Norfolk County is a beautiful place to visit, live and work. The passionate people of Norfolk drive the beauty, innovation and resiliency of our region.
Welcome to Passionate Folks, a new video and blog series about the stories of people who live in Norfolk County! Tune in each month to hear from passionate people who are involved in our community, who are the movers and shakers. People with a vision for Norfolk, people who put their heart into it. Each guest picks a location that means something special to them and then we meet there and we chat, we laugh and we share!
For this 7th and final episode [View Video], I sat down over coffee with Dan Fewings for an entertaining conversation. Dan grew up here in Norfolk County and after graduating from Simcoe Composite School, he left the area to teach high school in the Kawarthas. It wasn’t until his retirement about 5 years ago that this interesting man made his way back to his hometown. It was a privilege to chat with Dan and get to know more about him, his passions and what he loves to do around Norfolk.
The Crepe House is a special spot for Dan. He obviously loves the food, the crepes are truly amazing but this place means so much more to him. The owners Penny and Jim do an excellent job promoting local musicians. They are community minded people and Dan is proud to have them as friends. The patio features performers every weekend of the summer which creates an incredible vibe for Port Dover. Dan had the opportunity to perform there many times and he is grateful for each of these events.
Simcoe Little Theatre is another place that Dan loves. If he is not on the stage, you can find him in the audience watching the play and supporting local actors and productions. According to Dan, keeping busy gets him out of doing the housework which is just fine with him. (sorry Dan, had to put that in the blog!). He is excited about the amazing venues popping up around the county with the growing wine and beer industries. There are many possibilities for performers to showcase their talent. Dan has many connections in the music industry allowing him to welcome well known artists to small venues around Norfolk. I was fortunate to attend a performance earlier this year. I was totally blown away by the caliber of the talent I got to see.
Retirement in Norfolk County does not mean sitting around for Dan. It’s about spreading joy to the people of the region and beyond. Music, theatre, improvisation and other art forms are just fun ways to make people smile. From gigs in retirement homes to larger stages, Dan keeps active in the community by sharing some of his passions.
On quiet days, Dan loves to drive along the edges of the Lake Erie. Following the shorelines of Norfolk allows Dan to connect with himself and find answers. The geography of the area is attractive to him and he is captivated by the dancing waves.
From improvising a song for me to showing me his mask creations, and then chatting about joy, this self-taught musician is one of the most interesting people I’ve had the privilege to meet. I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase yet another passionate person who lives in our beautiful county.
Now, time to enjoy the festive season and spread our own joy! Dan has lots coming up in 2020 so keep your eye on this fun loving guy. Watch for his partnership with the Waterford Old Town Hall over March Break for a Youth Theatre Camp and an exciting new improv group called The Improvanauts.
Thank you for tuning in over the last 7 months, it has been a pleasure to feature passionate folks who live in the place I am proud to call home, Norfolk County.
For this 6th episode, I met up with Sue Downs, a Norfolk native who is an anchor in this community. We chatted about many memories that are close to her heart growing up in downtown Simcoe. Sue and I had a great conversation about how Norfolk has shifted over the years to what is today.
Who doesn’t love the Fair? Sue is definitely a huge fan of the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show and invited me to meet her on the fairgrounds for the interview. She has only missed the annual event once in her entire life. Growing up just around the corner from the fairgrounds, Sue recalls eagerly awaiting the opening day each year. She loves pretty much everything about the event, the Norfolk culture and farming history, music, displays … and a chance to catch up with everybody she knows! Perhaps showing her age, Sue was telling me that as a young girl she owned a horse that was boarded at the fairgrounds. She remembers having to take the horse home to hang out in her backyard during the week of the fair!
When it comes to Sue’s passions, she is undeniably all about Norfolk! She supports the local businesses, organizations and causes. Sue and her group of girlfriends are enthusiastic when it comes to what the county has to offer. They enjoy the local restaurants and share their experiences, encouraging others to do the same. She loves to see the amazing collaborations that are happening in the Norfolk County. One of her favorites is Long Point Eco Adventures. Together with Burning Kiln Winery, Hometown Brew Co., and Joy Café, they are creating a special place to enjoy some of her favourite things.
Sue loves to garden and walk the trails in her down time. With the trail head being just steps away from her home, she loves to venture out for some fitness and sunshine. Her favorite trail goes all the way to Waterford which is a great hike! She also loves to spend some quality time with her much loved dog Bella*. A short walk up the street is a special time for both of them.
Spending time in Port Dover is another one of her favorite things to do on a day off. From sipping a coffee on the patio, to walking down the pier, she loves to see people and remember the past with the dedicated benches on the harbourfront. Norfolk County is her home and evidently a special place that she doesn’t take for granted.
I am grateful for this beautiful conversation. I truly believe that people like Sue make this place unique. I love how much she gets involved and how she shows her love for local businesses. Take time to share the joy of eating and shopping local too, especially during the holiday season.
