients and staff alike for several reasons. The current cancer-and-medical-care clinic can be freezing in the colder months – to the point where duct-tape and plexiglass would be on the windows – and sweltering in the summer. The mandatory air-conditioning units also make the space drafty and noisy.

The new clinic also promises more privacy, which was a major consideration when designing the unit. Conversations could be easily heard within the interior of the current clinic, which is not ideal for patients who prefer to keep their treatments private. There will also be natural light, wood flooring and a comfortable colour scheme to reduce any anxiety the patients are feeling.

“It’s going to provide a much-better environment for patients, for staff,” said Andrew Williams, CEO and president of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance. “It's going to allow us to expand our services. Really excited about that. It's going to change that program overnight once it's open.” More information about the In Our Hands campaign, including virtual tours of the new pharmacy and cancer units, can be found by visiting

Perth County releases updated draft official plan and project update


Last week, Perth County council approved the release of the updated draft official plan and the next phase of public engagement for the official plan project.

The first version of the draft official plan text was released in December 2023 to provide transparency for the public, stakeholder groups, steering committees and council on how feedback received to date had been considered and implemented. Open houses were held in February 2024 for review of the draft official plan and to receive additional feedback from the public and stakeholder groups. Following the release of the first draft this past winter, significant work has been completed to prepare an updated draft official plan document in response to community feedback.

“Council is pleased with the work that has been done to update the policies based on public feedback,” said Perth County Warden Rhonda Ehgoetz in a press release. “We are confident that the revised document and policies reflects the needs of the community and

will support the county’s growth for many years to come. We are excited for the community to see the updated draft and have the opportunity to provide further comments.”

Highlights of the next phase of the official-plan project include four key components:

1. The release of the updated draft official plan policy text

2. The launch of a new online interactive map, Draft Official Plan Map Viewer, showing proposed land designations

3. Additional opportunities to connect with the planning team in local municipal offices

4. The date and locations for the next openhouse information sessions

“The official plan project would not be possible without the valuable input from the community. We are grateful for everyone who has taken the time to engage with this project and provide constructive feedback so far,” said county senior policy planner Moira Davidson in the press release. “This next phase of the project allows residents to see how their input was directly implemented through the updated policy document and mapping for the proposed designations on their property.

We’re also providing additional opportunities to connect directly with the planning team for anyone who may have site-specific questions about the official plan and how it relates to their property.”

The updated draft official plan policy document is available to view on the county’s website at Along with the updated draft official plan, the county also released an online, interactive map viewer allowing the public to see the proposed draft official plan designations. The Draft Official Plan Map Viewer along with a tutorial video and instructions are available at www.

On July 22, the county will host two openhouse information sessions. The first session is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Perth East Recreation Complex and the second session will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the West Perth Community Centre. Each session will include an informative presentation showcasing a summary of updates made to the text and followed by an opportunity to mingle and connect directly with planning staff and members of county council to ask questions or dis-

cuss the project. For those unable to attend, a recording of the presentation will be available in advance for viewing.

If landowners have site-specific questions about their property in relation to the draft official plan, appointments can be scheduled to meet in person with a policy planner at a local municipal office on the following days:

• July 23 – Perth East

• July 24 – West Perth

• July 25 – North Perth

• July 26 – Perth South

To book an appointment, call 519-271-0531 ext. 419 or email

While comments will be accepted up to the day the official plan is adopted by county council, the planning division recommends comments be provided by Aug. 30 to provide staff with adequate timing to incorporate additional comments and feedback into the final official plan document. Comments can be submitted by email at, by phone at 519-271-0531 ext. 419, and by mail to 1 Huron St., Stratford, Ont., N5A 5S4.

The Stratford General Hospital annual general meeting and donor impact celebration highlighted the impact of contributions made throughout the hospital, including the new cancer-and-medical-care clinic.

Rae announces funding for local seniors programs

Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae announced a total of $179,016 in funding for local seniors’ programs on June 14. The Seniors Active Living Centres (SALC) program and Seniors Community Grant (SCG) program are funded by the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility and provides programming to help seniors stay fit, active and connected in our communities. SALCs and SCG’s are community connectors. Together, these investments support local, not-for-profit community organizations, municipalities, and Indigenous groups by helping them deliver programs and learning opportunities for Ontarians age 55+ offering a wide variety of activities to promote engagement, reduce isolation and promote healthy living.

Locally, the Town of St. Marys received $50,075 for seniors programming, the Stratford Kiwanis Community Centre received $51,023 and Spruce Lodge Home for the Aged received $51,137. The North Perth Seniors Centre also received $26,781.

“We are grateful for the continued support of the Provincial government through the Seniors Active Living Centres Grant,” said St. Marys Mayor Al Strathdee in a press release. “These funds support the operation of our Friendship Centre, which is a vibrant, welcoming space for adults of all ages and abilities. This facility provides diverse programming that helps to reduce isolation and create community among our residents.”

“Our seniors help build our communities and province,” Rae said in the press release. “Our government continues to support these important senior programs,

ensuring our seniors can enjoy their golden years, while staying active and healthy. … June is Seniors Month in the Province of Ontario,” said MPP Rae. “It is a time for us to recognize and thank the many seniors in Perth-Wellington for the many contributions they have made and continue to make in our communities.”

This year, a total of up to $15 million in funding will be made available to SALC programs across the province. This is an increase of close to 10 per cent from last year.

Due to the overwhelming success of Ontario’s more than 300 Seniors Active Living Centres being delivered by municipalities, new changes to the Seniors Active Living Centres Act, 2017 came into effect as of June 1 that enable more types of organizations to deliver Seniors Active Living Centre programs.

A call for proposals for organizations

to deliver SALC programming will open later this summer. In addition to municipalities, other local and community-based organizations such as Legions, Lion’s Clubs and other social and recreational clubs are now welcome to apply.

Organizations that deliver SALC programming contribute 20 per cent of the cost of delivering the program, with the province providing the remaining 80 per cent.

“Senior Active Living Centres help build healthier, safer communities by providing a community hub for older adults,’’ said Raymond Cho, minister for seniors and accessibility, in the press release. “Our government’s expansion and investment in Seniors Active Living Centre programs will help even more older adults, including those in remote areas, get the supports they need to live healthy, independent lives.”

Former executive director for Foundation of Education facing fraud charges

worked with the Stratford community to help those in need for 17 years.

The former head of a local charity assisting the Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) has been arrested and faces fraud charges based on her time at the organization.

Laura Pethick, the former executive director for the Foundation for Education Perth Huron, is facing three charges that allegedly took place between 2022 and 2024.

They include defrauding the organization by over $5,000, using a forged “caring fund application form” and committing mischief in relation to data by reformatting and changing an account password on a laptop belonging to the organization.

On behalf of Pethick, Andrew Porter of Porter Litigation said she has faithfully

“She categorically denies these allegations of impropriety and looks forward to the opportunity to respond to these charges in full,” he said.

The foundation was started in 1989 to provide students with opportunities to expand their creative potential and critical life skills, including providing arts-based experiences, life skill development and resources for students facing barriers.

Colleen Schenk is the chair of the board of directors for the foundation. She said they cannot discuss the case as it is before the court, though did release a statement highlighting the excellent programming the foundation has provided to students in Huron and Perth counties.

“Although our executive director was dismissed without cause in early March,

irregularities were later discovered leading to an investigation and the subsequent charges,” Schenk said. “The situation is very disappointing but the foundation board is focused on moving forward and ensuring that this does not occur in the future.

“We appreciate the understanding of our supporters as we navigate this issue and look to the future with optimism and positivity. Our programming is continuing and we are accepting donations as usual. We are carrying on the good work of the Foundation and wish to assure our supporters that this valuable support will continue.”

In an emailed statement, Graham Shantz, director of education for the AMDSB, said the Foundation for Education is a separate entity that maintains its own financial records.

“This situation is disappointing and regrettable, but we applaud the foundation board of directors for responding quickly and taking all necessary actions in order to mitigate the impact of these charges,” Shantz said. “We are working cooperatively with the foundation board to ensure that funds are secured and that future actions are taken to protect charitable donations.”

Shantz said the finance department, audit committee and senior leaders are working to ensure all funds for schools and students are accounted for.

“We are hopeful that the impact of this situation is minimal and appreciate the foundation's commitment to building practices that eliminate further issues in order to continue the support that has been provided for over 30 years.”

Pethick was sworn in on May 27. She is next scheduled in court on Sept. 9.

Kinsmen's Canada Day Proud to Be Canadian celebration

The Kinsmen Club of Stratford is gearing up to once again host Stratford’s annual Proud to be Canadian celebration on Canada Day. The outdoor concert and fireworks show is at the Stratford Education and Recreation Centre (SERC) Park between Matilda and Foreman St. on Monday, July 1 starting at 7 p.m. The Stratford Kinsmen have been hosting the annual concert and fireworks show on Canada Day for over to 30 years.

This is a free event but as always, the Fireworks portion of the event needs community support. Free will donations are gratefully appreciated just watch for a Kinsmen passing through the crowd with a free will donation bucket.

So come on Stratford bring the whole family for an evening of community spirit and national pride in celebration of Canada on its 157th anniversary.

“As part of Kin Canada, - Canada’s only all Canadian Service Club – the club is proud of our history and tradition of celebrating Canada Day”, stated Kin Bob Walters.

Set up begins at 7 p.m. on July 1, residents of Stratford and area are invited to enjoy Canada Day celebrations. The Concert will begin at 8 p.m. with live music by local musician Steve Adair (better known as Yeager) and the New Boys the music will include tunes from Canadian artists like Tragically Hip, and Neil Young. Also on hand will be

local vendors Ken’s Fries, Crazee Kernels,Domino’s Pizza, Berlin 95 Diner and Kinsmen will have hot dogs and drinks while they last – donation only, the evening will be capped off with the Kinsmen’s annual Canada Day fireworks display.

Come early to get a good location to watch the fireworks bring a lawn chair or a blanket and come early to enjoy the live music, grab a bite while you enjoy the concert and await the Kinsmen’s annual Canada Day fireworks which will begin at dusk and last about 25 minutes.

The Kinsmen Club of Stratford thank our corporate sponsors and the City of Stratford for there support. Donations are gratefully appreciated. The money

collected at the entrances offsets the cost of putting on the event and any surplus is put back into our community through the projects Kin supports. This past year the Kinsmen have made financial donations to the Stratford Hospital Foundation, Wellspring for Cancer, Rotary Aquabox, Jakes Bowling fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House, Connections Centre, Stratford Library Snack Stop, gym equipment for a new outdoor facility by the skate park, cystic fibrosis and two high school bursaries

If you would like more information on the Kinsmen Club of Stratford or would like to come out to a meeting just contact us at

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Heat warnings couldn’t stop the fun at Stratford Live Music & Food

From children’s face painting and energetic music to exquisite food that satisfied the taste buds of all, this Stratford event refuses to quit, even against challenging obstacles.

“This event is very important to me because it’s the one weekend out of the entire year where we get together and I get to see people from all stages of my life,” said Tracey Kestle, festival attendee. “I’m here just to enjoy a good time. This is definitely a Stratford thing.”

“I can see old friends from high school, the people I used to work with, everybody comes,” added Andrea Kestle, another local who attended the weekend festival. “With the heat this week, I wasn’t going, but here I am.”

The Stratford Live Music & Food festival ran from June 21-23 at the historic bandshell on Lakeside Drive last weekend.

Carrie Clark, volunteer coordinator for the Stratford Live Music & Food festival, said she thinks the attendance might have dropped in numbers this year due to the heat wave.

“Everyone braved the extreme heat and the occasional rain. The performances were

phenomenal, especially on Saturday night where you felt that vibration,” said Clark. “The crowd was dancing and grooving even though there was a little bit of a misty drizzle coming down on everyone.”

Friday kicked off the festivities with several talented vocal performances ranging from the Juno Award-winning Steve Strongman, as well as Just Heart featuring ‘80s hit songs and Paragon. Saturday’s activities featured superheroes and princesses posing and dancing with the children, and Sunday concluded the celebration with more talented performances and a community breakfast hosted by the Local Community Food Centre that saw a 120-person turnout.

Roughly 125 volunteers dedicated their time and effort throughout the weekend, working various positions including admissions, bar staff, stagehands and more.

“All the time you spent in organizing, all the meetings, the preparation and knocking on doors; when you watch the community enjoy themselves, you know that hard work was worth every second,” said Clark. “We are very grateful to all our sponsors and to the food trucks, vendors and volunteers, as well as to the amazing community support.”


10th annual Hike for Hospice brought out record number of participants

The 10th annual Hike for Hospice saw a record number of hikers both onsite and off.

Together, the 274 participants raised in excess of $118,000 with donations still pouring in. The donations support the operations of the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth, which first opened its doors five years ago.

The Hike took place at the Stratford Perth Museum with a group walk through the Tom Orr Trail on Sunday, June 23 under threatening, grey skies. Spirits weren’t dampened, though, and everyone was excited and enthusiastic to be a part of such a worthy cause.

There were people hiking just because the hospice is an important part of the city. Others were there walking in memory of family members or dear friends. No matter the motivation, there was a true sense of spirit and community among those at the museum that day.

“The day is fabulous because people will come and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. People are happy and they are smiling and they are in the same space with people who get it,” said Hike for Hospice co-chair Julie Docker-Johnson. “The community piece of the hospice is the part that you can’t even explain until you are part of it and when you need it, it is here.”

Fundraising events like the hike and Handbags for Hospice, their other major fundraiser, are important because the many


operational costs of managing the hospice are not funded by any level of government. There are 10 rooms but only eight are funded. From ground zero, it was decided to build the 10 rooms because it was better to build then as opposed to face a construction project later.

“We have 10 rooms because hopefully the government will eventually fund another two. We are funded for nursing only. Each shift has an RN, an RPN and a PSW,” shared Docker-Johnson.

