We are pleased to announce we have received a new shipment of Ravensburger puzzles!
- Known throughout the world for their excellence in creating educational games and puzzles
- Their Blue Triangle is found on nearly 20 million products worldwide and is a sign of the outstanding product quality
- Inspires creativity, learning, and a whole lot of fun for children, adults and families alike
Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
Tuesday, July, 09, 2013
Rather than take a wait and see approach, independent retailers in Stratford are being encouraged to start now when it comes to distancing themselves from their new corporate competitors.
But don’t take that as a sign downtown business owners fear the impact big box stores Walmart and Target will have on their bottom lines.
“I’ve been asked many times if I’m worried, and my answer has always been no,” Jackie Catania, owner of Treasures and chair of the Stratford City Centre Committee, says. “I really think it’s a chance for us to shine, to show people what we do that’s different, that makes us stand apart.”
Both stores are scheduled to open in the east end of Stratford in late fall ahead of the Christmas season, Target in the former Zellers location and Walmart on Ontario Street.
According to media reports, Target has gained momentum in the domestic marketplace, with brand awareness hitting 92 per cent in 2012, compared to about 70 per cent in 2011 when the Minneapolis-based company first announced its plans to expand into Canada.
Walmart Canada, meanwhile, saw overall sales rise 6.1 per cent during the first quarter of 2013 amid its own cross-country expansion as it braces for Target’s full introduction into the marketplace.
During presentations to business leaders in Stratford and St. Marys last month, retail consultant Pierre Cliche forecasted the two discount retailers will do at least $20 million in sales annually once established.
But Catania says that money doesn’t have to come directly from the pockets of downtown merchants, who rather than fret about not being able to match their competitors’ prices due to limited buying power should be using the opportunity to refine their own customer service experience.
“We stand apart from Walmart and Target and all the big box stores by the service, by the knowledge we have,” she adds, noting in her store, for instance, she knows every detail about each product, including where it was made.
Nigel Howard agrees that small retailers have a distinct advantage over the big chains.
The general manager of the Perth Community Futures Development Corporation and Stratford-Perth Centre for Business, which provide business coaching, financing, and expansion planning, says consumers want a certain level of service they often don’t get at big box stores, where they might have to search for staff only to be directed to an aisle.
“This is where you can beat the box stores,” he adds. “Knock their socks off with customer service.”
Howard says now is a good time for merchants to review all aspects of their store, including the frequency in which window displays are changed and the hours of the operation.
He suggests if any stores aren’t open seven days a week now might be a good time to start.
“If they continue like that, you can believe Walmart and Target are going to be open seven days a week. (The business owners) have to look at that – can they afford to not be open?”
Catania also believes downtown business owners need to be more flexible with their hours, especially on Friday evenings, where an extra hour or two would benefit local residents.
Right now, hours in the downtown vary. Some open 9 a.m to 6 p.m. while others operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
As the head of the City Centre Committee, which has a mandate to maintain an active and viable downtown core, Catania is also encouraging those members who close on Mondays – typically a quieter day due to Stratford Festival having no shows – to reconsider.
She says the City Centre has tried in the past to coordinate hours with its retailers but for a variety of reasons hasn’t worked. Trying to get all merchants on the same operating schedule might not be realistic given their small staff numbers and other commitments away from work, she adds.
Catania says local stores can differentiate themselves in other ways, like offering simple services like gift wrapping and deliveries to a customer’s B&B or hotel, both of which she offers at her store.
Even the smallest thing like making sure the store front is clean and well kept can make a difference, she adds, though she notes most downtown merchants already do an excellent job in this area.
“Downtown people do care about their business because it’s there livelihood,” she adds.
Catania and Howard note the tourist season in Stratford has been better than expected this year, with sales surpassing totals from this time last year, something they attribute in part to a well-received playbill from the Festival.
Howard says local business owners should also experience increased demand over the holiday shopping season as fewer people leave the city to shop at the nearest Walmart or Target.
In the past, people would visit Woodstock or Kitchener for a Walmart and end up shopping at other local stores. But now all of that money will stay in the community, he adds.
By Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald
Friday, July 12, 2013
“The testing time will come when the novelty, local and national, has worn off,” warned The Times Weekly Review in London, England in 1952.
Saturday is the Stratford Festival’s 60th anniversary of the first opening night. The novelty has worn off, the Festival has been tested and passed each test as a first-class cultural institution.
It’s well known Tom Patterson’s crazy dream was to leave the hometown he loved with a lasting financial and cultural industry. He was smart enough to know when he didn’t have the answers and brave enough to ask the people who did, most notably big-time British director Tyrone Guthrie.
