Stratford News

WiFi coming to City Buses

Winter Interlude is a 1000 piece puzzle from Cobble Hills, and it is available at the Book Vault.

Winter Interlude is a 1000 piece puzzle from Cobble Hills, and it is available at the Book Vault.

WiFi Coming to City Buses

Credit: Mike Bietz, The Beacon Herald

Monday, September 23, 2013 9:14:13 EDT PM

The wheels on the bus go round and round.

But the WiFi signal on the bus, when it’s turned on in Stratford later this year, will travel in waves.

And that means the people on the bus will soon be able to send and receive emails and surf the Internet while they’re waiting for their stop.

The city has recently partnered with Kitchener-based Pravala Networks to provide that free WiFi access on all city buses. There is no cost to the city for the service or the technology, which is being provided by Pravala for free.

The first bus is expected to be connected before the end of the year, with the rest to follow shortly after.

“This is just another piece in a long-term puzzle for Stratford,” said Mayor Dan Mathieson, referring to the city’s ongoing transformation into a connected community.

Pravala, which has strong ties to the University of Waterloo, will be installing a wireless access point on each of the buses, linking riders to the Internet through Rhyzome Networks’ citywide WiFi network.

Cellular networks will also be used to complement the WiFi signal, so that the rider has strongest possible connection available.

“That is one of the technological specialties that our company provides — the ability to provide a seamless switch when the users are going from WiFi to 3G and back again,” said Pravala chief technology officer Robert Robinson in a recent interview. “From a user perspective, there will be no switch.”

Passengers on the bus can connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops to what will essentially be a rolling wireless hotspot, allowing them to send and receive emails, browse the Web, watch YouTube videos, or post a Facebook update.

“We wanted to provide an advantage for the riders, and some intelligence for the city as well,” said Robinson.

A wireless device will be connected to the vehicle’s onboard computer to transfer information in real-time on things like speed, tire pressure, engine temperature and RPM, as well as fuel efficiency.

With onboard GPS, transit officials can monitor exactly where the buses are at all times, enhance their route management, and provide accurate wait-time information to people standing at the bus stops.

The plan is to post that location information on a website, so that anyone with Internet access — at home or throughout the city — can pull up a digital map and see where the buses are along the route.

Eventually, a mobile app may also be developed to make that tracking easier for the user, and the company hopes to install a monitor in the downtown bus depot at city hall showing the location of the buses.

Rhyzome’s WiFi network makes the whole project possible, said Pravala president Richard Wagner.

“Stratford is in a very unique situation in that it has this infrastructure in place,” he said. “So let’s try to really optimize it and deliver tangible benefits to the customer using smartphone and communication technology. That’s our goal.”

Stratford Beacon Herald

Hootenanny benefits Local Community Food Centre

Hot Peppers is a 500 piece puzzle from Springbok. It is available at The Book Vault.

Hot Peppers is a 500 piece puzzle from Springbok. It is available at The Book Vault.

Last Share the Health event in Ontario this summer

By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 4:51:10 EDT PM

Good food, good drink and good music will be served up for a good cause in Stratford Sunday at Monforte Dairy’s annual Hootenanny.

The event, hosted by cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen as a way of thanking her customers, will also raise money for the Local Community Food Centre’s Share the Health fund to purchase food from local, sustainable family farms for community meals, cooking programs and other events.

The Hootenanny is the last of five Share the Health events held across Ontario this summer to raise money for programs that promote the health of low-income or food-insecure community members, with the help of local chefs, farmers and artisans.

It will run from 4-9 p.m. Sunday at Monforte Dairy at 49 Griffith Rd.

Admission is $10 at the gate (free for Monforte Dairy subscribers and children under 10), and tickets are also available at the Local Community Food Centre (612 Erie St.) or online at

Everyone is welcome.

