Happy 40th Birthday to the Elora Gorge Cinema!

When most people think of a night out at the movies, it usually means going to one of the many multiplexes found coast to coast in Canada (about 75% of which are now owned by Cineplex Odeon).

However, it wasn’t always this way. Theatres used to be large, single screen affairs in big cities and long, narrow structures found on the main street of small towns. In addition to first run houses, there were also repertory theatres. Smaller, more intimate affairs, rep houses ran movies that had already finished their time in first run theatres, as well as movies that were often quite old, but ripe for revival.

Rep houses were a pretty common sight in big cities and some small towns, but have grown increasingly scarce in recent years, particularly with the switch over to digital, an expense that not all independent cinemas could manage.

One that has managed to weather all of the changes that have occurred in the industry during the past four decades is the Elora Gorge Cinema. Located in the lovely small town of the same name and now in its 40th year, the Gorge served as both a small town cinema and a rep house, running new-ish movies alongside classics from other eras.

Nowadays, the Gorge rarely runs older movies (though Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN from 1974 is on the schedule this month), offering instead films that have run their course at Cineplex as well as indie and foreign movies that would not be booked at multiplexes. It’s a nice mix that serves both cinephiles and casual moviegoers.

Admission price is comparable to the chain theatres, though a bit less if you buy a membership. The theatre itself is nice and cozy, with a good quality digital projector and sound system. The stone walls provide a different kind of ambiance from your generic corporate theatre and are very appropriate given the close proximity of the gorge. It’s a great place to see a movie and another reason to stop by this lovely town when in the area.

2017 Ribfest Guelph

2017 Ribfest in Guelph

Every year, Ribfest travels nationally to spread the joy of BBQ ribs, flavourful snacks, and live entertainment. Ribfest will be returning to Guelph this August, and it’s time for the locals to get excited.

Ribfest will be in Guelph at the following dates and times:

  • August 24, 2017, 5PM – 11PM
  • August 25, 2017, 12PM – 11PM
  • August 26, 2017, 11AM – 11PM
  • August 27, 2017, 11AM – 8PM

Events will be held at Riverside Park (709 Woolwich St.), and this year, you can expect the same great vendors and sponsors like Sleeman brewery.

Although ribs are the focus, you should still consider attending if you’re vegetarian or are looking for somewhere to take the family. Alternate options include Billy Bob’s Bloomin’ Onions, Ontario Corn Roasters, Tornado Potato, and more.

Aside from food, there will be vendors who will attend and run contests or sell their products – great for family fun! A few non-food vendors that may attend include Bell Canada, Bath Fitters, and Oktoberfest.

Have kids? Bring them and keep them entertained by getting their faces painted, enhance their reading by visiting the Guelph Library Bookmobile, or keep them active by stopping by the Guelph Bulldog Fitness booth.

Young adults? Enjoy live bands and the fresh beverage booths.

Love cars? There will be a classic car show on the Saturday and Sunday from 9AM to 3:30PM. You can enter the show with only $5 per car, with approximately over 300 vehicles attending. There will be a trophy, and a 50/50 draw winner that will be announced on both days on the main stage.

Full vendor and event confirmations will be announced weeks prior to the events. Stay tuned by following them on Facebook at Ribfest Guelph, and Twitter at @RibfestGuelph.

For more information, please visit: http://www.ribfestguelph.com/

What Are You Doing for Canada 150?

There’s a big birthday party next month! That’s right, Canada Day is almost upon us, but this one is extra special. July 1st is our country’s 150th birthday and celebrations and events are planned from coast to coast! These represent a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, experience new cultures, and visit new places.

Don’t know what you would like to do? If you plan to stay in your local area, go online and see what events are happening nearby. Chances are you will be surprised at the number and variety of possibilities: lectures, concerts, parties, elaborate multicultural feasts, walking tours, free movies…really, almost anything you can think of.

If you have been meaning to experience parts of your area and its culture, but have not had the chance, this is the perfect time! You can learn about its history, what makes it special, and what the future holds. There is also a good possibility of meeting many new and interesting people while you’re at it.