There were two plays instead of just one that first season – “Richard III” and “All’s Well That End’s Well” — based on the advice of Guthrie in a report to the Shakespeare Festival Committee.
“I suggest for the first year one production is insufficient: 1. Too skimpy an effort to justify all the ballyhoo. 2. Advisable to have a second barrel, in case the first shot is a miss.”
The first shot, “Richard III”, wasn’t a miss. The standing ovation lasted until Alec Guinness (Richard III) made a curtain speech.
“The audience just rose as one person, it went on for 15 minutes,” said actor William (Bill) Needles, who was in the cast opening night.
He recalled some members in the audience were crying.
“We were standing on the stage bawling and crying too. It was a good omen for the years to come. The impact was immediate, we’ve got something here.”
Before that first performance no one knew how the Festival would be received. The whole idea was so extraordinary. Canadian theatre was under-developed and the concept of a thrust stage was outside the box, never mind in a 1,500-seat canvas tent weighing in at three and a half tons.
The tent may seem like a crazy detail in a crazy plan but it was a relatively cautious concept.
“To build would be madness before the idea has been proven seaworthy,” Guthrie concluded.
The famous stage and tent were not ready when rehearsals started June 1 so a mock-up stage, in the agricultural building, would have to do. The first rehearsal in the tent was June 28.
Guthrie wanted a top-notch cast with big names in leading roles. One of those, of course, was Guinness, famed actor of stage and screen.
In a letter to the actor, Guthrie stressed the name “Guinness” would help with fundraising and ensure the whole endeavour wouldn’t become just a “small town jamboree.”
In his letter, Guthrie suggested perhaps Guinness might play Hamlet and Angelo in “Measure for Measure” that first season, “but only if there’s a really luscious lady around for Isabella, eg. Mdme Eileen Herlie.”
“I do most eagerly and keenly hope you’ll embark on this project, dear Alec,” he concluded.
Guinness agreed to come, and like Patterson and Guthrie, he threw his heart into the project. He turned down film and theatre roles (good-paying jobs) to come to Stratford.
Guthrie was keen to have British stars but was just as keen to have a Canadian cast and production staff. In December 1952, Guthrie held auditions in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Stratford and talked to about 400 actors.
Needles recalled his audition with Guthrie as “brisk.” Like most other Canadians with a desire to act back then, he had experience in radio — he spoke clearly — a plus because it was a large tent and the actors needed to be heard. It was one of the reasons Needles was hired, after first promising to do as he was told.
“I was hired for the next 47 years,” he quipped.
James Colbeck was just 13 years old when he was auditioned and hired to play the Prince of Wales.
“(Guthrie) wanted a Canadian but when he heard my Canadian accent speaking Shakespeare’s glorious English he said, ‘Would someone take that boy away and teach him to speak English?’”
On top of it all, the two other dark-haired boys in the production looked like brothers. Colbeck was a redhead. He was demoted to the role of page.
Colbeck thought he had failed his family and his school –Upper Canada College — which released him a month early to join the Festival. He was mortified.
“Alec Guinness took me around then and explained the realities of theatre. He explained the right person had to be in the right job,” recalled Colbeck, who now lives in Stratford.
In his 30-minute pep talk, Guinness stressed the change in roles wasn’t a failure and got Colbeck’s “sniffles” under control.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” said Tony Rotherham, who played the Duke of York in “Richard III”. “It was truly emotional for a star of that calibre to take that much concern for a kid.”
Jack Merigold, assistant stage manager back in 1953, remembered Guinness as a private man who, with time, opened up.
“I used to help with his soliloquies, so did Timothy Findley,” he said.
Irene Worth added glamour but she was so much more than just glamorous, Merigold said. She worked extremely hard at her craft.
She had a “fantastic theatre voice” and practised two to three hours a day, he said.
She became a very good friend, he said.
“She was ahead of her time as a health nut.”
As a busy stage manager Merigold found himself eating more hamburgers and drinking more milkshakes than any one person should. In fact, during one performance, Guinness came off stage and asked who was rustling Kleenex. It was Merigold reaching into the bag to get his hamburger.
There were about 30 members of the company — 10 of them Canadian — and the expectations from Guthrie were high.
“(Guthrie) was a taskmaster. He’d say, ‘I’m sitting in a paid seat back here and I can’t hear a damned thing. Speak up!’ Guthrie was fascinating. He had great training but he was experimental in a way,” Needles said.
Guthrie wasn’t one to pull punches in rehearsals even with humble actors who had relatively little experience.
“Dear boy, do you know what you were doing in that last scene?”
Needles replied, “Yes.”
“Well, don’t,” was the response.