That leaves all other expenses and operating costs to be covered by donations. It costs $350 per day per room to operate. There is no cost to a resident of the hos-

pice. Fifty per cent of costs are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health leaving the remaining 50 per cent, or over $1 million, to be fundraised locally.

Some teams of hikers wore specially designed shirts like the Lollipop Guild, who were walking in memory of Lori Ruston, or Murs Movers, who were walking in memory of Muriel Boyd. The largest team by far was Queen Jean’s Team, walking for Jean Walker, the family matriarch that was blessed with six kids, 19 grandchildren and 20 great grandkids with two on the way.

“This place, Rotary Hospice, has very special significance to my family and I, as it was here, one year ago this month, that we

lost our grandma, Queen Jean, who passed away with comfort and dignity that she so well deserved,” said Shannon O’Shea Ross in a speech during the opening remarks.

“We were so blessed within the time of complete uncertainty and sorrow that Rotary Hospice was there to provide a beautiful space for her final stage of life and for all of us to say goodbye.”

To date, 375 people have been cared for in their end-of-life journey. For those interested in supporting the hospice by donation, visit, send a cheque by mail to the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth at 80 Greenwood Dr. Stratford, N5A 0J1, or call 519-508-4900.

Pictured from left to right are volunteers Carrie Clark, Ange Collens, Shannon Stewart and Sandy McCann at the Stratford Live Music & Food festival after many months of planning and preparation.
LISA CHESTER Times Correspondent
Team Queen Jean readies the family with gold crowns as they prepare to hike in memory of the family matriarch, Jean Walker.

Stratford journalist’s Maclean’s article about choosing medical assistance in dying get honourable mention at National Magazine Awards

Though she didn’t win a National Magazine Award for her heartbreaking-yet-uplifting story in the September 2023 issue of Maclean’s Magazine about her decision to die with dignity through the medical assistance in dying (MAiD) process, Stratford’s Diane Sims is happy knowing perhaps the most difficult piece of her career to write got the spotlight one more time.

On June 7, Sims, who is living with endstage multiple sclerosis, and her husband, Dennis, made the trip to Toronto’s Arcadian Court to attend the National Media Awards Foundation’s 47th annual National Magazine Awards gala after her piece, “How I Plan to Die,” was nominated in the personal journalism category.

“I didn’t win but I got an honourable mention,” Sims told the Times after she returned from Toronto. “I had an absolutely lovely time.”

In 2022, Sims, who was diagnosed with MS in 1975 when she was just 17 and declared palliative three years ago, qualified and was approved for MAiD. Her disease has confined her to an electric wheelchair and severely restricted the food she can eat. In recent years, she’s endured numerous hospitalizations and invasive surgeries, required round-the-clock care, and has suffered chronic pain, declining speech, jerky arms, spastic legs, shaky hands, a compressed lung and a dying colon.

Sims wrote “How I Plan to Die” for the September 2023 issue of Maclean’s –which was also nominated and given an honourable mention in the National Magazine Awards’ Issue Grand Prix category – to help readers understand the decisions behind choosing to die.

Through an unflinching, brave and brutally honest account of her disease, its toll on her life, why she made the decision to apply for MAiD and how those closest to her reacted to that decision, Sims wanted to show others who have been deemed palliative and their loved ones there is a dignified alternative to pain, suffering and waiting to die.

“I feel very humbled and honoured,” Sims said of her article being nominated. “I feel very humbled that my writing qualifies and very honoured for it to be recognized and for the subject of the article to be recognized as worthy of an award.

“ … I wanted to educate people about MAiD. I wanted to take some fear away by explaining the procedure and I wanted to explain why someone would choose it because there are so many people who think of it as suicide or a cop out – the easy way out. Some people think this is the easy way out. It’s probably the most difficult way out in some ways because you’re setting your own date and you know exactly when you’re going to die. But in other ways, it is the easiest way, too, because you do know and you have the chance to get as ready as you want to.”

As Sims has said time and again, MAiD is not about dying, it’s about living


whatever time she has left and the quality of that life.

Though Sims’ quality of life continues to decline as her doctors told her it would, she isn’t quite ready to make that all-important call just yet. She’s writing a memoir and trying to get it published, she’s attending plays at the Stratford Festival, she’s continuing her push to have the city build an accessible police station, and she’s spending as much time with family, friends and Dennis as she can.

“When I can’t communicate, that will

be when I know it’s time,” Sims said. “I really want to finish this memoir. I’ve sent it to one publisher and I’m getting ready to send three chapters to another. I’m shopping around for someone to create a website for me and manage it.

“ … I’ve seen the design for the ramp at the current police station. It’s going to be a double-sided ramp. They have to put in new power doors and they will put in a new railing. I’m cutting the ribbon with the mayor. He’s promised me that we’re cutting the ribbon together.”

Shelf Help: Alphabetical Diaries

June 16 Steve Gordon, Thamesford $50 00

June 17 Jim Bernier, Stratford $50 00

June 18 Winona Sands, Stratford $50 00

June 19 Bill Roach, Stratford $50 00

June 20 Dave Beatty, Stratford $50 00

June 21 Roger McKay, St . Marys .


June 22 Richard Smelski, Shakespeare $200 00

June 23 Jeff & Jeremy Witzel $50 00

June 24 Angie Miller, Crystal Lake $50 00

June 25 Marilyn Woods, Monkton $50 00

June 26 Annette Whigham, Stratford $50 00

June 27 Shelly Bonnett, Embro $50 00

June 28 Katie Bossers, Stratford $50 00

June 29 Jane Otto, Stratford $200 00

Alphabetical Diaries, by Sheila Heti

@SPL: FIC Heti

I have never known what a relationship is for. I have never worn such dark lipstick before. I have no money. I have no one. I have spent the whole night in my hotel room, eating chocolate cereal. I have started playing Tetris, which feels halfway between writing and drinking. I have sunk to the bottom of my ambition, career-wise.

Chaotically organized, Sheila Heti’s latest has pruned over a decade of her journals to just 60,000 words, alphabetized each sentence with the help of Microsoft Excel, and then arranged them into 25 chapters – one for each letter of the alphabet, except for X. Playfully monotonous, Alphabetical Diaries is an intriguing study of the patterns of Heti’s consciousness, of-

fering readers an entertaining frame to meditate on the thoughts that make up a writer's inner life.

With chronology and a lot of context thrown out the window, and ideas lasting longer than a sentence split apart, Heti’s decade of a personal life is shuffled up by alphabetized anarchy. Sure, some sentences are a little “boring” –but their lacklusterness is juxtaposed with surrounding sentences of Heti’s wit, scandalous recounts of her sex life, conversations with her cast of friends, observations of absurdity, and the various challenges of navigating one’s artistic processes and a career in the arts. The result is a hilariously clever and thought-provoking piece of writing for those willing to try something a little avant-garde. This summer, pick up Alphabetical Diaries if you’re looking for a fun, accessible, brain-tickling break from the traditional novel.

Stratford writer and journalist Diane Sims’ Maclean’s article, “How I Plan to Die,” recently received an honourable mention in the personal journalism category at the National Magazine Awards gala June 7 in Toronto.

AMDSB boundary changes for Stratford come into effect this September

After a year-long process, the Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) board of trustees made a decision on the Stratford boundary review that has dominated their attention this year.

Effective Sept. 9, area three students will be attending Downie Central Public School rather than Avon Public School.

Areas five and six students will be at Central Perth Elementary School as a holding school.

Areas one, two and four will not be changed.

Although previously it had been communicated that the boundary changes would come into effect the following year, September 2025, as superintendent Cheri Carter said during the June 11 board meeting, there was a request from the trustees to move that to this year instead.

Border crossers will continue to follow the current procedure when considering the renewal of existing and future border crossers for all schools, but it is not expected that border crossers into Avon or Bedford Public School will be approved starting 2025/2026 – except for those crossing between those schools.

The board will develop a legacy plan for areas three, five and six students from

junior kindergarten to Grade 5 next year, meaning any students attending Avon next year from those areas will not be required to move. The plan will include transportation to Avon.

As noted in the board’s announcement of the decision, “This plan is to be used in this situation due to an exceptional circumstance created by the student-enrolment projections and progressions at the time of the Stratford area boundary review process.

“This does not create a precedent in future accommodation or boundary review processes in this or other regions.”

This concludes an over-a-year-long process after the board launched a review of 12 schools in Stratford resulting from overcrowding pressures at Avon and Bedford.

This year, Avon has been 120 per cent and Bedford has been 108 per over capacity, while some schools were under capacity like Central Perth, which was only at 51 per cent capacity.

A committee was formed and public consultation over the 2023/2024 school year was undertaken along with consultation from Watson & Associates Economists Ltd.

Numerous delegations from parents were heard through this process, mostly from parents wanting the least amount of


The map of the Stratford school boundary review, complete with the six areas that were being considered.

disruption for their children as possible.

“We would like to thank the Stratford area boundary review committee specifically for assisting us with the early phase of this review process,” a letter from the

boundary review staff team posted on the board’s website read. “As well, thank you to the entire Stratford area school staff, students and community for your engagement in this process.”

Speed-radar signs comes in under budget

Perth County will pay $166,318.80 to purchase a total of 44 speed-radar signs that will be installed in 22 locations across the county to help curb speeding in those communities.

Along with the cost of installation and the purchase of wooden signposts, Bill Wilson, the county’s manager of public works, said the cost of purchasing these signs from the successful bidder, Cedar Signs Inc. of Cambridge, along with the purchase of wooden signposts and the cost of installation will come in at less than $200,000, well under the $308,000 budgeted for this project with funds from the county’s capital road reserve.

“The sign that they’re proposing is the Traffic Logix SafePace Evolution 15SD, which is the same sign we’re using right now – the ones we’re using to rotate (between high-speed areas of concern),” Wilson said. “It’s a solar-powered device with a 15-inch screen.”

As per Cedar Signs’ accepted proposal, the county will pay $3,779.95 per sign. Wilson said the successful proposal was ranked highest from among six proposals submitted to the county based on sign design, performance, installation, recording and recording functionality, warranty, technical support, references and unit cost.

As part of the proposal, Cedar Signs

also included a one-year subscription to Traffic Logix SafePace cloud reporting system which allows for remote viewing of data and sign parameters.

According to Wilson’s report to council, delivery of the signs is expected within four weeks of the county ordering them and the signs are scheduled to be installed in August with preliminary work beginning in July.

Perth County council first gave staff the green light to purchase and install 44 speed-radar signs across 22 locations –two signs in each location – at its April 18 regular meeting. The locations for the signs were selected based on the following criteria:

• the sign must be within a reduced-speed zone along a county owned roadway located in a town, village or built-up area;

• the reduced-speed zone is on a through road where there are no stop controls within or at the end of the reduced-speed zone;

• the speed limit on either end of the reduced-speed zone is 80km/hr;

• the location for speed-radar signs will be within the reduced-speed zone approximately 80-100 metres from the beginning of the reduced zone;

• other installations, location or removal of the permanent speed-radar signs will be at the discretion of the director of public works; and

• the permanent speed radar sign program will be reviewed every 10 years and/ or if there are issues with maintenance or

the effectiveness of the program.

Based on those criteria, staff identified 22 locations where permanent speed-radar signs will be installed and ranked those locations based on traffic volumes and 85th percentile speeds.

Topping the list of ranked speed-radar-sign locations was Perth Line 72 in Donegal followed by Perth Road 119 in Brunner, Perth Road 121 in Poole and Perth Line 26 in Harmony.

In addition to the 22 permanent signs to be installed across the county, public works staff will still be able to use the county’s four temporary signs as needed to track and control speeding in high-traffic, reduced-speed zones that don’t meet the criteria for a permanent sign including Milverton (Perth Road 131), Dublin (Perth Road 180), Shakespeare (Perth Road 107), Millbank (Perth Line 72), Fullarton (Perth Road 163) and Gowanstown (Perth Line 88).

Data collected by the signs will also be shared with local police to help

Which U.S. President had the middle name, Milhous? 8. In which sport are barani, rudolph, and randolph all techniques?

What is the singular word for spaghetti?

How many eyes does a bee have?


Community Hearing Care celebrated at Grand Opening

Community members, patients past and present and family members gathered at Community Hearing Care on Ontario Street for the grand-opening celebrations on June 20.

The place was packed with well-wishers wanting to congratulate co-owners Lucas Dasilva and Shelly Gansevles. The pair were joined by Mayor Martin Ritsma to kick off the event with opening remarks and a ribbon cutting on the steps of the fully accessible business.

“It is so great to be here to recognize small business,” Ritsma said. “Some people see an opportunity and see the risk and think, ‘We can do this.’ So a big congratulations to Shelly and Lucas for recognizing an opportunity in our community and saying we can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Ritsma presented Dasilva and Gansevles with a certificate from the city congratulating Community Hearing Care on their grand opening.

Gansevles and Dasilva have been working in the community for several years and are passionate about creating a patient-centred clinic to improve the quality of life for their clients. Their careers have been centred in Stratford and, as the two came together as associates, they ultimately decided to pursue their own practice in the city where they were established.

“We want to provide the best hearing health care in Stratford in terms of our service and what we offer our patients. It’s different

than being somewhere that’s corporate run versus a private independent business. We are able to have more of a connection with people. It’s more laid back, there’s a homey feel about our place so we are able to sit down and talk. We’re not chained to a bunch of corporate rules and can manage our own schedules,” said Dasilva.

There are a range of services offered from fittings and testing to programming and cleaning hearing aids of all makes and models. Dasilva is trained to work with every major brand of hearing aids. There is also ear-wax removal and referrals to other doctors if there is a medical concern like a middle ear disease that would require an ear, nose and throat professional.

