Taste of Manitoulin can add much to spring shoulder tourism

The ‘Taste of Manitoulin’ festival that ended with Sunday’s focus on Meldrum Bay and Western Manitoulin has been a signally good idea. It has linked virtually all of Manitoulin’s communities, large and small, under a common theme (local food and Manitoulin’s cultures) and, over 12 days, managed to link both large and ongoing community activities (the Manitoulin Trade Fair, the Aundek Omni Kaning powwow, the Bluegrass in the Country event in Providence Bay) with smaller community events that local people put together simply to be part of the 12 days of activities.

In this way, though, Tehkummah and South Baymouth, Mindemoya, M’Chigeeng, Little Current, Manitowaning, Sheguiandah, Kagawong, and Gore Bay were all given their own “focus days” (some days were shared) in which to organize their own events.

Most were public and were put together by community groups like the Central Manitoulin Historical Society’s Mindemoya Pioneer Park event, the Big Lake Schoolhouse Association Big Tasty Breakfast, the Red School House Museum in South Baymouth, the Assiginack Museum in Manitowaning, the Centennial Museum in Sheguiandah.
Others were organized by private businesses or individuals: Maja’s Garden herb planting demonstration, the Burt Farm tour, the Manitoulin Writers’ Circle in Gore Bay, the Stone Soup supper (organized collectively by the downtown Little Current eateries), the Focus on Fish recipe contest and ensuing recipe book (organized by The Expositor Office) and the De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre group, to name just a few.

The 2011 Taste of Manitoulin week has been the prototype year and the hope is to make this an ongoing spring activity that offers not only Manitoulin people a reason to visit neighbouring communities but, when word gets around, a reason for tourists to visit Manitoulin for a day or two or for the whole week.

Kudos to Manitoulin Tourism Association chair Laura Wall-Varey and MTA vice-chair Lois Keller for taking, literally, months out of their busy schedules to explain the concept to a myriad number of councils, organizations, groups and businesses. Their hard work and vision brought about a unique, Island-wide event.

The concept also caught the imagination of Mary Nelder, LAMBAC executive director and Manitoulin and area’s Northern Development Officer, Esther Spadzinski who gave it much support. Ms. Nelder even suggested the “culinary cookoff” event that became LAMBAC’s Taste of Manitoulin activity (also showcasing it at the Trade Fair) and also put up the prize money for the winning entry.

At the very least, the Taste of Manitoulin festival contributed much to Manitoulin’s sense of community. Hopefully, it is the important beginning of an effort to add to the spring shoulder season for tourism on Manitoulin.