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COLUMN: 'Amazing' local nominees up for coveted ORAH awards

Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards gala on Nov. 23 is an opportunity to honour and recognize the who's who of local arts and heritage community

I would like to start off with an event that is near and dear to my heart: the Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards. Quite a mouthful, so we on the organizing committee like to call them the ORAH Awards.

These awards are the latest (four years) iteration of what used to be the Arts Awards, organized and distributed by the Orillia District Arts Council; and the Heritage Awards, under the purview of the Orillia Museum of Art and History.

Four years ago, someone had the bright idea of combining the two awards nights into one, and the City of Orillia's Department of Business Development, Culture and Tourism also jumped in. eCapital is the major sponsor, to help make it a truly gala event. Thus, the ORAH Awards were born.

The Awards kept going through the COVID-19 pandemic, with an online version at the Leacock Museum, with MC Jacqueline Surette, in 2020; and an in-person, vaccinated audience last year, with MCs Peter and Sadie Stranks, at St. Paul’s Centre.

What are the Awards, and how do they work? In early September of each year, a nominating committee is struck, and media, both mainstream and social, are informed of the nomination deadline.

There are five award categories, and the nominating committee is tasked with coming up with, or helping others come up with, deserving nominees in each category. Here, the difficulty is not coming up with deserving nominees; it is coming up with people who will step up to nominate.

Each year, nominators and the nominating committee persevere, and there are always at least 18 to 24 nominees, at the end of the nominating period, spread among the five categories.

This year, the nominees are:

Education in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award: Jessica Allen, Steph Dunn, Kate Hilliard, Errol Lee, Meg Leslie, Jayne Poolton-Turvey, and Rick Purcell.

Emerging Artist Award: Richie Benson, Jordyn Nancy Greer, Raune-Lea Marshall, and M Nowick-Rigelhof.

Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication Award: Orillia Heritage Centre; Orillia OPP Museum; Lori Oschefski and her work for British Home Children; and Jim Ostler Contracting for the Old Firehall.

Event in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award: Art Trees of Oro-Medonte; and the Mariposa Folk Festival.

And finally, the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award, recognizing an individual or group of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of their community. This year’s nominees are: Mike Rothwell, and Doreen Uren Simmons.

These are all amazing nominees, who give so much to make Orillia and area an incredible place to be.

Please come and celebrate all the nominees at the special gala awards night on Wed. Nov. 23 at the Orillia Opera House (OOH). From 6 to 7 p.m., come mingle and enjoy a cash bar and free snacks in the Green Room at the OOH, then the audience will move upstairs to the Lightfoot Auditorium to watch the awards presentation. MCs this year are Errol Lee and Sue Charters. Everything should be wrapped up by 8:30 p.m.

There will be a red carpet, so do dress up if you want, and of course masks are your choice. The whole evening is free. Come out and celebrate our arts and heritage sector.

Don’t forget about Creative Nomad’s grand opening (and two-year anniversary) Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will feature delicious snacks and bar, and a ribbon cutting by Mayor Steve Clarke.

Of course, Mariposa Arts Theatre’s production of Rocky Horror is on this week and next, from Thursday to Sunday. Get your tickets at This will likely sell out, so don’t dilly dally.

The Orillia Vocal Ensemble fall concert is a fundraiser for Couchiching Conservancy and it is happening at St. Paul’s Centre tonight at 7:30 p.m. Admission is a cash donation to the non-profit, so come out and enjoy.

On Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., the Orillia Museum of Art and History will host the 2022 Virtual Carmichael Art History Lecture Fundraiser on Zoom.

Award-winning author Douglas Hunter will speak on A.Y. Jackson, the birth of the Group of Seven and the Great War. Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson was an artist, as well as a soldier and a war artist. Hunter will give a captivating account of the many wars Jackson fought, on and off the battlefield.

This event is a fundraiser for the museum and for $10 you will receive the Zoom link. Here is the link to buy tickets.

Don’t forget the fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre and Rama Youth Services, featuring William Prince and Le Ren, at Fern Resort on Nov. 20. at 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $40, and you can get them here.

This weekend in live music? Jakob Pearce is at Couchiching Craft Brewery, Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m.; Steve Henry and friends are there Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. Zachary Lucky plays the PICNIC Tapas and Wine Bar Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m. The Chris Robinson-Will Davis jazz duo is playing at Lot 88 on Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.

Have a great week and enjoy arts and culture in our special city. If you have arts news, send it to [email protected] by Tuesday at noon to be included.