Food and beverage tickets are $5 each for things like pork tacos by the Local Community Food Centre, Ethiopian chicken and vegetable stews by the Perth-Huron Multicultural Association, roasted goat by Monforte on Wellington, noodles by the Wicked Pickle food trailer, as well as Creemore Beer and Chateau des Charmes wine.

There will also be chips and salsa from Neal Brothers Foods, fresh vegetables from Loco Fields, and hot, cold and sparkling apple cider and Kiju organic juices.

Musical performers for the event include Brad McGoey and his Band, and Graham & Dan.

Article on The Beacon Herald’s website

Parking rate hike on hold

Cruisin' Classics is a 1000 piece puzzle from White Mountain Puzzles, and is available at the Book Vault.

Cruisin’ Classics is a 1000 piece puzzle from White Mountain Puzzles, and is available at the Book Vault.

Credit: Donal O’Connor, The Beacon Herald

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:21:52 EDT AM

Motorists parking in downtown Stratford can hold on to their loonies for at least a while longer as city council ponders whether and by how much to raise the cost of metered parking.

At Coun. Kerry McManus’ suggestion, council on Monday night deferred a decision on a recommended rate increase to $1 an hour until a visioning session takes place Oct. 2.

An obviously divided council also deferred a subcommittee recommendation to increase parking enforcement by converting a part-time enforcement officer’s job to a full time position.

Councillors Paul Nickel and Karen Smythe, said they could not support the recommended rate increase. Smythe suggested holding off until there’s something firmer regarding Market Square and the Cooper site and said she couldn’t support a 150% increase.

Nickel cited looming competition from east end retail developments – Walmart and Target – and suggested parking should be viewed as a service rather than a revenue generator.

“To raise the parking rate to $1 an hour now seems ludicrous,” he said.

Coun. Tom Clifford indicated he favoured some sort of parking rate increase and an end to free parking that’s now provided at the Cooper lot but he said a rate increase has to be justified.

“I don’t think we have a plan,” he said.

And while Clifford suggested a parking garage would help downtown parking and Coun. Brad Beatty said the City Centre Committee (CCC) favours that idea, Nickel rejected it out of hand.

“A parking garage shouldn’t even be mentioned,” he said.

Debate on the almost-always contentious parking issue followed a parking review prepared by city staff. The report includes reference to the possible loss of 70 parking spaces in Market Square and cites the possible need for additional spaces, possibly in a parking garage.

It notes parking rates in other municipalities range from 75 cents to $4.50 an hour. Stratford’s current meter rate is 40 cents an hour. A rate of 65 cents an hour would balance parking costs and revenues.

Coun. Bonnie Henderson, who had backed the $1 per hour rate in subcommittee, said she supported the increase but would also support an increase to 75 cents.

If that was vague, so was the CCC’s position on the proposed increase as relayed by Coun. Beatty. The CCC was not opposed to the $1 increase, he said, but they don’t want to say they are 100% in support of it.

The merchants would like to see better enforcement of the three-hour limit, he indicated.

The only one of three subcommittee recommendations council found itself easily agreeing to was that staff look into fees and permits for the upper and lower lots at the Cooper site and report back.

City treasurer Andre Morin said the parking fund currently stands at about $980,000.

Link to original article on the Beacon Herald’s website

Email Donal O’Connor

Stratford considers 150% hike in hourly parking rate


Parking rates in Stratford may be on the rise. (SCOTT WISHART, The Beacon Herald files)

Credit: Mike Beitz – Staff Reporter

The days of dirt-cheap downtown parking, and free parking at the Cooper site, may be numbered.

After a wide-ranging discussion of a comprehensive city parking report Wednesday, Stratford’s protection to persons and property subcommittee eventually approved a motion to hike rates in the downtown core to $1 per hour from the current $0.40.

“That’s still really cheap,” said Coun. Bonnie Henderson as she pushed for the higher rate. “Each year we put up garbage tags, and you hate to do that, but it costs money to run the city.”