“People with hearing loss are often very secluded. They don’t want to get out and talk to people. They could be nervous because they know they are not doing well or they don’t want to admit it. They shy away from conversation and they are not engaged with people. Hearing loss can speed up cognitive decline in older age because there are parts of your brain that are left unstimulated. Hearing aids have been shown to slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia if you are predisposed to getting that. That’s new evidence from studies that have come out in the last couple of years,” said Dasilva. Hearing aids offer a renewed confidence to engage with others and be able to start conversations again in a noisy place or if someone isn’t facing a person with hearing loss as they speak. Their quality of life improves immensely by being able to hear clearly again.


The community response to their new business so far has been amazing.

“We have had a lot of people follow us here and we have Jacob to do marketing. We have had a lot of influx of previous patients and new patients coming in. They like our location and we are easy to find,” said Gansevles

Looking forward, the pair will be involved in the community doing things like Soup’s

On, Handbags for Hospice and holding talks on hearing health.

“People don’t always recognize that they have hearing loss, and it is a learning process to overcome in order to get help,” said Gansevles.

Community Hearing Care is located at 370 Ontario St. The business can be found online at or contacted by calling 519-271-4327.

Rutherford Group reaches its half-century milestone

A family owned and operated customs brokerage in Stratford recently marked half a century of serving customers.

The Rutherford Group - Shipping and Logistics Specialist held its 50th anniversary party at the Stratford Country club June 21. The celebration had a great turnout with employees and guests enjoying live music, food and beverages.

The Stratford business operates with 60 employees at 472 Lorne Ave. E and specializes in customs brokerage, transportation and warehousing services. The company has accumulated clients that have stayed with their operations for as long as 40 years.

“It feels great to know that we provide the best service we can and that must be demonstrated very strongly otherwise our clients wouldn't be with us,” said John Rutherford, owner of The Rutherford Group. “The largest aspect of our growth has been transportation and warehousing distribution over the last couple of years.

“We were able to grow steadily and keep our service levels up for our clients. Some have stayed with us for quite a number of years and same with our employees, which creates stability for everybody.”

The company was founded in 1974 by Rutherford’s father, Jack Rutherford, who stepped away from his position at Sam-


sonite Luggage to pursue the business venture in his early 40s. John Rutherford would take over ownership in 1994, implementing his knowledge from his experi-

ence working in the freight business.

“I was used to working at large corporations that operated around the world and decided I didn't want to do that anymore

and I moved back to Stratford where I bought back into the business,” said John Rutherford. “I applied new business practices that I learned from these previous positions and integrated them into Rutherford's infrastructure, which resulted in a freight consolidation to and from the United States.”

Rutherford says the company has received outside offers, but continues to remain an independent, privately held business.

The Rutherford Group conducted roughly 1,800 transactions a month over the last year, which could range from small-box parcels or a truckload containing goods and other items of value.

“In the last couple years, we’ve been successful at acquiring a couple companies and integrating them in our operations,” said Bob Tamblyn, president of The Rutherford Group. “I’m passionate about trying to find a way to make it all work financially and operationally. When we have an idea where we would like to expand and do something more … trying to find the creative method to make it happen without a high financial risk is what I enjoy pursuing.”

John Rutherford said the company is planning to expand its Stratford facility through purchasing more tractor trailers and other equipment but will continue to be open to new ideas if presented, and he looks forward to training the next generation of dedicated employees.

Community Hearing Care co-owners Lucas Dasilva (left) and Shelly Gansevles (right), along with Stratford Mayor Martin Ritsma (centre), cut the ribbon at the business’ grand opening.
ALEX HUNT Times Correspondent
Pictured from left to right are Rutherford Group vice president Sue Tolton, owner John Rutherford and vice president Bob Tamblyn at the Rutherford Group 50th anniversary celebration.

Local Flavour


Gene’s Restaurant keeps old school ChineseCanadian cuisine in Stratford for over 50 years

Ken Gene, now the owner of Gene’s Restaurant, was eight years old when his father Larry and mother Rae opened up the Stratford favourite.

“From day one I was washing dishes,” Gene laughed. “When we opened up, I made $1 a day, made seven bucks a week. … My mother used to tell the whole story that I'd be washing dishes and I'd be asking mom, ‘When’s break time?’ ”

Gene’s Restaurant was started in 1970, originally located at 38 Erie St., before moving to its current location at 81 Ontario St. in 1975.

“Myself, my brother, we grew up in the restaurant,” Gene recounted. “We would go to school, we'd come to the restaurant for lunch and then go back to school, and even come back over during the evening. And then we would eat here and then we would leave with my mother. My dad would stick around and keep on working.”

Though there were other Chinese restaurants such as the Golden Bamboo and the Commodore, in Stratford at the time, Gene didn’t characterize it as competition.

“There was no conflict,” he said. “It was still a busy industry back then.”

Now, 54 years later, Gene is still working in the back room, having graduated from dishwasher to chef and owner. As he explained, he learned to start packing takeout orders and then helped his mother prep and even made the plum sauce, which he still does.

His father, Larry, ran the restaurant until he was 70 years old when Gene took over in 2004. As he shared in a Facebook post on the restaurant’s page, he had asked to take over when he was 34 and his father said no, saying he wasn’t old enough.

Gene describes the restaurant as an “old-school chop suey” restaurant with approximately 135 items on the menu, something which isn’t as prevalent today as it was back in the day.

“Nobody has these lamps,” he said, gesturing to the lamps suspended from the ceiling. “My father said, ‘Why don’t we try and modernize and get rid of these lamps and be more like some of these newer Toronto type Chinese restaurants.’

And I thought, no. That’s what we are. … For a long time, customers would come in and say, ‘This is old and gaudy.’ And now we’re kind of retro.”

Diners can see how retro the restaurant is now that the dining room is back open. On June 7, after having the dining room closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gene reopened his doors for limited hours in honour of the restaurant’s 54th anniversary that was officially celebrated on June 6.

Takeout has remained popular, Gene said, but he had heard from customers that they had missed the atmosphere of the restaurant and it seemed now was a good time to reopen the dining room, considering many dining rooms in Stratford have shut their doors.


“I thought in my head, it’s no problem. It’ll be easy,” Gene admitted. “Because, in my mind, I’ve done it for 50 years.”

There were some hiccups, Gene said, but overall it was a great experience with staff making the transition from being takeout focused to dine-in servers – no easy feat considering it was the first dinner service for many of them.

Gene, now 62, is nearing the same age his father was when he stepped down. Not wanting to burn out, he is unsure if he will continue as long as his father did in the kitchen, though he said that he is happy to keep it going in the near future.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ken Gene behind the bar at Gene’s Restaurant, which just celebrated 54 years in business.
Larry Gene, Ken’s father, behind the bar at the old location on Erie Street.
The elder Gene started the restaurant in 1970.

The Livery Yard celebrates fifth birthday

The Livery Yard has been operating for half a decade, and celebration was in order.

The café at 104 Downie St., across from the Avon Theatre, celebrated its fifth anniversary in business June 15. The event had a DJ set by Soundfixation’s Trevor Worsell, a mini pop-up market by student artist Emma Blowes and cake.

Liesa Hartman, owner of The Livery Yard, is thrilled to celebrate five years in business. She said many businesses don’t get to reach that milestone, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic had severe impacts on the hospitality industry.

“It's crazy how fast the last few years have gone. I guess my mother was right –time really does fly by when you get older,” Hartman said. “We are so fortunate to be supported by our fantastic, caffeinated community of customers, regulars and friends. We can't wait to see what we get up to in the next five years.”

She said her favourite part of running The Livery Yard is getting to know the customers over the years.

“It's great seeing familiar faces every day, getting to know them and being a little part of their lives,” Hartman said. “We've been around long enough that the babies we first met are almost old enough to order their own hot chocolates.”

The Livery Yard also ran a reusable water-bottle drive for the Stratford Connection Centre up until June 15 where each bottle provided an opportunity to enter a draw for gift cards. The drive brought in more than 50 reusable water bottles and several donors declined the entry ballot as they wanted to simply give back.

Hartman wanted to give back to the community that supported The Livery Yard from day one and was inspired by Sara Kuntz and her work at the Connection Centre.

“They're always in need of something over there and I would imagine it's hard to stay properly hydrated when you're

unhoused, or precariously housed,” Hartman said. "We all heard what a hot summer it was supposed to be and most often it's cases of single-use plastic water bottles donated to those centres. Reusable water bottles are sturdier, last longer, can be refilled and are often used for hot or cold drinks. I knew I had a couple in the back of my cupboard and felt I wasn't alone.”

Hartman extended her gratitude towards the customers, on behalf of herself and the rest of The Livery Yard team.

“Thanks for choosing us for your morning coffee break, after-school matcha, business meeting, first date, hangout spot, a place to get in out of the rain and for any other reason that brought you through our doors and helped to make The Livery Yard what it is,” she said. “We look forward to seeing you many more times for many more years and for many more coffees.”

More information can be found on The Livery Yard’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

Times Correspondent
The Livery Yard celebrated its fifth anniversary on June 15 with a live DJ set, mini art pop-up, a reusable water-bottle drive for the Connection Centre and, of course, cake. "You can't have a party without cake," said Liesa Hartman, owner of the Livery Yard.

New takeout shop on York, The Little Kitchen, a picnic destination

What’s more perfect than a picnic in the park featuring sandwiches and salads from the new shop on York Street, The Little Kitchen.

Co-owned by mother-daughter duo Sirka Sie and Mikko Till, the sandwich shop recently opened and is ready for the onslaught of hungry residents and tourists alike. Many will know Sirka Sie and Mikko Till from their many years in the hospitality industry in Stratford.

“I studied nutrition at Guelph but, in the process of my masters at McGill, I found I preferred cooking rather than studying. So, then I went to Germany to pursue being a chef because I was born in Germany and I speak German. My mom is German and my dad is Chinese,” said Sie.

She got her cooking apprenticeship there, then came back to Stratford. Her brother had graduated at the Stratford Chefs School and, for a time, they worked together. Then she had Till and moved on. She worked on her skillset while working within the local restaurant industry. Eventually, she and Kelly Ballantyne opened up Sirkel Foods and she was there for a few years. Fans of her food will also know her from The Little Green Grocery.

And now, the mother-daughter duo are serving up their favourite flavours of sandwiches inspired by a German-Chinese heritage.

“We were working at Keystone Hospitality up until the end of May and we opened the second weekend in June,” Till said. “As I got older, I was interested in helping (Sie) and learning the techniques that she used in a lot of her food and especially her Asian cooking like spring rolls. I just have always found comfort in food and (I’ve been) raised me to celebrate it.”

Till, like her mother, was studying at university when she discovered her passion for food and love of how it could bring friends and community together. She loves sharing her food with customers and working with people that come into the shop.

“In this town especially, it’s such a wonderful place where so many different

types of people come together. So we saw the shop; we said let’s just do it. We’ve worked so hard for others. It’s time to work for ourselves now,” said Till.

The menu is diverse in flavour and based on what they like to eat at home and what’s not regularly available in Stratford. The menu is full of healthy, fresh ingredients made daily in house. Ingredients are sourced locally where possible, especially in the summertime when it is so readily available. Their focaccia bread is made in-house, and the other bread comes from the Painted Baker down the street. They make their own scones and muffins and they feature gluten-free items as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

“Now we are focusing on salads and sandwiches, but in the wintertime, we will do more warm meals like stews, curries, Vietnamese and Chinese foods, not to mention my German background for spaetzle. We will do warm meals and also frozen to take home. So basically, like I did at Little Green Grocery, but more meals of my heritage,” said Sie.

Fans of Sie’s catering will be happy to learn she is still offering catering services, a feat much easier now that she has her own place to work out of. And the best part of it all is that Sie and Till get to work together. They are enjoying the freedom to create what inspires them.

The Little Kitchen is located at 47 York Street with the bright yellow façade. Their hours are Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Our Buildings Tell a Story: Allen's Alley

with graffiti. They were caught and sentenced to clean the walls.


• Colin Fisher and Jason Hammer;

Jim Allen came to town in 1915 to operate a fruit market and confectionary business with wife Josephine. After his death at age 46, his brother-in-law, Michael Bomasuit, stepped up to help run the business.

In 1988, the city centre committee restored the alley and hung the plaque that says, “Originally a passage to the livery stables behind the Wellington Street Hotels named after Allen’s Fruit located at 56 Wellington St. from 1915 to 1942 City Hall Committee.” The new-look alley was named and dedicated to the Allen family because their market was adjacent to the alley at 56 Wellington St.

In 1998, three male youths vandalized the alley walls

In 2007, city councillor Chris Rickett suggested using the alley walls as a canvas and adorn them with art that celebrated Stratford singers and musicians.

In 2015, artist Carla Coles and her husband, Scott, restored the portraits, which are of musicians who have made an impact on the musical heritage of Stratford. To help deter vandalism, the restored works are now covered by a graffiti-resistant coating.

Because of their connection with the Allen’s fruit market, members of the Bomasuit family were on hand when the refurbished murals were unveiled.

Allen's Alley murals

• Richard Manuel, Ken Kalmusky, John Till (The

• Dave Fisher (a.k.a. The Blue Pig);

• Louis Applebaum;

• The Wheezing Dogz;

• John Boyden;

• Soylent Green;

• The Otto Henderson Band;

• Jack Hayter;

• Dayna Manning;

• Loreena McKennitt;

• The Black Swan;

• The Perth County Conspiracy.

For more on the Streets of Stratford, visit

Allen’s Alley is adorned with art celebrating Stratford singers and musicians.
In 1988, a plaque was installed in Allen’s Alley that says, “Originally a passage to the livery stables behind the Wellington Street Hotels named after Allen’s Fruit located at 56 Wellington St. from 1915 to 1942 City Hall Committee.”
Allen’s Alley is named after Allen’s Fruit Market, located directly adjacent to the alley at 56 Wellington St. from 19151942.
LISA CHESTER Times Correspondent
Mother-daughter duo Mikko Till and Sirka Sie have joined forces to open The Little Kitchen on York.

