By MAGGIE M, Editor, the wedge.LIVE
The joy of exploration is amplified when you trudge through dirt roads muddied by relentless rain and horse manure in your finest shoes. This writer is a compulsive explorer; so, my shoes never had a chance. Planning ahead is not my bag. I would entertain spielunking in my pearls if the opportunity presented itself.
Never miss a chance to experience. There may not be a second one.
I happened on a special place, busy with foreign visitors from China, Germany and Quebec, to name a few. I may have been the only Ontarian.
“Are those real birds or is it electronic ambience coming from the trees?,” I quipped with a couple from Hamburg, Germany. They broke into laughter. We had all enjoyed the authentic experience of Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, on a very soggy, rainy day.
Amusement was palpable on visitors’s faces and audible in their voices, despite our collective soaking. My hair was glued to my skull with water and my nose had become a spout. For me, it was a conscious choice: a camera under my coat or an umbrella. Vanity loses again.
At first glance, upon arrival, you see a few tourist attractions, such as monuments, small trains, mock displays, manicured gardens and such; but, once you traverse beyond the reception, you are transported back in time.
Bring your walking shoes and an umbrella, just in case.
It is striking to consider this is how we lived less than 160 years ago. The General Store impressed me for its range of supplies from medicine, through foods to fabric. There was no lighting in the shop. My spotlight gives a false impression, adding to negligible natural light. Run your eyes through the shelves in the photos. These were not years of materialism; but rather, utilitarian.
I visited the bakery next door. It was empty, but Kees, the Baker, was busily chopping and adding wood into its brick oven to reach 200 degrees overnight. Bread is made, served and sold here as in the 1860s.
“Put your hand here and feel the heat,” Kees prodded. I reluctantly declined.
I made my way to Willard’s Hotel next to the bakery, where meals are prepared and served to the public in true 1860s form by staff in period costume. The many buildings of the Upper Canada Village are an amalgam of many historic buildings, 34 when I counted, rescued nearby and built around 1860. The whole is an authentic village, as precise a representation you can experience this 2017, to learn from whence you came. It is truly a deep experience, a stark contrast with our day’s artificial intelligence.
One building made me chuckle, the broommaker. This was the appliance store so-to-speak. This is not an ordinary broom; but, the Cadillac among them. This maker produced corn brooms considered superior to those made from twigs, splints and corn husks. I muse, is this how one kept up with the Jones’–or the Cryslers in this case?
FACIAL HAIR CONTEST
Facial hair in 1860 was the height of male vanity. Accordingly, Upper Canada Village runs the Upper Canadian Beard Championship every year at the close of the season. It occurs again this September 17th. If you like new experiences and a good guffaw, this is a must see.
The rules for the contest are hilarious. You can read them here. The following is an excerpt.
“Other facial hair–Styling aids and props permitted: Facial hair such as chinstraps, sideburns, face-shelves, etc which doesn’t fit into categories 5 or 6. Judges will consider originality and creativity as well as hair.”
Not to be outdone by the Quilt Show starting on the 16th. This is the closing weekend of the season, the 1860s Fall Fair Weekend. An exciting choice that will engage you all day, on the edge of the St. Lawrence.
I cannot wait to return with the right pair of shoes and make my way to the signal tower at the far end where military naval codes were transmitted during the war of 1812. I also have my mind set on the printing office and the dressmaker. And if I have the stamina, the whole nine yards.
You can visit their site here.