During the last rehearsal before the opening it was unbelievably hot, Merigold said. The heat inside the tent was so intense rehearsals ended early and the stagehands put a clothesline up at the back of the tent to hang the costumes before the actors went on — Guinness’ coronation robe was massive.
After the rehearsals, the unionized IATSE crew was released for the afternoon and there was no one to sweep the stage before the opening. Merigold left on his bike but only made it as far as the Queen’s Hotel before he turned around.
“If I didn’t do it, who would?”
When he got back to the tent he found Guthrie and his wife, Judy, sweeping the stage.
“That night cemented my relationship with Guthrie,” Merigold said.
He went on to work as a stage manager for Guthrie for a decade.
Outside the tent, the excitement was at its peak. Lori Colbeck’s dad Alex Smith was the radio programmer and was one of the few in Stratford fortunate enough to get a part. He played Lord Grey.
Some very big names came to dinner at the Smith home as a result, including Douglas Campbell, Michael Bates and Douglas Rain, who came in shirt and tie and was very shy, she recalled.
Those big names walked the streets of Stratford and there was an understanding they weren’t to be harassed.
“No one was a gawker. You were just really pleased if you saw Guinness walk by,” she said.
But once opening night finally came around there were crowds outside to watch the spectacle. Lori was outside the tent and described it as “magic.”
“There was a fly past, they shot an actual canon, the bells were ringing. And seeing those women in their gowns and the cars …”
Inside the tent actors did their best to quell their jitters.
“On opening night we were all terribly nervous, even the professional actors. We went on apprehensively,” Needles said.
It all went smoothly, for the most part.
“In the battle scene the train went through with the whistle blowing. For us back stage, I suspect we were laughing our heads off,” Colbeck said.
The train times were changed or the whistle was stopped after that, Lori said.
No one knew how this whole venture would turn out. It was a huge risk for everyone involved. There were financial risks taken and careers potentially on the line. Even the staunchest supporters had their moments of doubt.
After rehearsals one afternoon Needles offered Guthrie a ride home in his car. Guthrie, who was living on Norman St. at the time, accepted. He invited Needles in for dinner.
“His wife Judy was in the kitchen making Irish stew with a cigarette hanging over and the ashes falling in,” Needles recalled.
“Early in the meal he grabbed my arm and said, ‘You know this could be the most disastrous failure.’ And he howled with laughter.”
From the start, Guthrie warned the committee the venture would lose money in its first year but that would be offset by “invisible assets of prestige.” The Festival was at 98% capacity that first season with more than 68,000 people attending. The five-week season was extended to six and the theatre pulled in $206,000 over 42 performances.
Like Patterson, Guthrie was convinced this was Stratford’s time.
“If Stratford doesn’t do it, some other Canadian community will,” Guthrie told Guinness.
The Times Weekly Review editorial took a wait-and-see approach even after the success of opening night, but the paper did acknowledge, “something quite unexpected, and potentially important, has happened in Canadian cultural life.”
Beacon Herald Staff
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece is supportive of a plan to give farmers who donate food to local food banks a tax credit.
“This idea would help bring fresh, local food to people who are struggling,” said Pettapiece.
“I’ve met with many of our local food banks across Perth-Wellington, and I know they are compassionate and dedicated,” he added. “We should all support them.”
On Wednesday, the PC caucus proposed an amendment to the Local Food Act that would give farmers a non-refundable tax credit worth 25% of the wholesale value of excess food products to food banks.
“Perth-Wellington is the heart of agriculture in Ontario,” said Pettapiece. “Many local farmers are already donating food, but this tax credit would allow many more to help out.”
A statement from Pettapiece’s office said more than 25 million pounds of nutritious food is disposed of or plowed back into fields every year.
Some of that food can’t be sold to grocers simply because it’s not the right size, shape or colour, the statement said. Farmers are willing to donate food but many can’t afford the additional costs of collecting, processing and delivering unsold produce.
“We need a bill that will make a difference by addressing farmers’ concerns and, at the same time, improving distribution. The tax credit proposal would make a big difference, and I strongly urge the other parties to support it,” Pettapiece said.
News editor, Stratford Gazette
Wednesday, July, 10, 2013
The Rediscovering Canada production company’s documentary about St. Marys, filmed last year in and around town, had its world broadcast premiere on Monday, July 8, and will now be available in full HD only on www.ibitv.org. The 23-minute segment is currently the featured video on the website’s main page.
Members of St. Marys Town Council praised the video during their Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, July 9. Councillor Lynn Hainer said it would be nice to have the video as a regular element on the television screens in the Pyramid Recreation Centre’s lobby area. And Councillor Carey Pope wondered about ensuring the Town has the rights to replay the video as part of its tourism promotion efforts.