Multicultural Association celebrates belated milestone with a bang

After over a decade of helping newcomers in Stratford and across Canada, Geza Wordofa is feeling grateful to the community and the generosity it shows again and again.

“We are so blessed,” Wordofa, founder and president of the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron (MAPH), said at the Multicultural Festival June 15. “Thirteen is not easy, but we are so blessed. … Our community is very blessed.”

MAPH is celebrating 13 years of helping newcomers this year, according to Wordofa. He said they had reached the 10-year milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now felt like a good time to have a more fulsome celebration.

From 2-7 p.m. on June 15, there was a festival to celebrate the milestone on the front lawn of the Falstaff Family Centre, where MAPH is located.

Admission was by donation and the evening featured live music, ethnic food provided by a number of volunteers, a bouncy castle and greenspace for attendees to sit


and enjoy a warm summer evening. MAPH is primarily involved in assisting newcomers to Canada find housing, em-

Open your freezer to many easy meals made especially for seniors, delivered for free*.

ployment and stability in their new home. It also connects newcomers to a wider community of people, people who have

been helped by Wordofa in the past.

Over the 13 years MAPH has been operating, the organization and its volunteers have assisted over 3,000 – and counting –newcomers, by Wordofa’s estimation.

As Wordofa said, while they primarily operate in Perth and Huron counties, they help newcomers from places like Ukraine and Syria find housing and settlement across the country, wherever is best for them and their families.

Over time, they have also expanded and taken on new endeavours like a mobile food bank they are running on weekends to provide food or grocery gift cards for families needing assistance.

Currently, the organization runs just on donations and volunteers. It has over 180 volunteers who assist in all different ways.

One of whom is Steve Landers, who has been doing bookkeeping for the organization on a volunteer basis for around seven years.

“People in this area are really generous,” Landers said about MAPH’s longevity. “And I think they're generous because they know that Geza’s going to do what he says he'll do. He'll carry through.”


on June 19,

for a

CONNOR LUCZKA Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Allan Tichaona Magama of the Ekhaya World Band performs at the Multicultural Festival on June 15.
Noah Libab and Aaron Wordofa man the donation booth at the festival. Like everything the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron does, admission was by donation.
May Gibbs plays in the bouncy castle blown up on the lawn of the Falstaff Family Centre.
Geza Wordofa, Yonas Gebrekiros, and Fitsum Kibrom hand out water bottles in Market Square
after a heat wave blanketed much of Southwestern Ontario
few days. Wordofa, founder of the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron, also gave rides to the City of Stratford's cooling centre at the Rotary Complex.

Tractor parade to Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth honours neighbour and friend

It’s not every day in the City of Stratford one sees a parade of 50 or more farm tractors travelling on city streets in a friendly convoy.

That was the case on Sunday afternoon, June 9, when a group of farmers from Perth and Oxford counties got together and honoured one of their fellow farmers, who is now a resident of the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth. Roger Lupton, who dairy farms with his family southwest of Tavistock, was proud to see all his neighbours driving their farm tractors on the street to the west, immediately behind the Rotary Hospice, to offer support with friendly, neighbourly waves to their lifelong neighbour and friend.

Above: The large group of farm neighbours and friends, who congregated at the Dave and Christine Meadows farm south of Stratford, then drove their 40 tractors of all sizes and colours into the city.

The tractor parade was in honour of Roger Lupton, a resident at Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth. The tractor drivers waved to Roger as he looked out from the large, picture window from his room. Roger’s wife, Marianne, along with his parents and daughters also looked on with a smile of gratitude to all the caring neighbourhood farmers. Marianne said she will picture forever the smile that came to Roger’s face as the tractors went by.

Left: Pictured are the neighbourhood of farmers and their tractor parade behind the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth to honour Oxford County dairy farmer Roger Lupton, who smiled as his friends waved.

The parade of tractors could have been called an honour guard as drove behind the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth. They were showing their heartfelt appreciation to friend and neighbour Roger Lupton as he watched through the back window of his room at the hospice.


Stratford students have strong showing at OFSAA Track & Field

Three students of St. Michael Catholic Secondary School and one from Stratford District Secondary School (SDSS) brought home medals from the OFSAA Track and Field Championship held June 6-8 at the Western University in London.

Isabella Mills, a student at St. Mike’s, captured the silver medal in both the novice girls long jump and 300-metre hurdles events. Mark Dewan, St. Michael’s track and field coach, credited Mills for her strong performance.

“Isabella is a very mature and experienced athlete,” Dewan told the Times. “She is obviously a great athlete and she was able to adapt to the competition and perform under pressure.”

Abigayle Van Bakel also earned a silver for St. Mike’s, finishing second in novice girls javelin. According to Dewan, her success came after significant alterations to her throwing style.

“Abigayle was able to completely change her throwing technique from Huron-Perth and add almost six metres to her distances. She made a big adjustment to her run-in, going from a three-step approach to a full approach. She knew that she was going in highly ranked and was able to perform under that pressure.”

Rounding out the St. Mike’s contingent of medal winners was Landon Van Bakel, who claimed the bronze in the novice boys javelin throw. Dewan noted that, like Abigayle, Landon also made strides in improving his technique ahead of OFSAA.

“Landon finished in the last qualifying spot at WOSSAA and was able to make some adjustments to his throwing technique to finish OFSAA with a bronze. He made an adjustment to his hand position and the angle of the javelin on release.

“Both Abigayle and Landon got incredible results as first-year throwers,” Dewan continued about the Van Bakel cousins.

“For two athletes so new to the sport to leave OFSAA with medals, this shows a level of resilience that is pretty uncommon in athletes so young.”

On the SDSS side, Luke Feltham headlined the school’s results with a bronze medal in the senior boys 3,000-metre run. Fellow SDSS students Jashin Singh and Caden Diehl came away with fifthplace finishes in junior boys discus and junior boys pole vault, respectively.

Marcie Stears of SDSS explained what makes Feltham such a strong competitor.

“Luke's success this year is a result of his relentless dedication and continuous improvement. Throughout his high school tenure, he has demonstrated a strong work ethic and a passion for running. His commitment to training and his ability to learn from both successes and setbacks have propelled him to this level of athletic excellence.

“Additionally, his coaches and teammates, including Daniel Ogilvie, his training partner, have provided invaluable support and guidance, contributing to his development as an athlete,” Stears continued. “We have every confidence that Luke will excel and make significant contributions to the University of Guelph's track program next year.”

On the left is St. Michael Catholic Secondary School student Abigayle Van Bakel, who captured a silver medal in novice girls javelin at the OFSAA Track and Field Championship held in London from June 6-8. On the right is Luke Feltham of Stratford District Secondary School, who left OFSAA with a bronze in the senior boys 3,000-metre run. Isabella Mills and Landon Van Bakel, also of St. Michael Catholic Secondary, won medals at OFSAA, with Mills claiming a pair of silvers in novice girls
300-metre hurdles and long jump, while Van Bakel earned a bronze in novice boys javelin.

Stratford Revolution season in review

Seven Stratford Revolution minor basketball teams won provincial medals this season, including two golds, one silver, and four bronze medals.

Steve Rivers, a director for the Stratford Basketball Association, told the Times about the general principles embraced by the program.

"We're a small centre trying to compete at the highest level we can against teams that draw as many as 10 times the number of athletes to tryouts," Rivers said. "We're proud of our approach to skill development at the youngest level which all of our teams benefit from. We generally can compete with better fundamentals, basketball I.Q. and the best possible defensive principles. Our often-smaller teams can be physical and smart and hold opponents to as many as 20-30 points less than they typically average."

One of the teams to win a provincial gold medal was the U13 Boys Revolution squad. After a sluggish start to the year during which the team lost their first three games, the team won 16 straight before claiming their division's top prize at the Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) Provincial Championship. Head coach Dave Faulhafer credited his squad for their strong work ethic and desire to get better.

"The players have a special bond with each other on and off the court," said Faulhafer. “Their relationships with one another have supported them in making this team united. We are like a family. They are a great group of young men to coach. These young men have tremendous drive and are determined to get better each and every year. At the OBA Provincials, we ended up beating a team that had beat us by 20 points earlier in the season and after that win, I knew we were going to win the gold. We will remember this for the rest of our lives."

The U17 Boys Revolution also claimed a gold medal at the OBA Provincials. Manager Julia Brookshaw highlighted the team's unity as not only a major source of the team's development during the season, but also as a key to their provincial success.

"One of the most notable aspects of their growth was their teamwork and chemistry on the court. There were many games where every single player scored, which shows how well they worked together. Throughout the season, all the players improved on their shooting, ball handling and defensive awareness. Ultimately, their success in capturing the gold medal can be attributed to a combination of factors. They are a talented group of players who were willing to work hard and learn from each other. Their unity as a team was a defining factor because it fostered a positive team spirit and a belief in their abilities."

"What made this team special was their resilience and determination," Brookshaw added. "They faced challenges and setbacks but consistently bounced back stron-

ger. There were multiple injuries that changed positioning and rotations, but each player stepped up to fill the shoes of those injured."

The lone silver medal was claimed by the U19 Boys Revolution. After winning their first three games to earn a spot in the gold-medal game, the U19 Revolution played what head coach Joe Lewis called a "back-and-forth chess match" against Etobicoke, and despite eventually coming out on the wrong side of a 55-42 final, Lewis was thrilled with his team's season.

"All 12 of my boys played great basketball all year and it was an absolute pleasure winning the silver medal at the Ontario Cup," said Lewis. "I thought as the year went on, we played with more poise and our possessions were more controlled. There was a lot of learning this year and they all did their part by learning the plays and playing team basketball instead of individual basketball which was key to them having that silver around their necks.

"I knew from the start of the season that it was going to be a special one. These boys all cheer for one another and play unselfish basketball. Some of these boys have been playing with each other for up to four years and five of them play high school ball together. They are all great kids and I couldn't be more proud of them for bringing a silver medal back to Stratford."

The U14, U15 and U16 Boys Revolution teams, along with the U17 Girls squad, all earned bronze medals on the provincial stage.

Tanya Martin, part of the staff for the U14 Boys, told the Times their success came on the back of strong teamwork and an ability to handle pressure.

"The journey to this achievement was characterized by resilience as they faced tough opponents and challenging games throughout the tournament," noted Martin. "Their success is a testament to their hard work in practice, their unity as a team and their ability to rise to the occasion when it mattered most. They exemplified the core values of teamwork, dedication and sportsmanship, and in doing so, made their coaches, families and supporters proud."

Led by a strong returning core, the U15 Boys displayed excellent and versatile SPENCER SEYMOUR

U15 Flames impressive at Innerkip tournament


Times Regional Reporter

The U15 Himburg Stratford Flames had a strong showing at the annual Innerkip Fastball Tournament held June 1416, highlighted by a perfect round-robin record.

In their first game against Norwich on June 14, Addison McCann led the U15 Flames with a lights-out pitching performance that included 10 strikeouts en route to a 15-8 victory. The game turned in the sixth inning when Riley Himburg recorded a base-clearing hit to put Stratford in control of the scoreboard.

The Flames had two games on the second day of the tournament, the first against Innerkip Three followed by a clash with Goderich. Stratford got another strong game from McCann on the mound along with offensive contributions from throughout the lineup in an 11-4 blowout win over Innerkip Three.

Stratford’s game against Goderich was much closer, but once again, the Flames came away victorious. After maintaining significant leads through the first half of the game, Goderich tallied five runs but couldn’t complete the comeback before the



The U15 Himburg Stratford Flames went a perfect three-for-three in pre-knockout stage play at the Innerkip Fastball Tournament from June 14-16 and narrowly missed out on completing a would-be miraculous comeback in the semi-finals. Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Addison McCann, Miley Demo, and Sophie Anderson. In the back row, from left, are coach Casey Himburg, assistant coach James Anderson, Nell McIntosh, Rilee Himburg, Sophia Koss, Chloe-Lynne Taylor, Ayva Culligan, Zoey Spacek, Mya Thomson, and assistant coach Rachel Horan.

game ended in a 10-7 victory for the Flames.

Their unbeaten play led Stratford to a semi-final contest against Innerkip One, whose early-game offensive windfall eventually led Innerkip One to the win. However, the win

wouldn’t come without a fight by the Flames.

In the fifth inning, Stratford found themselves down 6-0. Nell McIntosh finally got the Flames on the board with an RBI, followed by hits from Zoey Spacek and Mya Thomson which allowed

Stratford to score two more runs before the end of the inning. Ultimately, the Flames’ comeback fell just short, with Innerkip One hanging on for a 9-7 win. Despite not coming out on the winning side of their semi-final game, team reporter Amanda

Hertel said the incredible lategame rally was a result of the team’s strong effort all game long finally bearing offensive fruit.

“The comeback in the semis wasn't the result of any specific change,” Hertel noted. “The girls were pushing hard all game but were struggling to turn hits into runs. The fifth inning saw the hits catching the sweet spots in the fields where they were difficult to capture, so the girls were able to drive the base runners home. The renewed vigour the team felt once they got runs on the board really turned up their enthusiasm.”

Hertel also praised the group for their team-wide spirit and bond, cultivated by both the players and coaching staff.

“The girls have been working hard all year coming to weekly practices all through the fall and winter. Casey and the other coaches really take the time to nurture and work with the girls to improve their skills both in the field and with the bat. They have fostered a real sense of camaraderie amongst the girls. They have great relationships with one another and the encouragement and support they provide each other helps them all achieve their best.”

Student-run community garden sprouts in time for summer break

School may be out for summer vacation, but some students will still be working on a passion project.

After a few hurdles, the Stratford District Secondary School’s (SDSS) community garden has started, beginning this past spring, and the first of its plants have begun to sprout.

