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Tired of city hassles? Ready for a dose of nostalgia? Want to experience rural Ontario in its finest moments - the emphasis being on the word "rural"? Aim your car toward the Lake Huron shoreline and the many small upcountry communities in Huron County. These microcosms of rural elegance have a charm, personality and individualism that took roots during early settlement years in Huron County. Blyth, twenty minutes from the shore of Lake Huron, stands out as a community that year-round recognizes rural roots and cultural heritage in unique and enterprising ways.
The village, founded in 1877, has a street scape that retains an architectural integrity reminiscent of the early 1900's. A most striking feature is the Cape Dutch detailing on a number of commercial buildings that were erected after the Boer War. One fine example is the Pretoria Block that still retains the proud dignity of being a built tribute to an architectural style from a country half way around the world. Watch too for the wooden trim on a number of buildings that incorporate peculiar "birdhouse" corner detail for wont of a better description. Look up, past second floors to roof lines. Revel in the architecture of an era when craftsmanship ruled supreme.
Small village ambience pervades the unique shops have revitalized Queen Street, making it a pleasant place for several hours of browsing. There are no parking metres to worry about. Take your time. The village is billed, among other things, as "Canada's Leather Fashion District" and has long been known for two large leather outlets. "Bainton's" leather outlet anchors Queen Street. "The Old Mill" is located on #4 Highway one mile south of the community.
Pretty gardens on the community's tree lined side streets are worth a look-see too. Residents who are proud of their small piece of Ontario, always have a pleasant word for visitors. Get a donut and coffee from the General store, commandeer a park bench and enjoy the impromptu parade. Farm tractors, wagons, livestock carriers and a never-ending stream of pickup trucks, dogs and friendly folk liven up Queen Street on a Saturday night.
During the summer the village hosts live theatre in the restored c1920 Memorial Community Hall. In a locale where one might least expect a professional theatre, the area provides fodder for plays with a basis in rural history, roots and events. Blyth Festival has recognized a niche market and established a national reputation for mounting Canadian plays with rural themes. Seventy-nine shows, five in 1999 have been premiered in Blyth. For more than twenty-five years the Festival has been running in repertory, making it possible for visitors to see several plays during a weekend visit. Between Main Stage in the acoustically excellent hall, and the more intimate Second Stage at "The Garage", Canadian oriented theatre is alive and very much well presented.
The community is most supportive realizing that theatre has contributed greatly to the region's economic and tourism base. Local enthusiasm saw Memorial Hall expanded to incorporate existing administration offices and an art gallery.
Excellent bed & breakfast accommodation is available in the area for those wishing to spend a few days. I can personally recommend three "mom & pop" restaurants. Mama Roots Family Restaurant on County Road #25, east of Blyth, the Grand View at the corner of Highway #4 & Cty #25 and The Blyth Inn at the corner of Queen & Dinsley. All serve delicious food at reasonable prices. Blyth Inn & Shops are housed in an early 1900's structure uniquely built of precast concrete "stones". During theatre season, reservations are recommended at the Blyth Inn who also offer live entertainment on weekends during the theatre season.
Plan to visit Blyth during the second full weekend in September when the Huron Pioneer Thresher & Hobby Association Reunion takes front and centre stage at the Fair Grounds. This extravagance of steam and gar powered engines has been fascinating and delighting folks for nearly forty years. Steam engines rule. One drawing card is the more than twenty-five lumbering steam giants that snort and hiss their way around the park. Threshing demonstrations, a working blacksmith shop, steam-powered shingle and saw mills and large parades are an integral part of the fun-packed weekend. Community and church groups serve great food on-site. Folks line up for the cider pot and popular bean pot that begins very early in the morning when 67-½ pounds of white beans are soaked in water prior to slow cooking. Pancake breakfasts are served each day at the fire hall, just up the street from the fair grounds.
A large craft show, border collie and horse plowing demonstrations, continuous musical entertainment and "jam" sessions, dances, adult and children's activities round out a busy weekend. While in the area, make a short trip to Ontario's west coast, the shore of Lake Huron. The quaint village of Bayfield and bustling Goderich that bills itself "Canada's Prettiest Town" invite year round exploration. The inland communities of Seaforth, Clinton, Mitchell, Zurich and Brussels are well worth a visit too. The area, approximately three hours west of Toronto is worth a visit at any time of the year.
IF YOU GO:
Blyth, Ontario, N0M 1H0
Corner of #4 and Cty #25
Corner of Cty #25, east of Blyth
corner of Queen & Dinsley Streets
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