In honour of the 137th annual Providence Bay Fair, take a Central Manitoulin tour that salutes our agricultural roots

This stop near Spring Bay on the crop tour offers a prime example of tile drainage.

MANITOULIN – In honour of the 137th annual Providence Bay Fair and its many new and different offerings this year—all this despite a global pandemic—The Expositor will take you on a meandering drive of eastern and Central Manitoulin in honour of the fair’s hay bale, yard display and crop tour and the theme ‘Pioneer Days to Modern Ways.’

We will start the tour in South Baymouth where, after admiring the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, a stop at the Wigwam Gift Shop and a bite to eat at any number of eateries, you will head north along Highway 6. Keep your eyes peeled for a giant teddy bear on your left, just north of Concession 6. Not just any teddy bear, a teddy bear made out of hay bales in honour of the Providence Bay Fair. This is the McNaughton Family Farm entry.

Where Highway 542 meets Highway 6, just after a long curve, turn left onto Highway 542 and head toward Sandfield.

Once at the Sandfield Market, formerly Watson’s General Store, which is home to many Island vendors from Thursday through Saturday in the summer months, look for the second place winner in the Prov Fair’s yard display contest. So stop, check it out and peruse the local wares.

Manitoulin’s largest lake, Lake Manitou, can be seen on your right and there is a tiny picnic park on a small island in the Manitou River just to the left as you cross the bridge over the river.

Continue along Highway 542 to Mindemoya. At this bustling community’s main intersection, take a left onto Yonge Street and follow it south to the Government Road. Take a right onto the Government Road and begin the drive toward picturesque Providence Bay.

At 2670 Government Road, on your right, you will see the Duxbury family’s first place finish entry in the yard display contest that showcases farming through the years. It’s definitely worth a good look. So, get out, stretch your legs and admire this family’s handiwork.

A little further up, also on the right, is the farm of Lyle and Sharon Dewar and its first place finish hay bale structure entry which pays homage to pioneer horses versus the modern tractor. How do you make horses out of hay bales? See for yourself!

The farm of Lyle and Sharon Dewar on the Government Road took first place in the hay bale structure category. The display pays homage to the theme with hay bale horses and tractors. Expositor staff photos

Follow the Government Road to the very end where it meets Highway 551 and take a right. You’ll pass Providence Bay Tent and Trailer Park on your right and on the left, you’ll get glimpses of Lake Huron’s Providence Bay, the sand dunes and the long boardwalk.

Driving through the heart of the village of Providence Bay, there is much to see and do, such as ice cream at Huron Island Time, coffee at the The Mutchmor, shawarma and lots of fresh-baked goodies at Huron Sands. After all that and more, take a right at the intersection of Highway 551 and Concession 10. A short drive along the Concession and you will see Bill and Carol Dewar’s family farm and their second place hay bale display, which also has a focus on the horse of pioneer days and the tractor of today. Continue to follow Concession 10 to Monument Road, taking a left here. On your left you will find the first stop on our crop tour, a beautiful field of peas and oats.

Continue your drive along the Monument Road, crossing the Blue Road, for a prime example of a crop of barley.

Monument Road will meet Highway 551 and here you will take a right and just as the road traces along the shore of Lake Mindemoya, look to your right to find another example of Manitoulin farming at its finest and a soy crop.

Turn yourself around now and head back along Highway 551 until you reach the intersection of 551 and Highway 542, locally known as Dryden’s Corners and well-known for its Meat Boss butcher shop, a source for Island-based beef and pork products and more. Here you will find the perfect vantage point to enjoy the fruits of our farmers’ labour, barley and soy. Take a right on Highway 542 and on your left you will find an example of newly-installed tile drainage.

Follow 542 as it makes a sharp turn left. Straight ahead on the hairpin corner you will see a hay field, crucial to feeding livestock. Just past the corner, on your left, look for the vibrant yellow that marks a canola field followed by, on your right, forage oats and peas.

This is immediately followed by another entry in the hay bale structure competition, the Dawson Family Farm.

Continue through the village of Spring Bay along Highway 542 (you’ll pass Buie’s Store where you can get everything you need, even a barbecued treat) and on your left, another hay bale sculpture entry, a night out at the movies, brought to you by the Noland family. Find a safe place to turn around and head back along Highway 542 until you reach the Grimesthorpe Road where you will take a right. 

Follow Grimesthorpe Road until it meets Beaver Road. Take a left. At this intersection you will find an alfalfa crop, often used for grazing, hay and silage.

Follow Beaver Road back to Dryden’s Corners, again admiring the soy and barley crops as you go. At the intersection hang a right and drive back toward Providence Bay.

At the Sand Road, take a right and give admiring glances to the McDermid family hay bale entry, which took third place. Drive a little further up Sand Road and you will find a prime example of pasture.

Turn back around and take a right back onto Highway 551. Your last crop on this tour is spelt, on your right, used to make speciality flour. Notice the clover underneath that will be ploughed under for ‘green manure’ in the fall.

This concludes the crop, hay bale and yard display tour. Might we suggest a nice dip into Lake Huron at the Providence Bay Beach, the longest stretch of white sand beach in all the nation.

For more on the Providence Bay Fair this weekend, see Pages 14 and 15 of this newspaper or visit providencebayfair.ca.