Spending July 1—Canada Day— in Stratford, Ontario provided an unforgettable experience of tours, history, food, performance, and…horses.
We started with an extended Festival Theater tour with Roger, a 20 plus year volunteer with the festival. He was a wealth of information and a gifted storyteller! What a treat as we got a view of a change-over on the stage from Twelfth Night to the New York nightlife of Guys and Dolls. We also had a chat with renowned Stratford actor and director, Graham Abbey.
After trying out some street food in the newly renovated “Market Square” of downtown Stratford, we found our way to a city tour via a carriage ride with two beautifully decorated horses. We saw the remnants of mid twentieth century Stratford as a thriving industry town. As it sought to reinvent itself in the face of economic challenges in the 1960s, Stratford looked to Shakespeare theatre to educate and enrich the lives of its citizens. Despite its humble beginnings, the festival is now in its 65th season. For 2017, the budget is over 61 million dollars, with only 6% coming from any government funds. It is a wonderful story of culture driving the economy while maintaining a deep commitment to creating a beautiful community.
Evidence of this community is everywhere today. To celebrate this special national holiday, many Canadians brought their whole family, especially lots of children, to enjoy Treasure Island at the Avon Theater. With pirates, sword fights, music, dance, and incredible twists in plot, the made-for-stage version of this childhood classic entertained all. The performers also shared their pirate booty: giving out chocolate coins to the young fans (and not so young professors) on their way out.
With so many events to take in— such as a concert, parade, and fireworks to end the festivities—Canada Day was pretty good, eh?