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Friday, May 25, 2012

Growing up 'small town'

When I was born at the Kemptville Hospital in 1968, my parents were living in an apartment above Anderson’s Ladies’ Wear (where To Be Continued Consignment is now). Soon we moved to a little bungalow on George Street, and then my sister Cathy came along. We grew up in a neighbourhood where the kids were outside all day when they weren’t in school, only coming in for meal times. Our neighbours were the Bartletts, the Algers, the Shays, then the Wisslers and the Bosiks. We climbed trees, played Barbies and G-I-Joes in the hedgerow, and put on dance performances on the front yard for passers-by in the cool of the evening.


We walked to the town pool in summer and stopped by Raina’s Mall for candy (and cigarettes for Dad) on the way home. We didn’t have iPods, cell phones or computers. We barely had three channels of TV. How did we survive? A trip to McDonald’s, saved for special occasions, took close to an hour, straight up 44 through North Gower.

Later we moved to the country, where we built tree forts, and rode horses.

Highlights of summer included the summer fair in Riverside Park, and fireworks on Canada Day. Mom bathed us and put us in our pajamas after dinner, and we were laid out on sleeping bags in the back of a station wagon. No seatbelts. After dark, we had a tailgate party, watching the fireworks. If we got tired, we were already in bed. Now that’s the way to do it.

Like most kids growing up in a small town, I couldn’t wait to get out. I married at 19, and moved to the city. But years later, even after living overseas, I always felt Kemptville was my home.

Kemptville has changed a lot in the past few decades, but in some ways it remains the same. I believe we have retained our small-town spirit, although we have grown in size from the 4,000 people who lived here when I was born to the15,000 souls who call North Grenville home now. I do not think we will ever become a Barrhaven-type suburban community, where we don’t know our neighbours. At least I hope we won’t.

If you are raising a young family in Kemptville, good for you. I, for one, think you have made the right choice.

This weekend we will celebrate all of the local talent that blooms in our small town. From art to music to food, we have some amazing hidden talent that is just waiting to be discovered.

The Dandelion Festival is organized by a group of volunteers who are just as proud of Kemptville as I am. They want everyone to know what we’re all about. We have talented artists in this community. Painters. Photographers. Songwriters and musicians. Come to Riverside Park this weekend and experience some of the work they are doing. Bring your lawnchair to the main stage, grab yourself a snack and settle in for the show. A steady stream of entertainment is planned, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

Rediscover the businesses of Old Town Kemptville. Many of them will have sidewalk sales and specials on festival weekend. On Saturday, I will be live on location for Kemptville’s new radio station, STAR 97.5fm. Come and say hi! I will also MC the fashion show for To Be Continued—one of my favourite places to find great deals.

On Sunday, the Kemptville Kinsmen Farmers’ Market opens for the season. Sample fresh samosas, chutneys and lemonade and stock up on baked goods, or just get to know the vendors who will bring you farm-fresh meats and vegetables later in the season.

If you’ve got children—or if you’re still a child yourself—head to the Kids’ Zone where the Reptile Rainforest and petting zoo will keep you entertained for hours. And if you head over to the dunk tank between 11 and 11:30, for a small fee you can dunk The Accidental Farmwife.

Bring the family out, meet your neighbours, and teach your kids about their hometown. The Dandelion Festival is just one more reason to love Kemptville. Be proud of your little community, and proud of yourself for choosing to live here.

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