The $1-per-hour rate is “reasonable,” she added, and may help the city recoup some of the costs associated with providing and maintaining its parking resources.

Coun. George Brown agreed, taking it one step further to recommend converting the Cooper lot to paid parking.

There are currently 262 free spaces at that lot just outside of the core.

“I think the days of free parking are over, when we’re going into debt,” he said. “It’s either the citizens of the city pay … or it’s user pay, and we’ve got to make that decision. People that are parking their vehicles have got to pay for the cost of parking.”

Brown suggested that downtown merchants could be encouraged to use the upper portion of the Cooper lot, nearest the building, for a modest fee of around $5 a week. Passes could be issued and a gate installed.

That would free up more spaces in the core for shoppers, he noted.

At the lower portion of the Cooper lot, a pay-and-display system could be established, with reasonable rates of $0.50 an hour, added Brown.

He acknowledged that any changes to parking at the Cooper lot will likely have to wait until a master development plan for the site is completed, and that may not happen until next year.

“But it’s time that we start moving,” he said.

The subcommittee approved a recommendation to refer the issue of paid parking at the Cooper lot for to staff to investigate, and prepare a report.

That, and the recommendation to hike parking rates in the core to $1 per hour, must still be approved by city council.

Source: Mike Beitz at the Stratford Beacon Herald

Alice Munro Writers and Readers Festival September 28-29, 2013


Meet Your Neighbour: The Wee Book and Photo Shop


This unique new Downtown business named The Wee Book and Photo Shop is nestled at 15 York Street.

Co-owners Maureen Cook and Suzanne Fitzpatrick have turned their passions into this new and exciting business. Suzanne, an award winning photographer with over 25 years of experience in portrait photography and Maureen’s passion for vintage clothing, hats and books. They combined their talents and created The Wee Book and Photo Shop. You can peruse a selection of terrific books, then hop on into the costume area where you can try on some vintage outfits and get a portrait done against a hand painted backdrop for as low as $35. They also have a large format printer and can print up to 44″ wide onsite. Suzanne can perform photo restoration, bring in your precious memories and have them brought back to life. Also, other photographers who wish to have their artwork printed are welcome to come in. They can print on canvas and other fine art papers. The Wee Book and Photo Shop also carries a selection of vintage watches, unique jewellery and “Wee Book” jewellery.

The Wee Book and Photo Shop on Facebook

Tough questions, great acting highlight The Thrill

The Thrill – On The Run 2013

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann
Lucy Peacock as Elora and Nigel Bennett as Julian in The Thrill.

Credit: Chet Greason

The Thrill, a play by Judith Thompson currently being staged at the Stratford Festival’s Studio Theatre, contains some incredible acting. It tackles some difficult issues from multiple viewpoints, leaving tough questions largely unresolved- usually the way it goes in real life. However, the acting is what makes the play worth seeing.

The chameleonic Lucy Peacock plays Elora, a character based on lawyer and disability activist Harriet McBryde Johnson. She begins an unlikely relationship with an Irish author named Julian (Nigel Bennett), whose pro-euthanasia stance puts them at ideological odds with one another in the right-to-live/right-to-die debate.

Peacock does some amazing things in The Thrill. Her character, Elora, suffers from a neuromuscular disease and therefore spends the entire play in a motorized wheelchair. However, her performance goes well beyond the chair; she breathes like an asthmatic, has believable issues with the dexterity of her fingers, and suffers it all with the stoic dignity of a fiery southern lady.

The supporting cast also does a phenomenal job. Robert Persichini as Elora’s support worker Francis and Patricia Collins as Julian’s mother Hannah would both be nominated for best featured actor awards should the Stratford Festival ever adopt a Tony-style awards system.

Persichini is endlessly warm, funny, and frank, acting as both a fuel and foil to Elora’s dramatic nature. Persichini comes off as a very real and lovable character despite some awkward lines thrown at him from the playwright (something about “getting your juices flowing for your man”?)