Run by the school’s eco club, the garden is an intergenerational project aimed to connect students with a wider community here in Stratford, as Lucy Chung, a member of the club, told the Stratford Times.

“The idea was to turn that into a productive area,” Chung said. “The other main idea was to create an intergenerational connection between the community there and some students, and also just kind of teaching various people from around the community and teaching young people some regenerative farming practices. … It's a good place for people, and especially students to learn about environmental activism.”

Chung said that the group won’t be abandoning it for the two months while school is out. The students have put together a schedule so they can maintain the garden moving forward, along with the help of community members.

The idea for the garden has been in the works for years after the club had the idea to start one and identified the patch of city property at the end of Smith Street. It had previously been designated to be a road,

Chung explained, but it had most recently been sitting vacant.

After getting some advice from Lucas Tingle, garden educator at the Local Community Food Centre, the club was given the green light to start; however, they were informed that since they would be operating on city property, they would need to be insured for a $5 million liability, as per city policy.

Unable to afford the annual premiums, members of the club petitioned local community groups and after a few months, the Stratford Civic Beautification and Environ-

Stratford Revolution season-in-review

lockdown defence to win their bronze medal. Head coach Bart Drennan praised his team for their dedication en route to their top-three provincial finish.

"All season long this team showed up," Drennan remarked. "Their commitment to practicing hard and our team approach was outstanding. They were determined, tough and we got meaningful contributions throughout the lineup. We as a coaching staff are immensely proud of the group and their hard work, attitude and willingness to continue to learn the game and try new things all year. We had an eclectic group that gelled when they needed to and won a bronze medal as a result of it."

After having the age group split into two teams, the crop of players was combined back into one squad. After a strong regular season, the U16 Revolution narrowly lost a two-point game to miss out on the gold-medal contest. Head coach Graham Heaton was pleased with his team's development as players and people.

"We had a very successful year on and

off the court," said Heaton. "We pushed ourselves in an attempt to reach new heights, taking on teams as high as Division 2. Provincials were bittersweet but it was great to see the boys get rewarded with the bronze. Overall, it was a season to be proud of, a season that saw so much personal growth on and off the court for these young men."

Head coach Kelsey Lauersen described the U17 Girls Revolution's bronze medal as coming with a sense of unfinished business for the group, which has steadily built to being a provincial medalist for multiple seasons.

"It's my third year with this core group of players and finally winning the bronze feels like a significant achievement after falling short in previous seasons," Lauersen said. "In both 2021-22 and 2022-23, we lost in the bronze-medal game. Our practices were intense and focused on conditioning, but I'm proud of how consistently the players showed up and the effort that they put into the season. Their commitment, especially in conditioning drills, allowed us to outplay other teams when it mattered most."

mental Awareness committee insured the garden as one of its projects, finally allowing the students to start breaking ground.

Along with a $1,000 Youth in Action grant from the United Way, the club received donations in the form of seeds. Some donations even came from afar. Having seen the eco club’s posts on their social media accounts, a company from the U.S. sent some seeds to help kickstart the garden.

The club worked to transform the space, planting trees to provide wind cover from O’Loane Avenue, which the garden backs onto, and planted some fruit trees as well.

The club is planning on planting mostly fruits and vegetables with the plan being to use what has been donated so far: spinach, carrots, beets, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, swiss chard and onions to name a few.

They will also be utilizing cover crops, a technique using plants to cover the soil to manage erosion, quality, weeds and pests, rather than for the purpose of harvest.

“The idea of that is instead of the soil staying dormant or having to use fertiliser or anything to kill weeds,” Chung said. “We would be able to use these cover crops so that it'll cover the soil and keep helping to nurture the soil.”

So far, the club has yet to determine where exactly the harvests will go, but Chung said they will be sharing it with the community and the student-run kitchen at the school. Chung said this experience, from the civic and administrative side of starting the garden to the green-thumb gardening side of maintaining it, has been an excellent learning opportunity for her and her classmates.

“It's definitely been a cool process,” Chung said. “I think it's really cool for a lot of students to learn that and have that opportunity.”

Plants begin to sprout at the Stratford District Secondary School eco club’s community garden. A labour of love, the garden will still be tended by students and community members throughout the summer break.

Awards handed out at SDSS Athletic Banquet

Stratford District Secondary School (SDSS) held their Athletic Banquet June 19 to celebrate over 400 students who participated in the athletic program this year and to also honour coaches, community volunteers, and support staff. Pictured, Sydney Taylor and Edmund Sauder receive the Golden Bear Award for demonstrating an outstanding contribution to the high-school athletics program throughout their high-school careers.

with the running and administration of athletics

Congratulations also goes to all the MVP and MIP award winners for


Luke Feltham and Georgia Neely were presented the Principal’s Award, which goes to a student who has been committed to athletics at SDSS while maintaining an exemplary academic average in their courses.
Kieran Butler and Ella de Graaf received the Golden Paws Award for having done an exemplary job of assisting
at SDSS.
fall, winter
spring sports.
Ryan Cassone and Lucy Thompson were named Junior Athletes of the Year for having excelled athletically throughout the current school year.
Jaymee Vosper and Alanah McIlroy received the Golden Spirit Award, presented to a teammate or individual who demonstrates a true love for the game or sport. They’ve demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship towards teammates, opponents and officials. They always attend practices and give their best effort.
Mark Barton and Ava McMillan were named Seniors Athletes of the Year for having excelled athletically throughout the current school year.

Stratford Summer Music gives back to the community with new partnership

Stratford Summer Music’s MusicBarge is returning to Stratford waters for the summer season.

Stratford Summer Music has formed a first-time partnership with United Way Perth-Huron that will see 50 per cent of all MusicBarge donations up to $5,000 donated back to United Way Perth-Huron.

“It's important for us to be seen as high-value and high-impact to the community and if we can find new things to continue that partnership with United Way, we are all for it,” said Mark Fewer, artistic director at Stratford Summer Music. “Music is good for you. Every day, part of the reason why MusicBarge is ingrained in the SSM brand is that it brings a sense of public wellbeing that we’re willing to bring to the community.”

SSM had approached United Way Perth-Huron on their proposal last December, which led to the official announcement in April. Future collaboration efforts will continue if opportunities present themselves.

Stratford Summer Music will begin July 18 at Avondale United Church followed by MusicBarge’s launch July 19-21 with performances taking place in the middle of the day featuring a variety of musical genres including classical, musical theatre, jazz, folk among others. Shows will continue throughout the summer.

“It’s family friendly and we want to see those little kids dancing down the sidewalk. Bring your families down. It’s meant to be an experience that unites all of us,” said Crystal Spicer, executive director at SSM.

“I'm really proud to walk down the street and have people recognize who we are and know that we’re giving back to the community. We’re bringing worldclass performers that you would typically find in larger cities and, at the same time, we are able to open up our doors to people of all ages, cultures and economic backgrounds.”

Fewer says SSM will officially become a year-round


from left

producer of musical events with events planned for the fall, winter and next spring.

“One thing that we noticed is that we started doing concerts off-season. The first events were in the winter season two years ago and they were sold out,” said Fewer. “Everything was packed and we did more of those and the crowds were just ready for them and kept coming. There's obviously a desire and a demand for more of these year-round shows.

“A part of what we do is free for the public and that’s pretty unique to Stratford Summer Music when you compare us to other music festivals in the country. We are close to 50 per cent free in terms of live performances. We are really keen to keep that alive as a tradition here.”

SSM is also planning its 25th anniversary of bringing live music to the community for the coming 2025 season.

Wakelin draws inspiration from policing career, Stratford and family cottage

up in; that this would get somebody to come and visit Stratford,” Al Wakelin said.

Al Wakelin was told to “write what you know,” and he incorporated that in a few different ways in his book, “Unforgiven Trespasses: A Cottage on Caledonia.”

His book takes place in Stratford where he grew up and retired from a career in policing and security. Wakelin and his wife, Sue Wakelin, opened the Cottage on Caledonia B&B in 2016. Unforgiven Trespasses centres on a young Hollywood actress who retreats to that very bed and breakfast as a way to escape from the stalking and harassment she faces.

Though the narrative takes place in June 2020, there is no COVID-19 pandemic and the Stratford Festival season is therefore running in the novel. Wakelin found the pandemic tough, both personally and for his business. He wanted to promote everything Stratford has to offer in his novel and names landmarks such as theatres, restaurants and businesses.

“I thought it was my own way of showing my care and love for the community I grew

The protagonist also retreats to Goderich and Bayfield, inspired by the author’s memories of a family cottage overlooking Lake Huron. Al Wakelin draws from experiences throughout his career as an RCMP officer and security manager for McDonald’s Restaurants Canada as well.

As part of the McDonald’s security team, Al Wakelin worked at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and 2010 Vancouver Olympic games and was personal security to VIP celebrities who made appearances at McDonald’s locations across Canada such as Rod Stewart, Yao Ming, Wayne Gretzky and Beyonce. He described Ming and Gretsky as quiet and reserved, whereas Stewart was a bit more of an extrovert. Wakelin also recalls working security when tennis star Serena Williams insisted she picks up her own dog’s poop nearby the event, saying it’s her responsibility to clean up after her pet, though he offered to do it for her.

"They were all just people,” he said of the celebrities. “I think that’s what I wanted to

bring to the celebrities in my book. There is more than one and there are some of surprises in the book, so I tried to make them all as reachable as possible and believable.”

Al Wakelin’s novel is based on the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer, a 21-year-old actress from the TV show, “My Sister Sam,” who was stalked and eventually fatally shot by Robert John Pardo in 1989. The case led to legislation in the State of California outlawing stalking.

"Because I was a young police man at the time, I really thought it disturbing,” Al Wakelin said. “The course of events that led to her death were all absolutely preventable."

The novel also touches on cyber-stalking, an issue prevalent in present day. Al Wakelin said laws in Canada haven’t changed too much over time. He said the deaths of 15-year-old Amanda Todd and 12-year-old Carson Cleland, who both died by suicide after being harassed and sexually extorted online, demonstrate the impact of the issue.

"If I have a voice, it's to push that piece – how many people have to be victimized

needlessly?” he said. “Because as an investigator, I don't have the tools I need to pursue such people."

The Unforgiven Trespasses prologue begins with a police officer experiencing a traumatic flashback from what he saw during a crime scene in the 1980s as a rookie.

As someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Al Wakelin found writing the novel healing and it helped him through the difficulties of the pandemic.

“Going back to some of those demons in my past and opening them up and looking at them in different ways, I think, was extremely therapeutic,” he said. “They say one of the good things to do with things like post-traumatic stress syndrome is to journal, to write. I'm not a diary guy, so this gave it that outlet."

Unforgiven Trespasses can be purchased at the Cottage on Caledonia at 61 Caledonia St., as well as Fanfare Books at 92 Ontario St. The books will also be available in Goderich, and Al Wakelin is hoping to have them in shops in Waterloo and Bayfield eventually.

to right are Stratford Summer Music artistic director Mark Fewer and executive director Crystal Spicer.
EMILY STEWART Times Correspondent


Stratford Festival review: Wendy and Peter Pan offers emotional alternative to a classic

When it comes to staging an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, there are a few things any production team must get right.

Neverland and it denizens need to be mysterious and fantastical, the crocodile must be terrifying, the fight choreography needs to be on point, and the actors playing the children need to be able to fly seamlessly and without the audience noticing any of the behind-the-scenes magic.

The Stratford Festival and director Thomas Morgan Jones’ production of Wendy and Peter Pan hits all those points and then some, combining a cast of seasoned actors with set designs and props beyond my wildest expectations to tell a story of what it means to grieve the loss of a loved one and move on with your life, the ending of which brought literal tears to my eyes.

Was I crying in a children’s play? Yes, I was and I’m not ashamed to admit it. That emotion I felt was well earned first and foremost by the cast. Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks’ Wendy and Jake Runeckles’ Peter Pan were the perfect counterpoints to one another – Wendy taught Peter about responsibility and taking care of those around him and Peter showed

Wendy how to let go of grief and find happiness again.

Both actors embraced their characters’ driving motivations and the audience certainly felt Wendy’s heartbreak at the loss of her brother and her desperation to find him in Neverland and bring him home through Jimenez-Hicks’ performance.

Runeckles, meanwhile, brought that impish, playful, light-on-his-feet joy the audience expects to her performance as Peter, and then brought it home with those all-important moments of self-reflection that make this adaptation unique.

The main baddies – Hook (Laura Condlln) and Smee (Sara-Jeanne Hosie)

– were also high points of this production, though I truly think the whole cast deserves praise and I would happily give it if not for my word limit.

Condlln and Hosie have both played their fair share of villains, but with their performances in Wendy and Peter Pan they managed to bring a level of humanity and understanding to their characters, be it Hook’s attempts to relate to Wendy’s frustration with Peter never taking responsibility for those around him or Smee’s potentially requited love and compassion for his captain and his (their?) dreams of one day settling down in a cozy cottage with the hook-handed villain.

The set-, prop-, costume- and sound-design departments truly knocked it out of the park with this production.

From Tink’s (Nestor Lozano Jr.) luminescent fairy dress and the myriad lostboy and pirate costumes to the Jolly Roger pirate ship, the jungle canopy and that dread-inducing, steam-punk crocodile piloted by actor Marcus Nance and backed by suspenseful, terrifying music that let the audience know the beast was on its way, the production team really made it feel like the magic of Neverland was real on stage at the Avon Theatre.

As this season’s Schulich Children’s Play, Wendy and Peter Pan is entirely worth seeing before it closes Oct. 27.

Stratford Festival review: Director-choreographer Donna Feore does it again with Something Rotten!

Regional Editor

How is it every musical I see at the Stratford Festival directed and choreographed by Donna Feore is somehow my new favourite?

