Fun Festivals in Simcoe County
I’ve lived in Simcoe County for 25 years now and it still amazes me the sheer volume of festivals and activities that take place here all year long! Simcoe County covers a large portion of Ontario’s central southwest. Simcoe County festivals are held in most of its cities and towns, from Collingwood to Barrie, and Cookstown to Orillia. Especially in the summer time it feels like there is something going on every weekend. It just goes to show you, you don’t need to live in a big city like Toronto to find fun events and fantastic festivals. Just this weekend I visited Barrie’s waterfront for their 45th annual Kempenfest.
Kempenfest has always been one of my favourite Simcoe County festivals and thousands of other Barrie residents and many others that flock up to cottage country for the August long weekend. Kempenfest is one of Ontario’s top 100 festivals with over 350 stalls where you’ll find everything from art to antiques and amazing artisans with jewelry, clothing and great gifts, and it’s all set up along Barrie’s picturesque waterfront. There’s something for everyone, for those looking for something unique to add to their collection to the family looking for some fun at the midway and children’s village and there’s even live entertainment all weekend long at two different stages.
At times it feels like a sea of bodies floating along, doing the penguin dance around Barrie’s Kempenfelt Bay. But it’s so worthwhile to smell the sweet aroma of barbecues, try a taste of the many local foods from dips to honey and of course maple syrup, and to simply enjoy summer as it was meant to be by spending time outdoors. One of my favourite parts of Kempenfest is browsing the wide array of antique stalls, from antique jewelry to fantastic furniture that you know has a story to tell. This year I noticed an increase in more eco-friendly and up-cycling products like recycled glass for jewelry, reclaimed wood and old snowshoes repurposed into art, furniture and more. Even with the crowds, on a beautiful day with a comforting breeze drifting in off the water, you can’t help but enjoy yourself.
Probably my favourite of Simcoe County festivals is by far the Get Outdoors Festival that takes place at the Wye Marsh in Midland. Last year I learned all about hummingbird banding, monarch butterfly releases and more, but this year I was thrilled to see the festival growing with stalls for various local birding groups, wildlife art as well as the best from last year! This visit was a special one because I got to see their family of otters frolicking, eating and swimming in one of the ponds. Just goes to show you that even with a festival going on the Wye Marsh is full of wildlife!
For all the music lovers out there Barrie has a festival for you too, Rhythmfest. Located in Heritage Park on Kempenfelt Bay you’ll find one of Barrie’s best festivals for music fans with two stages and music, dance and instruments from around the world. Don’t miss the drum off or take in one of the many workshops from how to play the drums to how to dance hip hop. It’s great fun for families with children and the adults who love a good tune!
Perhaps for the eccentrics of for those who love to dress up and play a role, there’s the wild Steampunk Festival in Coldwater. Taking place in the village of Coldwater’s downtown where their shops and cafes dress the part for the festivities as well as at the Canadian Heritage Museum where you’ll see stage shows full of strange and obscure tricks and feats. There are vendors selling everything steampunk related from clothing to jewelry and even food to housewares. Want to take part in the fun? Dress up like most festival goers do!
Another big festival is The World’s Greatest Carrot Festival that takes place in downtown Bradford and while you might laugh at a ‘carrot festival’ it is huge and they go all out with free carrot cake, 300 vendors, tons of buskers, a stage with lots of entertainment throughout the weekend and so much more! This was my first visit to the Carrot Fest and I had a blast watching all the crazy buskers with the fire shows, checking out all the local shops and tasting some great food and was excited to walk away with some locally grown carrots being handed out by some nice looking firemen! I even met a fascinating couple who travel the world and were there selling their books about their amazing adventures – discovering local travellers made my day (oh, and so did the firemen 😉
Most definitely the tastiest of Simcoe County festivals is The Buttertart Festival! Located in downtown Midland during June, the Buttertart Festival is full of vendors selling all sorts of buttertarts, from coffee flavored tarts to traditional, and there are even buttertart popsicles. But beyond the yummy tarts, there are local vendors, street performers, and music at the main stage. But be sure to get there early in the morning as the buttertarts don’t last long!
Other Simcoe County Festivals
Collingwood Elvis Festival (July)
Alison Potato Festival (August)
Annual Barrie Dragon Boat Festival (August)
Annual Barrie Fair (August) – running for over 150 years!
I love going to festivals whether I’m travelling abroad or here at home. For me, it’s a great way to try new and local foods, meet some interesting artisans and discover the local talent! Festivals really bring a city and its people to life!