Let’s Go To Stratford!

By: Jason Vogel

My wife said, “You should take that trip to Stratford.” So, I did.  There were no expectations.  This is my first “Study Abroad” trip.  Typically, before I travel, maps are laid out on the kitchen table, I tune into Google Earth for a street level view, I open my Oxford World Atlas so I can see where my destination lies relative to the rest of the world, and then I embark.  This trip is a little different.  The end of the summer semester warrants time with my nose in the books leaving little time for planning.  Liking my trip to a military campaign, my clothes are neatly arranged in my suitcase, food for the initial phase of traveling is thrown into a Marie’s Candies bag, the class loads up in the van, and I then while away the time slouched in my seat as the van whizzes by blurry green cornfields traversing its way up north through Michigan and on to the land of congenial Canada.

            There are ten of us on this journey, plus our seasoned professor.  She has made this trip many times and I can tell we are in good hands.  The professor is also a good driver which I have always felt is a sign of good character. As we cross into Canada, anticipation starts to percolate and we roll heavy into Stratford, Ontario.  My initial impressions: quaint town, I wonder what the population is, nice homes, how and why was the town founded, where are we staying, Shakespeare Festival – never been to one, my goodness – I haven’t met my roommates for the ten-day adventure; I hope they don’t stink!


            My roommates don’t stink.  In fact, they are quite pleasant.  Eventually I find some time to research this great little town.  The railroad provided the catalyst for an influx of people and wealth in the later 1800’s.  Some industry moves in as well, and boom, the town expands, becomes a hub for the Canadian Railways, people thrive and city leaders, citizens, and  entrepreneurs create a town they can be proud of. After WWII, however, the bottom dropped out of the railroad industry and the town was on a path of decline.

Fast forward to why we are here.  The Stratford Shakespeare Festival.  Started in 1953, it is a major reason this town has remained vibrant.  The town’s population hovers around 32,000 people, but on weekends during the seven-month long festival, the population can increase by as much as 9,000 people. Great food and nice accommodations exist for visitors.  Our class is staying at the Arden Park Hotel which sits atop the site of the former Kroehler Furniture factory.  Once a behemoth of a factory, but due to changing tastes in quality furniture, the Kroehler factory is no longer a part of the town’s landscape.  Torn down with one lone brick from the factory perched on a shelf in the lobby of the hotel.  The staff at the hotel is extremely courteous and lively. 

Stratford Trip

All in all, Stratford is a fine destination whether you are studying abroad or just want to see some world-class theatre.