I don’t know how she does it, but she’s certainly done it again with this season’s production of Something Rotten!

Tragically, I was unable to see Something Rotten! on opening night due to a bout of food poisoning I will not describe on the pages of this paper – you can thank me later. That meant by the time I saw this season’s hit musical, I had already been told it was perhaps the best musical to grace any festival stage in years. High praise, indeed.

Despite my best attempts to ignore the glowing reviews of Something Rotten! before I could judge it for myself, my expectations were sky high when I walked into the theatre exactly two weeks after opening night. Though my hopes were kept somewhat in check after I read in the program understudy Gabriel Antonacci would play the role of Shakespeare instead of Jeff Lillico, all those lofty expectations planted in my head by those who had already seen it were in fact met and exceeded.

I don’t think I’ve ever related so strongly to a character in a theatrical production as I did Nick Bottom (Mark Uhre).


Perhaps it’s because we share the opinion that Shakespeare’s writing is overrated and overly ornate, but Uhre’s performance as the jealous, jilted playwright trying to find success and fame in The Bard’s shadow and doing anything and everything to produce that next big hit is at once hilarious, relatable and packed with talent on the song-and-dance front.

Henry Firmston’s Nigel Bottom, Nick’s younger brother and writing partner with actual writing talent, grounds his broth-

er’s blind ambition and jealousy with his own heartfelt journey of self discovery and remaining true to himself – a true fan of Shakespeare’s work – thanks to the love and guidance of Portia (Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane) – the daughter of a strictly anti-theatre puritan, Brother Jeremiah (Juan Chioran) – and a secret lover of prose and poetry herself.

While Antonacci’s performance as the 16th-century rockstar playwright certainly hit hard – I can’t say how it com-

pares to Lillico’s, but I did enjoy it – the supporting cast, the impeccably timed choreography of each of the song-anddance numbers and the comedic timing of everyone on stage truly made this production shine.

Bea’s (Starr Domingue) endearing and humorous efforts to support her husband at all costs no matter how much he protests, the dancing eggs in Nick Bottom’s misguided production of Omelette and the countless and confused references to modern musicals made by Nostradamus (Dan Chameroy) as he tries and (mostly) fails to foresee Shakespeare’s greatest work each had me laughing to the point of tears.

The production team’s ability to use flashy lighting and transform big set pieces during scenes and song-and-dance numbers never stole focus from the actors and dancers on stage, and instead often added humour or that dramatic flair needed to keep the audience engaged. The costumes, too, employed both subtlety and blatant ridiculousness to hammer home visual gags and jokes from start to finish.

What can I say? I guess you could call me a Donna Feore fan. I’m not entirely sure how she’ll top Something Rotten! with her next musical, but I’m excited and hopeful to see her try.

Something Rotten! runs at the Festival Theatre until Oct. 27.

Jake Runeckles as Peter Pan (left) and Laura Condlln as Hook with members of the company in Wendy and Peter Pan. Stratford Festival 2024.
Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom with members of the company in Something Rotten!. Stratford Festival 2024.

Stratford Festival review: Romeo and Juliet delivers teen angst and rash decision making

Sometimes I forget the story of Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who, upon meeting each other briefly for the first time, fall madly in love and then make increasingly bad decisions until both of them die.

That may be a little oversimplified and perhaps does not do justice to the Bard’s most well-known work, but when I remind myself these are teenagers throwing their lives and those of everyone around them into chaos for nothing more than the chance to be together, suddenly the story makes a lot more sense.

In the Stratford Festival’s 2024 production of Romeo and Juliet, I didn’t need to remind myself of the main protagonists’ youthful ignorance. Both Romeo (Jonathan Mason) and Juliet (Vanessa Sears) act in such reckless disregard of their respective families and the tensions between them, I found no other reason for their actions other than they were driven by those often uncontrollable and unpredictable teenage hormones.

Teenagers lack the maturity to fully understand or control their emotions, something I recognized in both Mason and Sears’ performances, particularly when they are on stage together but also in how they speak almost obsessively about each other with their friends and family.

Those teenage hormones are also on full display in the actions of Romeo’s friends – Mercutio (Andrew Iles) and Benvolio (Steven Hao) – as they venture into enemy territory with Romeo’s servant, Balthasar (John Kirkpatrick), crashing the party at which Romeo first sees Juliet, and taunting and engaging in street brawls with the likes of Juliet’s hot-headed cousin, Tybalt (Emilio Vieira), and her family’s servants,

While these actions result in one of the best-choreographed duels I’ve seen on the Festival stage, they also result in the deaths of both Mercutio and Tybalt, further entrenching the feud between the Capulets and Montagues that keeps Romeo and Juliet apart, which, in turn, fuels both of the young lovers’ series of bad de-

cisions that follow. And we all know how that turns out.

The adult characters in this play, specifically Scott Wentworth’s Friar Lawrence and Glynis Ranney’s Nurse – both of whom are wonderfully portrayed – may have good intentions in trying to help the young lovers, but instead only enable Romeo and Juliet in making those fatally bad decisions. Others, like Juliet’s parents, Lady Capulet (Jessica B. Hill) and Capulet (Graham Abbey), only bolster their daughter’s rebellious intent by trying to force her to marry a man, Paris (Austin Eckert), she does not love. Nothing makes a teenager want to do something more than telling them they aren’t allowed. This notion of teenage hormones leading to bad decision after bad decision is only intensified, at least in my mind, by the use of onstage percussionists. The driving beat not only pushes the plot forward and adds intensity to some of the more dramatic and action-packed scenes, it also left me with the impression of a ticking clock counting down to the moment everyone knows is coming – the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

While Romeo and Juliet is not my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays and I sometimes feel the play is a little over-favoured by some theatre companies, this production leans into the teenage stupidity of it all, and I think I got more out of it for that reason.

Here for Now Theatre thrilled over new permanent space

A historic Perth County building will be the new home for Here for Now Theatre.

A June 10 press release from Perth County announced the former Perth County Registry Office on 24 St. Andrew St., Stratford, will be transformed into Here for Now Theatre’s micro black box theatre for the next 15 seasons. The 1,350 square-foot building was originally set to be demolished but will now be repurposed.

“I'm very excited about this next phase for Here for Now,” said Fiona Mongillo, artistic director and founder of Here for Now Theatre. “I think being able to have a four-season arts company in Stratford and a little micro-venue in Stratford is going to be really wonderful for the community and really wonderful for us. Just so grateful and so excited."

The renovation will include seating for up to 60 people, washrooms, dressing rooms and green rooms, and basement storage. Mongillo envisioned the theatre space when she first entered the building.

“I walked into it and I felt like, 'This is a theatre,’ ” she said. “This is meant to be a theatre. The downstairs area felt like it was already laid out for dressing rooms

and costume storage and set storage and then the upstairs space just felt like there was a natural, small, little lobby in a perfect little area for a perfectly sized little micro black box for us."

The land registry also indicates the building was constructed to be relatively fireproof. The building is also, essentially, a concrete bunker, ideal for soundproofing.

Along with small-scale, intimate theatre productions, Here for Now Theatre will also host poetry readings, creative workshops, small music events and dance recitals.

“We want to have a very mailable blackbox space that can be used in a variety of ways so that is part of the plan,” Mongillo said. “We want to be open and accessible to the community."

In addition to the environmental benefits of repurposing the building instead of demolishing it, transforming the former registry office building into a theatre space will enhance Stratford’s reputation as a charming small town.

“Being able to save some of these little buildings and repurpose some of these little buildings just adds to the tourism value," Mongillo said.

The new Here for Now Theatre space is expected to open in June 2025.


Sampson (Tarique Lewis) and Gregory (Howard Dai).
Jonathan Mason as Romeo and Vanessa Sears as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Stratford Festival 2024.
Here for Now Theatre artistic director Fiona Mongillo is looking forward to transforming the former Perth County registry office into a theatre space.

Sing for the Joy of It performs at Avondale Church

“What an amazing performance.”

That was the phrase most of the audience used after attending and hearing over 140 singers June 4 and 5 at Avondale United Church in Stratford.

The Perth Community Choir, Sing for the Joy of It, featured artistic director Dan Van Winden who grew up in Woodstock and now lives in Stratford, and accompanist Karen Rempel, who also lives in the city.

A special treat was hearing Toronto based actor-musician Donna Garner, who is the aunt of Van Winden, and was raised on a dairy farm just north of Embro in Oxford County, in a home filled with music.

Her brother, John, and nephew, Kurtis Garner and family, are still dairy farming on the Dairydale Holstein farm where she was raised on Embro Road.

Her performing has taken her across Canada, the United States, Austria and Japan.

The night of song was a tribute to Broadway and featured many songs from past Broadway musicals like The Sound of Music, South Pacific, The Lion King, Cabaret, The Wizard of Oz, and Les Miserable to mention only a few.

The choir was first formed in 2012 under the direction of Paul Coates until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.

Until then, the choir performed concerts each December and May at Knox Church in Stratford as a way of sharing joy with the community.

More than 150 singers participated in registering and rehearsals began on Jan. 17 of this year under the direction of Van Winden with accompanist Remple.

The premise of the choir is simple – everyone is welcome to come as they are and sing for the joy of it.

There are no auditions, no fundraising and it doesn’t matter if members don’t read music, or if they’ve ever been in a choir before.

The choir gathers to sing for joy with other likeminded


people who are ready to support one another along the way.

They are inviting anyone to join them for their next

term beginning Sept. 3.

Contact Leslie Beland or Kathy Pearson by email at

Great coffee and great entertainment for

Coffee, friends and great entertainment; this is what was present at the open-micnight fundraiser hosted at The Livery Yard.

This fundraiser was put on by a group from the Stratford Pride Community Centre, The Generation Rainbow Collective, on June 21 from 6-8 p.m. Young people of all ages, sexualities and gender orientations got together to preform and listen to amazing singing and poetry from their peers.

The Generation Rainbow Collective (GRC) is a 2SLGBTQIA+ youth group put together by volunteers at the pride centre. The group was first established in March as a safe space so the queer youth of Stratford have a safe space to come and be themselves.

“This is our first open-mic fundraiser. We’re hoping it’s a success so we can host more activities like these in the future,” said GRC organizer Sarah McIntyre. The group hopes the success of the open-mic night gets word out about the GRC and opens the door for more queer or questioning youth to join the current 15

other members. As it is currently Stratford’s only queer youth group, McIntyre

urged the importance of getting the word out about it, hoping to help the group grow

and become more accessible.

Each performance received a loud round of applause from the audience. To kick off the evening, the emcee for the night, Ollie, thanked everyone for attending and explained a little bit about the GRC. As the GRC ambassador, they talked about the importance of the GRC, why a youth group like it is so necessary and why fundraisers like the open-mic night are so important.

After those important words, Ollie kicked off the event and the performers hit the stage. There were more than six acts in the show including beautiful poetry read by Ghid Garratt and Sky Potter, amazing track singing by Sophia as a soloist and Ollie and Julia singing a duet, and two outstanding acts of acoustic music played by Quinn Mayer and Sebastian Hernandez.

To learn more about the GRC, visit the Stratford Pride Community Centre website and click on the Generation Rainbow Collective tab under Programming/ Events. To stay in the know about what’s happening with the GRC, upcoming fundraisers and currents events, check out their Instagram account under the handle @ generationrainbowcollective.

The sold-out crowd at Avondale United Church were on their feet with a standing ovation at the closing musical performance of 140 singers of the Perth Community Choir in early June.
GARY WEST Times Correspondent
SYDNEY GOODWIN Times Correspondent
Generation Rainbow Collective, a 2SLGBTQIA+ youth group with the Stratford Pride Community Centre, hosted an open-mic fundraiser night at The Livery Yard June 21.

Anne of Green Gables comes to Perth County with museum performances

that’s okay, but she would prefer it if those in attendance ask questions and interact with her.

Any local fans of Anne of Green Gables won’t have to drive halfway across the country to see her for very much longer.

Starting Canada Day, they can find Anne Shirley just down the road from Stratford, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse like how she did in L. M. Montgomery’s book series.

Siobhan Anastasia Molson-Kelly will be playing the eponymous Shirley at the Brocksden School museum, located on Perth Line 37 in Perth East.

When asked if preparing for the role of Shirley made her an Anne of Green Gables expert, Molson-Kelly shook her head.

“Absolutely not,” Molson-Kelly said. “I read the books when I was a kid. I've reread the first and second book recently.

“I prefer improv,” Shirley said, when asked about how difficult it is to embody someone from a different life that everyone knows so much about. “If I say it confidently, I’ll probably be okay – and if I’m incorrect, I’m sure that a diehard fan will make sure to let me know.”

Her 45-minute performances will happen at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and will be an open house so people can pop in and leave as they see fit. It’s also going to be an interactive show with Molson-Kelly assuring that if people don’t interact with her,

Molson-Kelly would not describe herself as an actress per se, though said she has experiences working in education at a university and museums, so when she saw the job listing on kijiji for an actress, she nevertheless thought it would be a perfect fit.

The Brocksden School is a one-room schoolhouse that started in 1853 and shut down in 1967. After it stopped operating as a school, it continued its legacy in education, becoming a museum, remaining one of the last and oldest schoolhouses of its kind in Perth County.

Anne of Green Gables doesn’t have a direct connection with the school, other than it being a similar space to what she would have taught in, but she did attend Queen’s University here in Ontario, so that is connection enough, Molson-Kelly joked.

Scott Campbell, chair of the museum’s board, said many people in the area have a history with the school, including himself. One of his distant relatives, Mabel Campbell, is even in an old class photograph on the wall of the museum, circa. 1909.

“We just live a mile and a half away from here,” Campbell said. “My father, my grandfather was here – my great


grandfather – … so I've got a lot of history at this (school).”

The Anne Shirley performance is an effort to revitalize the museum and spread the word on it being a resource for schools, parents and anyone interested in history, local or otherwise.