*Note: Since the interview, Bella – Sue’s precious dog – unfortunately passed away. She will be greatly missed. May she Rest In Peace.
For this 5th episode, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Scott McRae a local chef who lives in Port Dover. Scott spent his high school years here and after being away in the big city for some time, he decided to reconnect with his roots and be closer to his family. He returned to make Norfolk County his home.
As usual, I asked my guest to pick a location for our chat. Scott picked Matz Fruit Barn. This little farm on the west side of Port Dover grows so many different varieties of produce which Scott loves to use at the restaurant. Norfolk County grows an abundance of food and this farm is a great representation of Ontario’s Garden. It’s a wonderful example of what this area has to offer. This family business is an amazing spot to source fresh local fruits and vegetables and over the years, Scott has formed a close relationship with the farmers.
This man has a passion for food. Scott holds many memories from his childhood that were created around food. From eating mulberries picked fresh from his grandmother’s tree to the first time he tasted an olive, food has played an important part in his life. Now this chef loves to tell new stories through the food he prepares at the lakeside restaurant, David’s.
Although being in the restaurant industry doesn’t leave loads of time for his personal life, Scott really enjoys birding. This hobby he picked up from his grandma when he was a kid. Long Point is a meca for birdwatchers with over 400 species being spotted over the point during migration.
He is also a record collector and a music lover. This passionate guy loves to spend time treasure hunting at Waterford Antique Market and really enjoys the local music scene. Sitting on a patio with friends and enjoying local tunes is how he loves to spend his down time.
Exploring locally crafted brews is also high on Scott’s list of things to do to unwind. Norfolk County’s wine, beer and cider scene has really exploded over the last decade. With many award winning recipes throughout the county there’s something for everyone.
Norfolk County is where Scott belongs and where he has decided to settle in. His long time friends and his family makes his life in this rural area exactly what he wants it to be. Scott and I agreed that we live in a really cool place. His passion for local food and for what Norfolk means to him is inspiring. After visiting Matz Fruit Barn with him, I couldn’t help but stock up on some fresh local produce for my own family!!
Next month, watch for a new video and blog about another passionate Norfolk County person. In the meantime, make sure to visit Norfolk and discover what Ontario’s Garden has to offer.
I met up with Nick Vranckx, a Norfolk County man who grew up in Langton and now lives in St. Williams. Nick comes from a long line of people possessing a deep love of agriculture. He is a farmer and a winemaker, with deep roots in our county.
When I asked Nick to pick a location for his interview, right away he invited me to visit his family farm, Blueberry Hill Estate. The farm, which overlooks the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve, had its start as Ontario’s first commercial blueberry operation. The Vranckx family has expanded the business to include a rustic winery retail store and a seasonal farm market on the property. Nick spends most of his days on the farm, working the land and growing his agri-tourism business. It was interesting to meet him in his element. This scenic farmland was the perfect place to sit down, chat and taste some delicious wine.
Nick is passionate about wine and specifically about raising awareness about growing grapes in southwestern Ontario, which encompasses Norfolk County. This area has the potential to make world-class wines and Nick loves to advocate for this cause. Here, he feels he has the opportunity to create some of the best agricultural product and he certainly doesn’t take it for granted. He is passionate about creating a quality product that tells the story of the crop that he farms each season.
His farming business keeps this family man busy for most of the year. In his spare time, he loves to enjoy a day at the beach. Turkey Point is nearby and he will visit this picturesque village with his wife and child to de-stress and spend some quiet, quality moments with them. We are so lucky to be surrounded by many amazing sandy beaches in Norfolk County.
Nick also appreciates eating in local restaurants, savouring the locally grown produce and cuisine. He is impressed with the number of great locations that serve high quality food within a ten-minute radius of his home. Supporting other local agri-tourism partners is something he loves doing.
Farming has greatly evolved over the last decade and working together with other businesses and farmers is key to the growth of the county. Nick, through his involvement with the Ontario South Coast Winery and Growers Association, is doing his part to promote the award-winning grape and fruit wines, hard ciders, and craft-brewed beers and spirits that reflect the history and character of the region.
It was a pleasure to sit down and get to know more about Nick during this interview. Harvest season is here and it is time to celebrate our region and our farmers who make it happen. Be sure to take the time to stop at a local winery or brewery and taste the goodness our region has to offer.
Adam Van Paassen
I asked Adam Van Paassen to join me for a chat at his favourite local spot. Adam was born and raised on a farm in Norfolk County. At a young age, he started to work on the farm and learned to appreciate the environment. He comes from a family that gets involved in its community and watching his dad participate in local politics sparked his interest in Norfolk County, what it offers and for what it could become.