Been meaning to see other parts of Canada? Well, Canada 150 is really a wonderful excuse. Not only can you experience new provinces and cities when they are bustling and looking their best, but they will also be emphasizing what makes them unique and great.

I am very interested in the history of Canada’s indigenous people and plan to attend several events being held in the Toronto area. One of the keys to understanding and empathizing with other people is knowing more about them, their heritage, and their hopes. Canadians have not given our various indigenous communities the attention and respect they are owed. Help to right that wrong by attending events like the National Aboriginal Day and Indigenous Arts Festival, which offers immersive and interesting activities that will both entertain and educate, while finishing the day off with a concert that will be broadcast live from eight cities.

Ikea Popping up in Toronto

I recently wrote about how everyone’s favourite affordable furniture store Ikea had announced plans to expand the number of locations it has in Canada. Well, if you live in the downtown Toronto area and love Ikea, you have a treat in store: an Ikea pop-up cafe is opening on Queen West this week!

It won’t just be a mini store; Ikea is using the occasion to emphasize the fun aspects of their brand. In fact, the pop-up is officially called the Ikea Play Cafe, so be prepared to shop, have fun, and eat. Yes, you can get meatballs, but there will also be such choices as frozen yogurt, chicken and veggie balls, waffles, chips and more!

The fun aspect is equally creative. Do you like pinball? Well, the pop-up offers a giant pinball machine made entirely out of Ikea kitchen products! There is also an inventive tic tac toe game.

Surprisingly, Ikea does not have a downtown location, though they did a similar pop-up store last year on King Street West.

There have been mixed opinions over such retailer experiments. Some consumers like to be able to experience what a retailer has to offer, without having to journey outside the downtown core. However, others who oppose corporate stores feel that pop-ups represent an intrusion that adds nothing to the local culture and hurts traditional, independently-owned firms that rely on regular traffic to keep the doors open. What is your opinion? Do you think these Ikea promotions are fun and helpful or result in a more homogenized and less interesting consumer experience? Press the comment button and let me know!

The site closes on June 27th and the company said they currently have no plans to open a permanent cafe. However, you never know: if enough people come out, you might be able to enjoy that Ikea convenience and ambiance downtown any day of the week!

The Guelph Multicultural Festival

A highlight of living in the Royal City is the annual Guelph Multicultural Festival. When it started way back in 1978, the festival represented a unique way for local citizens to connect with other cultures via demonstrations of local traditions, samples of cuisine, etc. The world has become more of a melting pot since then, but the festival still very much has its value and charms.

The festival ran downtown for ten years and then was discontinued until 1997, when it was revived at its current location of Riverside Park. The date was also switched to the first weekend in June so as not to conflict with the many holidays and outdoor celebrations that typically occur in July and August. The switch eliminated the logistics and inconvenience that came from closing off the downtown core and provided more space for the festival to unfold. That meant more room for more people to enjoy more vendors, community groups, and other attractions.

The 2017 festival, which unfolded last weekend, highlighted 20 different cultures. While you may enjoy certain kinds of international food and incorporate some overseas traditions into your daily life, festivals of this sort still offer many ways to learn new things about the world and its people.

Of course, food is the universal way for people to connect with new cultures and this year’s fest included cuisine from Vietnam, Germany, India, the Philippines, Greece, Ethiopia, Poland, Spain, and Thailand. Trying dishes from various lands is an excellent way to become more adventurous in your own food choices. It might even inspire you to try your hand at cooking some at home.

If you missed this year’s celebrations, don’t fret. Go ahead and mark your calendar for the first weekend next June. In the meantime, the festival is always looking for volunteers, so consider helping out.



The Rent Fairness Act 2017: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Rents have soared in much of Canada, including many parts of Ontario. If you lived in a building built before 1991, you were protected by provincial guidelines that limited the amount that rents could be increased each year. If not, you were subject to the whims of landlords and that has meant some major shock: rents sometimes go up hundreds of dollars at a time.