On June 23, the museum also hosted a hymn sing where about 50 people came

out for a non-denominational reading and sing, but so far, the Shirley performances and the sing are the only things planned for this summer.

In an effort to revitalize, Campbell said the board is open to further ideas as well.

“We’re open to some really good ideas as to what we can do with this museum,” Campbell said.

Stratford’s Dayna Manning hosts Forest City London Music Awards

Stratford’s music scene was well represented at the Forest City London Music Awards June 16 thanks, in part, to local singer-songwriter Dayna Manning’s first turn hosting the annual awards show. Manning, who has been living on the east coast, has been bouncing back and forth between there and her hometown of Stratford to help organize Market Square Music programming, the city’s annual Canada Day festivities and, in the fall, she will be attending Wilfrid Laurier University to begin her Master of Arts in Community Music. Yet another reason to come home, Manning was asked to co-host the London Music Awards with local radio host Al Coombs this year after Manning won video of the year in 2021 and Ontario independent recording artist in 2023. “I was so thrilled when they asked me to host,” Manning told the Times. “I love hosting things. I host all my Folk Army recitals and concerts and all these things, so it’s a great fit. … (Al) is a radio DJ from the area and has a great personality, a great voice. We’d never met before, so we met that afternoon and we got along great. They have a script for us, so it’s quite a tightly run show. We introduce all the presenters.

“For me, I just really wanted to make sure I got everyone’s names pronounced right. … I tried to dress up and look like a host, for sure. … We really didn’t even rehearse the whole show. It truly was flying by the seat of our pants, but that’s how those shows go.”

One of the high points for Manning in getting the opportunity to host the London Music Awards was performing the show’s opening number, “Ring of Fire,” a song popularized by Johnny Cash but one that was written by his wife, June Carter Cash.

“Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter Cash in London, Ont., and they unveiled a really beautiful mural of that proposal in downtown London this year, so they thought it would be a great idea to open with that song,” manning said. “June Carter Cash actually wrote that song for Johnny Cash.”

Manning said she and her former Trent Severn bandmates, Emm Gryner and Lindsay Schindler, used to perform “Ring of Fire” every time the band toured out west, so it was a perfect fit.

“And it’s a great song for a girl to sing,” she added. “All of those men have the really low voices like Stan Rogers and Johnny Cash. When you put (that song) in a woman’s voice, it’s kind of in the perfect spot. It translated really well.”

Manning said she was happy to see others from Stratford and the surrounding areas among the nominees honoured at the

music-awards night including Pete Watson from The Bookends, who was nominated for producer/engineer of the year, and The Bunker Performance Lounge and Café, which was nominated for best venue. The Bookends was also nominated in the folk/roots category as well as in the world music category alongside another band with Stratford roots, Maggie’s Wake.

“I know the London Music Awards wants to branch out and take places like Stratford and Woodstock and Tavistock – just smaller towns around London –under their wing. It’s an incredibly great thing for artists to be recognized and have these accolades they can put on their resumés. When we’re looking for funding and granting, it’s really important to have these things and be recognized in the local area.”

Manning is staying in Stratford at least until after Canada Day. Her Market Square Music series will conclude with performances by local musicians Maggie Foster and Johann Yundt on June 28 starting at 6:30 p.m., and she has organized a musical lineup for Stratford’s Canada Day celebration in Market Square featuring Two Cellos & A Banjo at 11 a.m., Chippewan flautist and storyteller Christin Dennis at noon, Shane Cook & The Woodchippers at 1:45 p.m. and Higher FunKtion at 3 p.m.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Siobhan Anastasia Molson-Kelly sitting as Anne Shirley at her desk at the Brocksden School Museum. Molson-Kelly will be playing the titular character of the Anne of Green Gables book series starting on July 1 in interactive performances at the museum.
Regional Editor
Stratford singer-songwriter Dayna Manning hosted the 22nd annual Forest City London Music Awards June 16.

iFarm stops in at Rotary Complex with plenty of farm animals

For many years now, the farming community in Perth County has organized a program called iFarm where Grade 3 students from schools in the county come to the Stratford Rotary Complex and learn about where their food comes from.

Farmers representing six commodities who set up in the arena, explain to students how food products are produced at

farms in the area.

There were separate educational stations organized for each commodity.

These included beef, dairy, egg, chicken, pork, grain and also a display from the Heritage Museum and a-how-tomake-butter station.

Over the three-day event, 628 students from 15 schools representing 32 Grade 3 classes took part from all over Perth County.

There was also a large farm-equipment road-safety display set up outside

that included fire trucks, EMS and police information.

Organizer Melanie Vanden Hoven from the Perth County Dairy Producers Committee explained students were involved in eight sessions, one in the morning and another group in the afternoon. She was very pleased with comments from teachers and parents, who felt the program was very worthwhile and informative, especially since some students never had the opportunity to visit an area farm before.

The public was also invited to attend and ask questions of farmers on the first evening of iFarm and over 720 visitors took advantage of the free beef and pork barbecue provided by the various agricultural groups.

Perth County Tourism was thanked for its involvement in handing out Future Farmer t-shirts to young participants at the barbecue and also thanks went to the Perth County Federation of Agriculture for being the other gold sponsor of the iFarm event.

It’s Strawberry time in Perth County and the berry crop is better than ever


Times Correspondent

Strawberry Season is in full swing in Perth County and this year’s crop is as good as the Walch Family have seen in years due to an abundance of moisture and heat.

Their farm is just a short distance south of Stratford, on Erie Street past the city limits in Downie Township.

Walch Strawberry Farm has been in the business of offering pick-your-own or already picked berries for many years from their nine acres where the soil, according to owner Birgit Walch, is ideal for growing strawberries.

Many area families have been taking advantage of the ideal weather to taste the larger-than-ever and tastiest fruit they said “was some of the best they have ever picked.”

One family we talked to comprising three young children and their parents said they always make it a family outing and then after picking a number of boxes, head home for a treat with vanilla ice cream – something they say they remember for the whole year.

The strawberry farm has many different varieties that offer a taste that can suit many visitors who come to the farm each year for early or later-maturing varieties.

The farm is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 pm on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

They are on Facebook and Instagram under Walch Family Strawberries. For more information, visit www.

Dairy farmer Hans Pfister from the Mitchell area explains to students what feed dairy cows eat to produce milk.
Perth egg farmers Paul Neeb and Julie Wynette explain to the Grade 3 class how their egg farms produce quality Grade A eggs from laying hens where one hen will lay one egg every day if fed properly.
The beef station included beef farmers Spencer Dunsmore and Carolyn van der Heiden who explained how they grow beef calves to make good beef-cow mothers.
Left: pictured from left, Antje Beude and Birgit Walch welcome visitors on a recent weekend to their strawberry farm for the first picking of this year’s abundant berry crop.
Right: pictured from left, Katy, Walter and MaKenzie welcome visitors to their Walch Family Strawberry Farm south of Stratford where visitors can pick their own berries or buy pre-picked berries by the box or flat.

Travelling Hospice program volunteers host get-together in Stratford

Much has been written and reported about various programs in Stratford and Perth County to help improve life for those who might be in need no matter what stage of life or health they might be in.

Prior to the opening of the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth, a visiting hospice program was run through Family Services Perth-Huron.

This group visited and provided respite care and emotional support to clients and their families in their own homes in Stratford and the surrounding Perth County area.

Several area residence continue to volunteer for the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth. Some members of this group recently gathered for a reunion at Stratford’s Arden Park Hotel.


Welcoming Ukrainians: Milestones

For many who seek asylum in our nation, the decision to leave their homes was forced, not chosen. Some, waking up to bombing on the early morning of Feb. 24, 2022, had only minutes to get dressed and grab a few things before joining the long line of Ukrainians fleeing. Terror and uncertainty accompanied them on that journey. Is this really happening? Where will they go? How will they survive? All valid questions, overridden by the sheer will to survive.

It's why Ric and I decided to get involved. Watching the images of so many people trailing children and minimal luggage – some with elderly parents in tow, or animals – we felt compelled to help. Vicariously, we have relived the trauma and taken on the burden of each individual’s progress. It has been rewarding in so many ways and taxing in others.

In the past few weeks, we have had the pleasure of celebrating some important milestones. On Mothers’ Day, I received many gifts and well wishes, including the welcome news that one family has obtained the coveted permanent residency. Such good news.

Then, I received an invitation to a wedding. On June 15, two years after she first arrived, our beloved friend, Tanya B., married her Canadian boyfriend, Mathew. Ric and I were honoured to attend the intimate ceremony held in the backyard of Tanya’s host family, Heidi and Harold Van Galen. The bride and groom were accompanied by their two daughters, Anya and Lily. It was a beautiful and joyful day. This week marks the successful comple -

tion of the school year for many Ukrainian children, who though they struggle with language and some of the Canadian curriculum, have worked hard to achieve success. Our current guest, Lesia, and I have spent many hours over the past year tutoring, especially the teenagers, so their victory is ours. Lesia’s expertise is math while I am a retired French and English teacher.

In my last article, I wrote about the difficulties in finding employment beyond survival jobs. I’m happy to report that two Ukrainians were able to find suitable jobs. For others, the search continues.

I am grateful to my husband for all his help untangling paperwork messes. Ric, along with John Nater’s capable staff, Tim and Julie, always seem embroiled in some complication or another. A text from one of our dear friends this week announced that she had received the desired outcome.

A small victory.

It has been incredible being part of a grassroots movement covering the whole of Canada. Collectively, we have helped close to 300,000 displaced Ukrainians find their footing in our blessed country. It has been an eye-opener to witness how much effort it takes to help newcomers transition. Ric and I have been deeply honoured to be part of the process.

Our extended Ukrainian family will always be near and dear to our hearts and our door will always be open, but for now, we are stepping back. I have other writing projects I’d like to work on and Ric is practicing being retired.

Thank you, dear readers, for jumping on board to help. Your efforts have helped with resumes, teaching English, providing hospitality and so on. If you have the


opportunity to help one-on-one with any newcomer trying to learn the language or navigate the maze of Canadian life, I highly recommend it. Coffee and conversation buddies are always welcome. Someone to help translate school memos or how to book a health-care appointment

is also good. Or, if you are able, invite a Ukrainian family to attend a concert or other cultural event. Small things can make a big difference.

(Please note that my email has been misrepresented in past columns. You can reach me at

Pictured in front row from left are Dianne Parr, Maxine Hart, Vi Wilson and Murray Schlotzhauer. In the back row from left are Gary West, Andrea Sehgal, Doris Richardson, Verona Mueller, Bessie Wilhelm, Jan Ryan, Richard Lavery and Elizabeth Kuhl.
VJ KNUTSON Times Freelance Columnist
Newlyweds Mathew Lambert and Tanya Bila

There are so many articles about housing these days, which made me think of the way in which we all look for a “nest”the habitat in which we can meet our basic needs for food, safety, water and shelter. It’s a drive we share with all speciesand not an easy fix for any of us.

I think about habitat as I read the articles about housing developments with limited affordable housing, or the new developments that are marching across farmland, that we need to feed ourselves. The same developments destroy forests and wetlands, critical habitats for the “nests” of so many creatures who share the web of life with us. It will be a wonderful day when we acknowledge the needs of all species, and when we build our new homes within our municipalities to protect the nature belts outside our cities- and when we make our own “nests” near public transportation, instead of requiring more carbon-producing cars on the roads.

It’s so encouraging to see the number of roadsides and rural

Stratford needs to get younger. The average age of Stratford residents is currently 45 and is projected to reach the mid-fifties over the next ten years, well above the provincial average. This trend is unsustainable. Who will work the jobs to serve the community? Where will the taxes come

Web-crawling in our nest

properties that have begun to leave the long grasses and wild plants along the roads. We need those plants to provide habitat for so many creatures that need that corridor of places to live. It’s good to see that the hardy red-winged blackbird with his cheerful conk-er-ree! seems to be managing with the roadside plants. If we can also nurture milkweed, goldenrod, and other native flowers along the roads, the pollinators will be glad of the “nests” for them.

I don’t know if your memories include the variety of birds that use to populate our telephone wires. Life was richer for the songs of the bobolinks and the meadowlarks. They nested in fields between harvests, and before the multiple crops and chemicals of today. Farmers would even put a post near the nests, and go around them with the smaller tractors and attachments. Those were the days when a majority of fenceposts held bluebird houses. Dead trees are also important habitat, believe it or not! The insects that are food for birds inhabit them, and that round hole in the side lets you know that someone has found a sheltering “nest”. Here in Stratford, many gardens have wonderful native plants appearing in flower beds and lawns- Fantastic! Those habitat “nests” are so important for our native birds and pollinators- and it’s working!! I’m using a new bird identification app called “Merlin” from Cornell University (free :). It’s terrific, giving you instant lists of what you’re hearing. One recent evening, it listed cardinal, rob -

in, house wren, house finch, goldfinch, mourning dove and red-winged blackbird- among others! We must be doing something right if they all have found their “nests” in Stratford. As I drive along Douro and Lorne, I see vast mowed landscapes. Here’s an idea! I know of a collection of native shrubs looking for homes. How awesome to plant some of those in those lawns. Shrubs are wonderful habitat for birds and pollinators. They would only require planting, and watering, and presto! magic for native birds and pollinators! Not to mention kudos for helping nature! Shrubs will be donated at no charge to non-profits, and

will be offered to businesses for a donation to the Tri-County Master Gardeners, to support pollinator pathways (Email Don Farwell:

As we seek our own “nests,” let’s speak for municipal design that seeks to help all of those in need of housing, and let’s do what we can for the members of the web of life that supports us all, through respecting habitat and farmland, and through native planting, trees, shrubs and perennials.


