Gananoque, 1000 Islands named Festival Hub for Culture Days 2023

The 1000 Islands and Gananoque communities will play a big part in the upcoming Ontario Culture Days, which runs from September 22 to October 15, 2023.

Ontario Culture Days is a province-wide festival celebrating arts, culture and community spirit, with the help of hundreds of event organizers across the province.

The 1000 Islands region, along with Gananoque, have been named as festival hubs — local partners that act as community leads for the festival, playing a crucial role in fostering artistic expression and engagement. This year, the number of hubs has increased to 13.

“I’m not surprised,” said Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands Deputy Mayor Terry Fodey. “Our staff are the ones to credit for this. They’re the ones that have been doing the work. Our various videos online have really caught on, have gotten popular. And all of that work has contributed to what’s happening here with these types of designations and accreditations.”

“It’s teamwork when it comes to promoting tourism, us and Gananoque, and we should and, quite frankly, we have to. The Township of Thousand Islands encompasses Gananoque and it’s imperative upon us to work well with our neighbours,” Fodey continued. “This is a win-win for both.”

Fodey said he’s seen an increase in interest of late in community and cultural events in the area, like the Lansdowne Fair, Seeley’s Bay’s Canada Day celebrations, and the Lyndhurst Turkey Fair.

“Those are massive events every year,” Fodey said.

“Along the river, Rockport, Ivy Lea, those places are a natural draw. We’re fortunate. We have an abundance of nature on our back door, and I think word is getting out for people that came to the area by chance – people who came to this area because they couldn’t go elsewhere during the COVID pandemic and now are coming back as a choice, not by force. There’s businesses here that worried for two years but have since seen some benefit because all those people who found us during COVID are coming back and all of our American friends who were here prior to COVID are back as well. It’s booming.”

Dennis O’Connor, a former councillor in Gananoque and owner of O’Connor Galley in the town, and the current chairman of the Gananoque Arts Network, which is a partner of this Ontario Culture Days festival hub, said arts and culture are alive and well in the community, and an event like Ontario Culture Days will help shine a spotlight on what the community has to offer.

As part of this festival, the Gananoque Arts Network, located at 167 King Street East, will be hosting and promoting events on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

“Gananoque is fortunate that it doesn’t have to build from the ground up, it’s already here, but it needs to be promoted and promoted properly,” said O’Connor of the town’s arts and culture scene. “Ontario Culture Days and the fact we have the hub is important. We’re only 13 communities in the province who are able to do this, and we were given that.”

This year’s theme for Gananoque’s portion of this festival is “Culture Matters,” said O’Connor, who added he hopes the community embraces this culture and art festival, and participates.

“The idea is to not program the hell out of it, but what we really want is for people to express themselves artistically and in anywhere they want,” said O’Connor. “For those two days we’re going to have an active spot with pottery, live music over the two days, at the back of the building, we’re going to encourage people to be part of our mural, encourage the community to paint the wall. We’ll have artists there, musicians, maybe a dance focus. And the other organizations like the Playhouse, the Royal Theatre, will be encouraged to be involved. We want this to be about people having freedom to do this.”

“Ontario Culture Days is always the perfect time to get out there and explore the incredible cultural offerings across our wonderful province,” said Gary Filan, president and chairman of Ontario Culture Days, in a prepared statement.

“Whether planning a Thanksgiving road trip or exploring your own neighbourhood, this year’s Fall Festival promises to be an unparalleled celebration of creativity, diversity, and the power of artistic expression.”

The Ontario Culture Days events page online will serve as a resource, featuring hundreds of events and activities scheduled throughout the province.

“We are thrilled to see such strong enthusiasm from communities across Ontario,” said Ruth Burns, executive director of Ontario Culture Days, in a statement.

“It is heartwarming to witness how Ontarians are eager to come together and celebrate the culture in our neighbourhoods and beyond.

More information on Ontario Culture Days and the programming involved with it is available at onculturedays.ca and ganarts.ca.

Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of Brockville. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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