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COLUMN: Arts Orillia is making its mark on the community

'That was amazing': Small but mighty local arts group is helping organize Gathering: A Festival of First Nations Stories coming up in Rama
Chief Lady Bird will be among those participating in the upcoming Gathering: A Festival of First Nations Stories, coming up in Rama First Nation.

I wanted to start off this week giving a big shout out to Arts Orillia!

This small but mighty team is working very hard to bring Orillians some incredible performances, the likes of which we haven’t seen before! Orillia audiences are being stretched by this programming, and that’s a very good thing.

At both Julie et l’univers in March and the Theatre and Cross Creativity show this past Friday, audience members were impressed, awestruck, and yes, stretched, as evidenced by comments overheard coming out of the theatre.

Comments like “That was amazing,” “I’ve never seen anything like that,” “I’m going to be thinking about this all night,” peppered the Orillia Opera House Green Room. 

So, when you see Arts Orillia is producing something ... don’t hesitate, don’t think, just go!

Which leads me to my next item.

Arts Orillia (remember what I said?) is putting on the sixth iteration of Gathering: A Festival of First Nations Stories, next Friday and Saturday, May 31 and June 1. This is Arts Orillia’s most long-running regular programming, albeit with some tweaks and changes along the way. And, admission to the entire festival is absolutely free for everyone. 

The whole festival takes place at Rama Community Hall and the project is a real collaboration and partnership between Arts Orillia and Rama First Nation. This project is near and dear to all of the collaborators’ hearts, and it shows. 

This year, Gathering Festival starts off at the Rama Community Hall with greetings and a Welcome Circle with Rama First Nation Elders and esteemed guests, at 7 p.m. Then the hall gets loud with a concert by special guest DJ Boogey the Beat, starting at 8 p.m. This will be an amazing and yes, different show again for everyone in our area. We don’t often get to experience an artist of this calibre here, so come check it out. And yes, the concert is absolutely free.

Saturday June 1, things kick off early with a Sunrise Circle at Victoria Park in Rama, at 5:20 a.m. The park entrance is just off Rama Road, just north of Gray’s Bay. Then, our good neighbours and friends from Rama invite everyone back to Rama Community Hall for a community breakfast, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. This will be absolutely delicious, take it from me. And free, once again.

At 9 a.m. the day’s activities of readings and storytelling will begin. Again, admission to the whole day is free. Kick off speakers are Rama residents Sherry Lawson and Chief Lady Bird. These powerful women represent their community and history so well, and you really won’t want to miss them.

The rest of the day includes presentations from Keesic Douglas and Binoojiinyag gaa bi giiwejig — Children Who Came Home, before lunch, which is available to purchase and believe me it will also be delicious; then Indigenous Governance — Christa Big Canoe and Julie Williams at 1 p.m.; Armand Garnet Ruffo and Brandon Reid; Alicia Elliott and Drew Hayden Taylor; then closing remarks by Sherry Lawson and Arts Orillia Artistic Director Kate Hilliard. 

This will be a full day of learning, of community, and of reconciliation. If you are at all interested in any of this, come. It’s all free, Arts Orillia just asks that you register here so they can keep track of numbers. See you there!

This Saturday May 25 is the Coldwater Lions Club Duck Race and there are street vendors, music, and activities all around that, all in the village of Coldwater. The fun starts at 11 a.m. with the parade at 1 and the duck drop at 2.

Also this Saturday at 2 p.m. come out to Harmony for Hunger! A concert by the Orillia Community Children’s Choir with special guests, members of the Orillia Vocal Ensemble, at St. Paul’s Centre. Admission is $10 at the door and there will be an opportunity to donate to the Sharing Place Food Centre for its school breakfast programs.

Further out of town, the Barrie Waterfront Festival is happening all weekend long. Find out all about it here.

A little closer in, great music all weekend at Quayle’s Brewery with Ron Whitman on Thursday, Sydney Riley Friday, Stephan Bernard Saturday, and Fraser Wayne Sunday afternoon. 

The Coulson Concert series, set in the historic Coulson Church at 301 Horseshoe Valley Rd. W., presents Jowi Taylor and his incredible show, Six String Nation. This is a multi-media show centred around a single acoustic guitar nicknamed Voyageur. 

This unique instrument has been crafted from 64 pieces of wood, bone, metal, stone and horn, representing a variety of cultures, communities, characters and events from every province and territory of Canada. The project combines music, media, community engagement, and the dynamics of Canadian history and multicultural identity, and is an incredibly moving show for Canadians. The show is Sunday May 26 at 2 p.m. and you can get tickets here.

The Offcuts are playing at Couchiching Craft Brewery Friday night.

Don't forget the Back to the 90's Video Dance Party this Saturday at ODAS Park. Raising money for bikes for kids is always a good thing! Get your tickets now at

Coming up in June? A special organ concert at St. James'; Gathering; and a full week of Pride events including a parade and two nights of a special Queer Cabaret at the MAT Warehouse ... tickets on sale soon!

If you have arts news, send it to [email protected] by Tuesday at noon to be included. 




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