Unlike many other local teenagers, Adam wasn’t one to dream of getting out of the area. On the contrary, he always thought the biggest and best things were right here in Norfolk County! After being away for a while studying Environmental Technologies in Lindsay, Ontario, Adam was eager to return and start his adult life in Norfolk County, and to grow his roots deeper into the area that is so close to his heart.
Adam picked Booth’s Harbour as the location of choice for his interview. This marina and seasonal trailer park is a very unique spot located between Turkey Point and Port Rowan. Growing up, Adam was able to spend some time there with his best friend Andy, whose family still owns it today. Now, as adults, these two friends continue to enjoy hanging out, relaxing, boating, fishing and hunting at the Harbour. Adam has also worked and volunteered there over the years and says he feels right at home amongst the boathouses and seasonal residents. He told me an amazing fact about this little gem, Booth’s Harbour actually has the most available indoor boat storage in the world!
The earth, especially in light of everything going on in the world, is something that this nature-loving fellow is passionate about. He says: “I want the earth to be a good place; I want Norfolk County to be a good place”. He wants to take care of the area because everything he loves is related to the environment. Adam and his wife have been making some changes in their household routines to do their part. These small changes are not easy, but he encourages all of us to come together and start to make a difference towards the larger environmental issues.
Being a volunteer firefighter and putting a lot of energy into his work at Long Point Eco Adventures doesn’t stop Adam from getting out on Lake Erie, his favorite thing to do to de-stress. Boating, ice fishing and swimming are the activities at the top of his list. He also enjoys Norfolk’s bounty, with an abundance of breweries, wineries and local foods to explore nearby. A short ten-minute drive is all it takes to connect with many other passionate folks who run local businesses as this area is growing and that is so exciting.
Adam and I connected about the outdoors. His love for nature, his passion for the Earth and his strong ties to Norfolk County are refreshing and near and dear to my own heart!
I look forward to introducing my next guest in September. Until then, please do your little part for the earth. Bigger changes will come from all of us getting involved with small changes in our day to day lives. Don’t forget to spend some time outside and appreciate the beauty all around you!
I sat down with Kerry Bockenholt, a mom, wife, entrepreneur and community woman who lives in Waterford.
After moving to Norfolk 15 years ago, Kerry knew that getting involved in the community was important. It is how she met so many different people that she wouldn’t have met otherwise. From parent council to youth group, Kerry is now a pillar in her community. She brings her smile and positivity wherever she goes!
Along with about 40 other community members, she has invested a lot of her energy over the last few years into the dream of creating a skateboard park in Waterford and she is clearly dedicated to this project. She selected the Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum as her special spot for this interview as this very location is the site of the new skate park! She, along with her friends, have been successfully rallying the community to raise funds to create this space for kids to hang out, be active and have a place where they feel welcome.
Kerry loves kids, she says: “there is no such thing as a bad kid, kids make bad decisions”. She knows from experience that youth need support. They need to know that people are there for them. Her restaurant, Kerry’s St. James St. Eatery, is a place that makes you feel like family, it’s a place where both young and old feel welcome. Monthly, she opens the door to her youth group and, along with her friend Marlene, she plans something fun for them and feeds them.
To kick off the series, I am excited to sit down with Jess Bommarito, a Norfolk gal who loves arts, theatre, music and is an undeniable Norfolk advocate. She runs a business in downtown Simcoe, loves to volunteer, enjoys the art local scene and builds community.
When I asked Jess to pick a location, there wasn’t much hesitation… The Simcoe Little Theatre is a special place for her. It has been a huge part of her life since she was a young girl. From performing on stage, watching shows or volunteering along with her family members, she feels at home in our small town community theatre.
Even Louise at the front desk of the theatre remembers Jess as a child full of life who ate up everything art related. In a small community, paths cross. Louise was also a teacher at Jess’s high school in Waterford and as part of the village it requires to put all the pieces of a production together. Even at a young age, Jess knew how to build community; she was quick to rally all the moms with the help of her friends to resurrect the high school plays!
To Jess, community is everything!
“We are not meant to live life alone,” she says. She loves to connect with people, engage them and allow them to show their true potential. She loves to perform. There is something cool about being on stage that keeps her going. She says she simply feels alive when she is performing.
“Just because we are a small town, it doesn’t mean that we have small ideas or small impacts.”
What Jess loves about Norfolk is its geography, nature. We are so lucky to live here!
Beyond its natural beauty, it’s the people who keep her here: talented, loving people with vision.
It was a true pleasure to chat with this down-to-earth, passionate, genuine person for the first feature. I look forward to introducing my next guest in the next few weeks!
Until next time, keep living your passions, following your hearts and being true to yourselves.
About the blogger
Amélie Chanda is a Norfolk County based wellness coach with a passion for active living. She loves to connect with people, ask questions and create connections. Follow her on a monthly basis with Passionate Folks, a series about the people of Norfolk County.
Photos: Drew Walmsley