Meanwhile, Collins is astonishing as the dementia-stricken Hannah. Her monologue reflecting back on her very average life includes some of the most blunt and well-written dialogue of the play, and would likely sell as a single should it ever be put to a musical backdrop. The scene where Hannah reveals her online life to her son is laugh-out-loud funny, and is followed by a very touching instance of a sublime moment of clarity. For anyone who has ever had a loved one suffer from a degenerative disease of the mind, this will likely pull some heartstrings.

The best scenes in The Thrill involve the peripheral relationships: Elora with Francis and Julian with Hannah. It is the pivotal relationship between Elora and Julian that suffers. This is largely due to how Francis’ role is written. Bennett does what he can, but the end result is that Julian comes off as way too creepy in his romantic pursuit of Elora. This has nothing to do with the fact that he’s an able-bodied man seeking a physical relationship with a woman in a wheelchair.

The back-and-forth would appear creepy even if both were physically fit, or both in wheelchairs. He’s simply far too pushy and forward, and will likely make most audience members feel very uncomfortable.

Elora, for her part, accepts him. One wonders if she’s also creeped out by Julian’s touchy advances, but responds out of a deep craving for a physical relationship. Either way, it all works out platonically, so I suppose we can’t fault either of them. Still, I was put off by some instances of silent acquiescence when there should’ve probably been a slap.

The set is also awkward. Director Dean Gabourie rightly opts for minimalism, but any focus on dialogue his lack of furniture affords is lost to the off-beat design of the stage itself. Blue sky and clouds comprise the disco floor, and wave-sounds dominate the soundscape between scenes. The single purple square that encompasses the backdrop makes the stage look like it’s part of a new wave music video straight out of the 1980s, or stuck in a crystal cube on sale at the local candle and amethyst shop.

The ethereal feel of the stage contrasts heavily with the grounded conversations that are happening. Perhaps this was done on purpose? The Thrill is full of references to heaven and hell and, later, purgatory. The political stances taken in the play also fall into strict black and white dichotomies, while its conclusion is undeniably grey. Perhaps the earthy acting and the sterile set are also meant to contrast one another? Unfortunately, whatever the rationale, it ultimately proves distracting.

But don’t go to The Thrill for the big purple square. Go to hear the tough questions raised by the text and to enjoy the admirable job done by its four actors.

Thought-provoking and affecting, it’s a fine production.

Original article on the Stratford Gazette’s website.

Stratford Festival extended run of Fiddler on the Roof by one week Oct. 22-27


Scott Wentworth as Tevye with members of the company in Fiddler on the Roof. (CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN Stratford Festival)

Credit: Beacon Herald staff

Thursday, September 5, 2013 11:02:47 EDT AM

The Stratford Festival is extending the run of the hit musical “Fiddler on the Roof” by one week.

Five performances were added beginning with Oct. 22 (8 p.m.) and matinees Oct. 24, 25, 26 and 27 (2 p.m.).

Tickets go on sale to Festival members on Friday and to the general public Saturday.

The musical, directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, stars Scott Wentworth as Tevye.

The Festival has now extended three productions this season.

Extra performances of “Mary Stuart” were added an unprecedented four times, the final of which run Oct. 16 (2 p.m.), Oct. 17 (8 p.m.), Oct. 18 (8 p.m.) and Oct. 19 (8 p.m.).

“Taking Shakespeare” was extended twice, with the final performances set for Sept. 24 and Sept. 27.

The rest of the Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until Oct. 20.

2014 Stratford Festival playbill released

Photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival

Photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival

Chet Greason, Stratford Gazette staff, August 29, 2013.

The playbill for the 2014 Stratford Festival season was released last week. With an overarching theme of “Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge,” the season will feature plays that explore both old and new concepts behind mental illness.

“These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poetry, age, sexuality,” says artistic director Antoni Cimolino is a press release. “The result is often heartbreakingly tragic, but can also be a trigger for comedy.”