1. Carbon ppm (parts per million) as of today is 427.8. Safe level is 350 ppm, left in the dust in 1990.

The Need to Get Younger

from to finance projects and infrastructure upgrades? Who will ultimately want to live in Stratford?

Richard Florida, a thought leader on cities, has suggested that those cities that attract and retain creative young people prosper. Those that don’t, fail. Younger populations generate vitality and fresh ideas. There should be an urgency in Stratford to persuade younger people to come in order to fulfill jobs, drive new industries and businesses and establish an innovative and stimulating energy.

The Grand Trunk/Cooper site offers a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate civic engagement. In 2023, Stratford City Council established the AdHoc Grand Trunk Renewal Committee to provide support and a forum for input

and an exchange of ideas on the renewal of the Grand Trunk building. There has been pressure to include a nursing home as part of the initial plan. Let’s dare to think grander by including ideas embraced by a younger demographic.

• Design the Grand Trunk site as an inventive and sustainable arts neighbourhood - one that provides everything residents need within a short walkable distance - to live, work and play.

• Entice a hi-tech company as anchor tenant in the building, thereby boosting taxes and attracting educated, high-income workers. The neighbouring University of Waterloo’s Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business is a natural source of skilled workers.

• Build taller residences with

a green focus by establishing mixed use, affordable apartments and condo towers across from Stratford’s All Wheels Park. Zoning would need to change to allow higher-rise buildings, increasing downtown density without consuming the productive farm lands surrounding Stratford.

• Construct residential developments to appeal to all ages –from young professionals and families to seniors – by including one-, two- and three-bedroom residences.

• Ensure enough green space for residents to come together and for children to play, including a playground, sports field and urban forest. Plant trees to provide a canopy of shade for performances at an outdoor amphitheatre.

• Add spaces for a grocery store and retail shops to serve the

2. Enjoy a lawn with Nature as your gardener. Allow a mix of plants in with your grass, and set your mower to 3 inches. That will protect the life forms that need that habitat, and make healthier grass. Worth knowing: Anything you add to your grass or garden will affect habitat. Nature doesn’t dump anything in quantity on the soil or plants- not vinegar, iron or soap – and certainly not pesticides. Sheila Clarke is a Stratford advocate for the environment, of our community and of our planet. She is a member of CFUW Stratford, Stratford Climate Momentum, and the Perth County Sustainability Hub.

neighbourhood’s residents, reducing the need for automobiles. Preferably, the Grand Trunk Arts District could be a car-free zone.

• Build a new YMCA to become a key part of Stratford’s community hub – a leading edge facility offering technology and equipment to make Stratford a healthier place for young and old.

It is essential that we, as a community, actively engage young adults who live here now and who want to stay. Film studios, a technical school and a business incubator are just three additional ideas for the site that would capture the imagination of a younger set. If we are to develop a successful vision for the future, it is imperative to include all, especially the future residents of our community.

BRUCE WHITAKER Times Freelance Columnist
Times Freelance Columnist
Red-winged blackbird

Wildfire smoke alters the brain: The effects of biomass smoke inhalation on mental health

Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of gases and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) produced during the combustion of vegetation and other organic materials in a wildfire. While the immediate health risks of wildfire smoke are well-documented and include respiratory problems and cardiovascular issues, emerging research suggests that wildfire smoke exposure can also have significant effects on brain health and trigger inflammation in the central nervous system. Here’s an overview of recent research

When I was eight years old, my parents put me on a train by myself and shipped me up north.

Yes I know...I can hear jaws hitting floors all over Stratford. Unthinkable to modern parents but it was quite an adventure for a kid in 1958.

My uncle had invited me to Elliot Lake where he managed the Bell Telephone office. My parents helped me board the train in Kitchener, asked the conductor to keep an eye on me, and I was off to Sudbury, the closest station to Elliot Lake at the time.

I was usually an introverted kid but somehow adrenaline turned me into a chatty social gadabout,

which demonstrates how this happens.

Wildland-fire acres burned per year have roughly doubled since 1985. These fires now routinely generate smoke that deteriorates air quality for most of the country. This smoke contains a multifarious mixture of toxic components due to myriad combustion fuel sources (e.g. trees, grass, animals, homes, cars etc.). These tiny particles are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs from where they can then enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain. A study from Washington State in 2020 estimated that 7.1 million people were exposed to average daily particulate matter concentrations ranging from 30 to 190 µg/m3 for 13 consecutive day.

PM2.5 particles contain chemicals that can generate oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between harmful free radicals and the body's ability to counteract them with antioxidants. This oxidative stress can damage cells, including those in

the brain. The body's response to the presence of PM2.5 and other harmful substances in wildfire smoke includes the release of pro-inflammatory molecules such as cytokines. These molecules can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain.

Inflammation in the brain as a result of smoke inhalation persists for many weeks. Inhaled particulate matter from wildfire smoke and other pollutants induces the formation of fragmented peptides that impair the functioning of the blood-brain barrier. Wildfire smoke exposure has been associated with the disruption of the blood-brain barrier, allowing harmful substances to enter the brain more easily leading to neuroinflammation and further activation of astrocytes and microglia, the immune cells of the brain. Worse, the inflammatory process affects the hippocampus – the brain region necessary for learning and memory – thus leading to a range of neurological conditions including cognitive impairment, increased risk of

neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and mood disturbances.

Wildfire exposures have also been linked to cardiovascular, pulmonary, ocular and nasal diseases particularly in older people and those with chronic respiratory conditions.

The human body seems capable of adapting to chronic particulate exposure to an extent, periodic exposures pose a problem because they cause a surge in inflammatory activity and ill effects appear more related to the fluctuations, rather than the baseline levels of pollutants.

If you’re a firefighter, or if you just resided in a community that has had some of these dramatic smoke exposures, you could be experiencing neurocognitive or mood disorders weeks or months after the event.

Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke through measures like staying indoors during periods of poor air quality, using air purifiers and wearing N95 respirator masks can help mitigate some of these health risks. Additional-

MUSINGS: The Familiar Stranger

hobnobbing with fellow passengers and repeatedly climbing up and down the stairs to the top of the dome car. This was probably very annoying but my victims were unfailingly patient.

At one point I sat next to a businessman in horn-rimmed glasses. He got off at Parry Sound to stretch his legs but, by the time the train pulled away from the station again, he had not returned

to his seat. Only his hat, coat, and briefcase remained. The conductor came along a while later and asked where he was. "Oh, I think he got off to get some fresh air", I replied. The conductor rubbed his forehead, sighed wearily, and said, "Well he's sure gettin' lots of it now”.

While the state of today’s society seems to demand vigilance, I sometimes feel sorry for kids. How much room is there for discovery and spontaneity; for adventure? By some estimates, a child is three times more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to be abducted. The odds, of course, go up in larger cities where it’s easier for the bottom feeders to hide. Stranger abductions are extremely rare and most abductions are perpetrated by someone known to the child and/ or their family. Statistics, though, are small comfort to a parent whose child disappears one day and is never found again.

I keep thinking there must be a happy medium - somewhere between a kid sitting at home in his parents’ basement playing video games and crossing active railway trestles on foot. How do we instill confidence rather than fear? How

ly, addressing the root causes of wildfires, such as climate change and land management practices, is crucial for preventing the widespread and severe wildfires that produce harmful smoke.

Key Takeaways

▪ Wildfire smoke can induce inflammation in the brain that persists for more than a month.

▪ Intermittent rather than constant exposure to smoke might pose a more serious risk due to surges in inflammatory activity.

▪ The area of the brain called the hippocampus is particularly affected, risking long-term damage to learning and memory.

Dr. Thomas R Verny MD is a psychiatrist, podcaster and author of 47 scientific papers and eight books including the international best seller, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, published in 27 countries and the recently released, The Embodied Mind. The Embodied Mind shows how intelligence and consciousness—traits traditionally attributed to the brain alone—permeate our entire being. Dr. Verny lives with his wife in Stratford.

do we teach critical thinking as opposed to safety rules by rote? I think of a recent TV interview with a mother who was in a quandary over whether to have her 10-year-old daughter take a crucial vaccination. With her child by her side she said, “I don’t know what to…she seems so nervous”. No wonder.

My parents always taught me to trust the good in people. Generally this has served me well in my life and career. Some have called me naïve and in some instances they have been absolutely right. But I’d rather err on the side of trust than live in suspicion and fear. Then again, in an alternate past, the businessman who got off the train in Parry Sound could easily have taken me with him. You just never know.

Mark Hertzberger is a former social services supervisor, human resources manager, conflict mediator, and literacy practitioner. He has since freed his mind and now writes poetry and occasional opinionated columns. Mark has lived in Perth County for 27 years, the last 12 of which have been in Stratford where he resides with his wife, novelist Yvonne Hertzberger.

MARK HERTZBERGER Times Freelance Columnist

OH, THE PLACES WE’LL GO: The courage to bounce back from disaster

You probably don’t associate the word “courage” with the word “tourism” unless you are about to drop straight down on a zip line in the Jamaican rainforest. But that’s another story.

In this case, I am talking about tourism in an established tourist area where there are comfortable places to stay, good restaurants and interesting (not life-threatening) excursions.

That description fit the connected islands named Sanibel and Captiva on the Gulf coast of Florida. At least they were comfortable, established and thriving until Sept. 28, 2022, when Hurricane Ian smashed into the islands.

Ian destroyed a lot of the tourism infrastructure on these islands, as it did on the nearby mainland city of Fort Myers. Restaurants were flattened, resort hotels were damaged to the point of no return, and attractions approached the point of ruin.

On Sanibel and Captiva, “attractions” does not mean theme parks or golf courses. Here, the victims of Ian included the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum

and Aquarium. The Ding is an extensive waterfront sanctuary where, especially at low tide, you can spot hundreds, perhaps thousands of shore birds. They report 245 different species of bird in the refuge. But the facility was closed for many months after Ian as both the buildings and the land suffered from the hurricane.

The Shell Museum, a unique facility that is way more interesting than it might sound, was flooded to the ceiling of the first floor and drenched from roof breaches on the second storey.

At the top end of Captiva Island sits South Seas Resort, a destination in its own right, where its hotels were so damaged that authorities ordered their demolition.

I know, so far this doesn’t sound like a great recommendation to visit Sanibel and Captiva, right? But wait.

This is where the courage comes

in. The folks behind these attractions and destinations did not allow Hurricane Ian to destroy their vision or their commitment to these wonderful islands. So, when we visited earlier this year, only a year and a half after the hurricane, the islands were well on their way to recovery.

We toured the Shell Museum. The upper floor is being completely remodeled as a display space and executive director Sam Ankerson admitted the hurricane had created an opportunity to upgrade and modernize displays that had become a bit tired.

This was another of those places I thought might take 20 minutes and, instead, deserved at least a couple of hours. The ground floor is completely restored – including a mark high on an interior wall indicating the height of the storm surge. There are touch tanks with living creatures introduced by

careful guides, there is an active octopus, there are aquariums and displays and lots of information from helpful docents.

Not far away is the Ding Darling sanctuary, named for a conservationist who, in real life, was a political cartoonist. You can tour the large sanctuary by car, by bike, on foot, or in a trolley; we did the latter.

One codicil: our tour was at high tide. We saw birds – white pelicans, egrets, herons, ibises, ospreys and more – but our guide said the variety of wildlife is much richer at low tide. If you can, go at low tide.

During our time on the islands, we stayed at the South Seas Resort in a fine condo-style unit on the water. Virtually everything here is right on the water – the resort covers the entire end of Captiva.

The resort was slammed by Ian, but it was able to reopen in July,

2023. There has been some adaptation – restaurants are not yet open, so there are food trucks. All the pools are open and the marina, where you can see a herd of manatee almost any time.

There are hundreds of units already available for guests. And if that sounds crowded, it’s not – the entire resort covers 330 acres including a lot of natural area, and guests use golf carts to get around the whole area, from reception (and a Starbucks) at the south end to Sunset Beach, the pools and Land’s End in the north. Frankly, driving around in that golf cart added a lot to our enjoyment of the place.

Not every restaurant or hotel on Sanibel or Captiva has reopened, but it is amazing how many are available – and how many followed Sam Ankerson’s example and treated the hurricane as an opportunity to create something even better. We ate in a brand-new restaurant, the Crow’s Nest at the ‘Tween Waters Island Resort, and also at a venerable and popular eatery, Doc Ford’s on Sanibel Island. Both offered terrific cuisine. So, should you summon up your own courage and take the risk of visiting a place like Sanibel and Captiva in the aftermath of a natural disaster? My vote: don’t be stupid, be sure they are again ready for guests, but if they are – like these two amazing islands – then go. Reward their courage with yours; it’s a great match.

Paul Knowles is an author and travel writer, and President of the Travel Media Association of Canada. To contact Paul about travel, his books, or speaking engagements, email pknowles@golden. net.

PAUL KNOWLES Times Contributor
Sunset on Captiva Island.
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and Aquarium on Sanibel Island; now reopened after being severely damaged by Hurricane Ian.
Tourists have returned and are enjoying one of the seaside pools at South Beach.

I’m light as a feather, yet the strongest person can’t hold me for five minutes. What am I? Your breath.

What can you break, even if you never pick it up or touch it? A promise.

Which question can you never answer "yes" to? "Are you asleep?"

What's something that, the more you take, the more you leave behind? Footsteps.

What kind of lion never roars? A dandelion.

What has a thousand needles but cannot sew? A porcupine.

What’s bright orange with green on top and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.

Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use their honeycombs.

What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear.


Two-year-old Skipper has a love for the outdoors! Super high-energy, this fella loves going on new adventures and long walks and hikes. Skipper is looking for an active home that can give him the lifestyle he craves for. Skipper loves all the attention to himself and wants a loving forever home with no other pets or young kids. If you’re looking for a loyal companion to go on camping trips with you, Skipper is your guy! Check out his complete profile on our website and submit an adoption survey at


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