Guests at Casino Rama Resort come for the fun, for the entertainment, the food and the pampering, but there are a growing number of visitors who are drawn to something new. They come for the charming fall colours that mesmerize your soul in stillness and brilliance, they come for the country festivals and village fetes, and others are drawn to native events and food celebrations. Here are my top picks for an extended stay in Orillia that combines casino fun with world-class entertainment and a quaint Orillia experience.
6th Annual Coldwater Steampunk Festival
August 5 + 6
Steampunking is the fastest growing cultural movement in North America and what makes Coldwater’s Steampunk Festival unique is that the festival takes over the entire village of Coldwater. From the historic grist mill to the main street, side alley and museum, the village is transported back over 100 years with reenactments (dueling knights, old fashioned circus sideshows and mad hatter’s tea parties), demonstrations (ink blocking, craft making, steam technology), crafts and delicious foods stuffs. If you’re thinking this is made-up fun, it’s not! Steampunking is historically researched and accurately reenacted. If you love fantasy and costume, this is the festival for you. Most steampunkers are part of the Makers Movement which means they’ll be offering up sewing, leather making, metal-smiting, weaponry, robotics and other amazing crafts revived by more than 75 artisans. Come in costume (or not) and experience steampunking!
18th Annual Classic Car Show
9 am – 5 pm, Downtown Orillia
If you love old classic cars, then you’ve got to check out what’s happening in the town of the Tudhope Carriage Company. Don’t know what a Tudhope is? Then come to see the bright, red 1912 Tudhope among the other 450 classic cars that line the streets of Orillia. There is an eclectic range of vintage cars from Ford, Dodge and Chevy along with the best muscle cars the likes of Thunderbird, Mustang and Shelby. New this year is a restored 1923 La France Fire Engine. Hundreds of classic cars line the streets, thousands of people flood between them and a vintage car rally converges at St James Cathedral. Live bands will be playing on street corners; there’ll be ice cream stands and sizzling fries from the fry trucks. The old Tudhope Carriage Company was renovated in the 1950’s into condominiums, office spaces and Orillia City Hall, which proudly displays the signs of the former auto company in it’s lobby. Don’t miss this one.
12th Annual Starry Night Gallery & Studio Tour
In very Van Gogh-style Orillia will host its twelfth art crawl they call Starry Night Gallery & Studio Tour. Download the map from the website and set out on foot to over 23 destinations from art galleries to book stores and café’s showing the works of over 100 artists from the Orillia area. Orillia has long been known for its art community inspiring the likes of Charles Pachter, Franklin Carmichael (Group of Seven), pianist Glen Gould and author Stephen Leacock. With this eclectic collection of amazing artwork it’s not hard to see Orillia’s artists have been inspired by the greats. Businesses will be open so sit and have a coffee at Apple Annie’s Café, pick up a pie at Mariposa Market or butter tart at Wilkies. Charles Pachter loves them so much he gave them a copy of his work, The State of (butter) Tarts that hangs permanently in the bakery. Come out and find an artist you’d love hanging in your home.
31st Annual Chippewas of Rama First Nation PowWow
August 20 + 21
The Chippewas of Rama First Nation welcome everyone to enjoy their annual Powwow – a weekend of song, dance and music. This annual event draws competitive native dancers from across North America who compete not only for their dance but also for their elaborate costumes. The costumes tell the story of the dancer, the clan, the family and native tradition. Listen to each dance introduction and watch as the story unfolds through song, dance and music. Pay close attention to the dancers wearing numbers because they’re being judged in a nation-wide competition. Powwow’s are about family gatherings so bring the entire family and lots of sunscreen. There will be lots to enjoy, plenty to eat and almost 70 artisan crafters offering traditional native items. Held at the John Snake Memorial Multi-Purpose Grounds on Rama Road.
2nd Annual Orillia Rib Fest
August 26 to 28
This is a rib-smacking, finger-licking event on the shores of Lake Couchiching! Trophy winning rib masters – or ribbers, as the locals call them – from across the country converge at Tudhope Park to slather and sizzle their best ribs for a crowd of hungry carnivores. Whether you like your ribs low and slow or flamed and sizzled, if you like them meaty or fall-off-the-bone, sweet and sticky or hot and smoky, there will be six different styles of ribs to choose from – heck, try them all and declare your favourite! Settle into a picnic table around the beer tent with live entertainment to savour every bite. Don’t forget the fresh cut fries, blooming onions, elephant ears, ice cream and funnel cakes! Satisfying for the palate, fun for the family.
26th Annual Orillia Jazz Festival
October 13 to 16
It’s all about real jazz performed by real Orillia jazz performers. Listen to Molly Johnston crooning to the tunes of Billie Holiday at the Opera House (ticketed event), Lance Anderson’s blues at the St Paul’s Centre and the Latin jazz of Bill McBirnie at a small, intimate pizza parlour. Even the Saturday farmers’ market takes on a jazzy vibe with the sounds of light jazz in the arboretum. Come with the intention of spending an afternoon in Orillia when it transforms itself into a jazz mecca with more than fifteen venues hosting concerts over four days. Pick an intimate evening at small bistros or purchase tickets to a serious performance in a concert hall. Listen to how different the classics can be when played by the talents and personality of each artist.
Coldwater Witches Walk
Are you a good witch or bad, do you dress in black or glittery white? The Annual Coldwater Witches Walk is an adult only event celebrating the dark art of witchcraft in a light and fun way. Every witch in full regalia gets a passport that takes them to the many main street merchants to collect passport stamps, each full passport is eligible for prizes from the local merchants. Drink some witches brew, cackle down the street, have your cards read and come out for some bewitching fun!
Flavours of Ontario’s Lake Country
October 21 to November 6
The agricultural regions of Simcoe County and Ontario’s Lake Country are virtual culinary playgrounds for chefs and home cooks alike and this two week long event is to celebrate the bounty of a fall harvest from tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to beets, pumpkin and corn. On the menu of participating restaurants you’ll see chefs create dishes with cranberries from Bala, corn from Hewitts or heirloom carrots from Carron Farm. Choose from a lunch or dinner menu with super introductory pricing so you can taste new dishes from tried and true chefs. Like the chefs, if you’re a lover of good food, get out into the backroads and visit a local farm market for some freshly harvested bounty. It’s time to celebrate the final harvests of the year and thank our farmers for growing and raising some pretty good food.