Perhaps most notable amongst the plays set for next year are dual performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first, staged at the Festival Theatre, will be directed by Chris Abraham, who helmed this season’s production of Othello. The other, directed by Festival newcomer Peter Sellars, will be staged in an as-yet unannounced location but is being described as “a chamber play.”

This will be the first time the Stratford Festival has staged two different interpretations of a play during the same season.

As 2014 will mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, next year’s season will feature a total of five plays written by the Bard. The others will include King Lear (directed by Cimolino) at the Festival Theatre, and Antony and Cleopatra (Gary Griffin) and King John (Tim Carroll) at the Tom Patterson.

Another first for 2014 will be the Festival’s first-ever production of George and Ira Gershwin’s Crazy for You at the Festival Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, who helmed this season’s wildly popular production of Fiddler on the Roof, this high-energy musical features such well-known songs I’ve Got Rhythm and Embraceable You.

The rest of the 2014 line-up includes George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem (Antoni Cimolino) at the Festival Theatre; Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (Alisa Palmer), the musical Man of La Mancha (directed by Robert McQueen and choreographed by Marc Kimelman), and James Reaney’s stage adaptation of Louis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass (Jillian Keiley) at the Avon Theatre; Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage (Martha Henry) at the Tom Patterson; and Michel Marc Bouchard’s Christina, The Girl King (Vanessa Porteous) at The Studio Theatre. This production will mark the play’s English-language premiere, featuring a translation by Linda Gaboriau.

Cimolino says he’s excited about the various creative teams lined up to put the season together.

“What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary places,” he says.
“Extreme stakes lead to great drama.”

Reposted from:

Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival, September 20-22, 2013

Set in the heart of Stratford’s heritage garden district bordered by the Avon River and the historic City Hall and Market Square, the award-winning Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival takes place September 20-22.

Sip, sample and savour dishes, menus, talks and tastings with our local producers and artisan farmers and local and celebrity chefs, experts and authors from across the world. This year’s theme – globally inspired, locally grown – showcases international cuisine with local Perth County foods to enlighten and amuse the taste buds. With over 150 culinary chefs, farmers, producers, Ontario wineries and craft brewers, cheese makers and culinary personalities, the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival is one of the largest culinary festivals in Ontario.

Come mingle among the farmer’s and artisan markets accompanied by free music concerts and surrounded by food stalls, special chef presentations, talks and tasting events – choose from over 40 talks, tastings and sampling events – set in picturesque Stratford.

This year’s highlights include:

  • Fanshawe College Carnival of Food – Opening Ceremonies
  • Toronto Star Culinary Stage – International Chefs Vikram Vij; Roger Mooking; Mara Salles; Francisco Alejandri; Wing Li and Elizabeth Rivasplata
  • Tutored Talks and Tastings – Chefs, cookbook authors and culinary experts present entertaining and informative stories and sampling of wine, spirits and foods from around the globe
  • The Taste of Ontario Artisan Alley – Celebrating the best Ontario wines, craft brews, spirits and cheese makers for an afternoon of fantastic sampling and nibbling
  • GE Cafe Cooking Series with Vikram Vij – An exclusive hands-on cooking class
  • Perth County Hoot! Presented by Mill Street Brewery – Rock, roll and swing at a hot Saturday night party headlined by the Lemon Bucket Orchestra with BBQ pork washed down with a selection of Mill Street brews, wines and spirits
  • Woman in Food Breakfast – A great Sunday morning brunch at The Church Restaurant with a provocative panel discussion on women in the food industry
  • Sunday Savour Stratford Tasting Presented by Scotiabank – Our famous culinary garden party set under an elegant tent in Market Square with 30 top local chefs paired with local food producers and farmers serving seasonal morsels, complimented by Ontario VQA wines and craft brews. While away the afternoon surrounded by food lovers and artists.

Plan to attend Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival - September 20-22, 2013.