Opinion Editorial

Orillia's time to shine

Saturday was one of those magical days in the Sunshine City. The sky provided an idyllic backdrop of endless blue with nary a cloud in sight. The sun shone all day. And while it could have been warmer, the evening was clear and brilliant under a crescent moon.

And, on this particular day, the downtown sparkled like the jewel we all know it can be. The day began early with the 175th anniversary of the Orillia Farmers' Market, where the Local Food Festival was celebrated. Dozens of vendors at the downtown market and the Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers' Market offered samples of their tasty, home-grown products.

ODAS Park also hosted a Farmers' Lunch in which a sell-out crowd of 60 people enjoyed the tasty menu and the laid-back atmosphere in one of the park's cavernous buildings. Chef Melanie Robinson, a vendor at the market who had assistance from 15 other vendors, assembled the menu. "It was "¦ a comfortable, community-inspired event, with a little bit of farm chic," she said of the "fantastic" inaugural event.

It was one of two community meals on Saturday's menu. Later that evening, an entire block of Mississaga Street, outside the library, was transformed into a giant outdoor dining room that hosted the first Farm to Table Dinner -- a sold-out affair that saw 100 people sit down, together, to enjoy a varied, delectable menu with local roots.

The downtown event featured food from six local eateries, and while the grub was top-notch, the atmosphere was a unique blend of old-fashioned charm and old-world hospitality mixed with the ambience of a community picnic. "It's just a great community atmosphere," said Lisa Thomson-Roop, of the Downtown Orillia Management Board. "It looks incredible, everyone is having such a great time and "¦ frankly, this is what downtown Orillia is about: being a hub for the community."

That was evident after dinner, as well, when the streets were buzzing with art lovers who celebrated the unveiling of the winners of the Maple Masterpieces, those spectacular maple leaves situated throughout the downtown as part of this year's Streets Alive event. After that, hundreds poured into the downtown to revel in Starry Night, an annual celebration of art and galleries in the Peter Street Arts District. While there was an amazing and eclectic offering of art and artisans, there was also enthusiasm and excitement coursing through the boutiques, galleries, studios and streets. "There's so much energy "¦ It's really nice," said Naomi Woodman, who was exhibiting her photography while, next door, Travis Shilling was doing live painting.

It was one of those days when the potential of a city is realized, when the spirit of a community is on display for all to see. It was, in short, a magnificent day to be in Orillia and is an example of all that is right and good about this city we call home. Take a bow, Orillia.

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