The Ontario government recently responded with the Rent Fairness Act 2017, which extends rent protections to all buildings, no matter what year they were constructed.  This no doubt a relief to those in newer buildings, but will not help tenants whose rents went up prior to the act coming into affect.

So, who are the winners and losers here? Tenants would certainly seem to be in the former category. However, they could also end up being losers in the long run.

Some industry representatives have stated that the new rules will dis-incentivize builders from constructing rental housing. The thought here is that it will take much longer for them to recoup and turn a profit through these controlled rents vs the one-time sale of a condominium.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m of two minds. If you cannot afford a house or a condo, it seems like you are throwing money away by renting an apartment. However, if renting is your only option, apartments are a better choice because condo renters have almost no rights.

Also, if you are retirement age and downsizing, renting is not such a bad option, given the controls that the government has put in place.

As an apartment renter in a fairly expensive Southern Ontario city, I welcome these additional controls, even though I already live in a building that is exempt. Everyone needs a little more peace of mind these days and knowing that your rent will remain manageable helps to deliver that.


Hillside Festival: A Guelph Tradition

If you live in or near Guelph, Ontario, you are no doubt familiar with the Hillside Festival. The yearly get together attracts many people from the city and surrounding area, as well as neighboring cities like Toronto.

Hillside debuted in June 1984 as a one day, 11-hour music festival. Admission was free! The festival gradually grew in size, moving to Guelph Lake Island in 1987. The festival continued to grow in popularity, with its artistic and cultural value recognized via Ontario Arts Council and City of Guelph grants. The following year, Hillside had its first sold out Saturday night.

The festival is now a major Guelph event that attracts many well-established and upcoming acts. This year’s dates for Hillside are July 14-16 at the Guelph Lake Conservation area, as per usual. The act list is now up and includes some very talented performers, including Sarah Harmer, The Jerry Cans, Lisa LeBlanc, Common Deer, and Chastity.

If you haven’t done Hillside before, it’s not just sitting and listening to music and spoken word performances. You go for the day or for all three days, camping on the site. The event is family friendly and even includes a kids’ stage, so you don’t have to worry that the kids will get bored. There are also vendors and workshops you can participate in, if you don’t feel like listening to the acts performing at that time.

You can book your campsite space either over the phone or online. As of this writing, we are getting very close to the start dates, so you may only be able to go on a daily basis at this point. Regardless, while camping is fun, it’s not a necessity: you can still have a great time at Hillside if you just come for the day.

Check out the official Hillside site here.


TIFF and the Bell Lightbox: Heaven for Cinephiles

They are still accepting submissions, so we are quite awhile from getting the final line-up for TIFF 2017. But it’s hard not be excited by the imminent arrival of this celebration of worldwide filmmaking. It really makes September much more interesting and, in a way, helps with the sadness I always feel when summer is wrapping up.

The festival was established in 1976 on a far more modest scale than the internationally recognized behemoth we know today. The initial attendance for that 1976 event was only 35,000; can you believe that?

Today, TIFF all but rivals the Cannes Film Festival in terms of its size, the number of films screened, the number of major movies selected, and the importance of the stars and directors who attend. Many a movie has gotten a major launch in theatres because it was so well-received at TIFF.

However, TIFF differs from Cannes in a number of important ways. Unlike that European festival, TIFF is not really as much of a competition. It also costs notably less for Hollywood companies to launch their films in Toronto vs France.

Like Christmas, TIFF comes but once a year. However, there is always the Bell Lightbox. An official arm of TIFF, the Lightbox is almost always in operation and consistently offers an interesting slate of both new and old films. Projection and sound quality is top notch in each of the screening rooms, and most of the audience are dedicated cinephiles. That is nirvana for those tired of the boors in multiplexes who are always playing with their phones during screenings. At one Lightbox movie I attended, someone pulled out a phone and they were admonished within ten seconds. Yes!

So, be sure to enjoy everything TIFF has to offer, but don’t forget about the Lightbox. Check out the latest TIFF schedule here; I’m particularly excited by the upcoming festival dedicated to French crime thrillers! Alain Delon!