Human Resources Manager Kimberly Richardson responded that the town plans to discuss the rights to the video with its director.
And asked by Councillor Don Van Galen about the cost to the town of having the video produced, Richardson responded there was no cost at all. The director, she said, “is passionate” about promoting what he believes are Canada’s hidden gems. And St. Marys is one of those.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jun. 17 2013
Trish Bongard Godfrey isn’t planning to retire right now, but she is doing a lot of planning.
“I have no intention of retiring. I might never retire,” the 54-year-old Toronto real estate agent says. She’s going strong in her second career – she was previously a fundraising manager in the not-for-profit sector – and she’s active and healthy. She enjoys her work.
Yet Ms. Bongard Godfrey recognizes the need to prepare for her future as a senior. It goes beyond financial planning.
Figuring out how we will live securely and comfortably in addition to being financially independent is more important for Canadians as our population ages and seniors’ lifestyles evolve.
Life expectancy for Canadians keeps going up – it’s nearly 81 years and rising, according to Statistics Canada. Many of us will live much longer than that – Ms. Bongard Godfrey’s own parents and her 98-year-old mother-in-law are still going strong.
The new longevity is changing the way people look at their own advancing years. The 50s and 60s used to be when people would consider winding down and figuring out their finances; this still happens, but for many people these years are less twilight and more of an extended middle age.
“In order to get as much as possible out of our old age, we will need to embrace it,” says Lyndsay Green, an author and blogger who writes about seniors.
In her book You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready? she challenges seniors to concentrate on their non-financial needs. Where will you live? What kinds of friends will you have? How will you spend your time and what will you have organized for yourself when, eventually, you do slow down?
One important issue to look at beyond financials is intergenerational planning, says Brad Wise, vice-president and portfolio manager, TD Wealth Private Client Group in Markham, Ont.
“There are a whole host of things to consider – your children’s education, long-term care for your parents,” Mr. Wise says.
There are new contingencies, too.
For example, in a job market with persistently high youth unemployment your kids may be living with you for longer than you had originally thought, right into their own adulthood.
Long-term care for parents takes planning. Experts suggest you raise the subject early, as waiting lists for care and homes can be long.
“People wait to make these decisions and then it’s up to CCAC [in Ontario, the provincial Community Care Access Centre] to decide, and there may not be room in the place you wanted,” Ms. Bongard Godfrey says.
What else should you plan for? As a real estate agent, Ms. Bongard Godfrey works with a lot of clients who are making lifestyle transitions, and she offers what she calls the “F’s” – family, friends, fitness, food, flexibility, fun and fashion.
Make clear how you want to dispose of your major assets – not just who gets your money but also things like your Stratocaster, tea set or that ugly lacquered table in the den. You should of course have a will and sign power of attorney documents in case you become incapacitated
Keeping a network of friends is one of the most important keys to a secure old age. They’re your personal support system for the rest of your life. They don’t all have to be old friends – it’s nice to become pals with the couple in their 30s who will check up on you when you’re 90, or the teenaged neighbour who comes over to watch a hockey game. “We’re social animals,” says TD’s Mr. Wise. “It’s what keeps us going.”
Fitness and food
It’s easy to let fitness slip but it’s also easy to stay in shape. Set reasonable goals. You don’t have to do 100 bench presses, but you can walk to the store instead of driving, or golf, swim or garden. “You’d be surprised how popular lawn bowling is,” Mr. Wise says.
Your surroundings need to be fit for you too. You may need to renovate, adding a stair-assist device or a walk-in shower (in some cases, provincial grants are available).
Or you may need to move to a smaller, more manageable home, long before it’s time to consider assisted living.
By “food,” Ms. Bongard Godfrey doesn’t just mean eating right. “It’s my code for consumption,” she says. “We’re placing demands on the ecosystem,” she explains, “so we should be thinking about what we eat, what we drink and what we wear.” Doing this brings the added benefit of helping people live within their budgets – ask yourself: Do I really need that?
Fun, flexibility and fashion
Having fun is a must, but it helps to be strategic. Ms. Bongard Godfrey comes across prospective clients who moved to ski areas such as Collingwood, Ont., only to decide to move somewhere else because they couldn’t ski any more.
Flexibility also means being prepared for the unexpected. Seniors who travel a lot should make sure their home insurance is up to date and that their house is burglar-protected with an alarm or surveillance system, because thieves can tell when nobody is home.
Out-of-country travel insurance is important, too, but beware that the cost can be sky-high in advanced years or if you have had major medical treatment in the past. If you drive, an auto club membership is handy, and make sure you ask for seniors’ discounts. Fashion?
“It’s just a matter of keeping up, with everything. Be aware of the world around you and enjoy it,” Ms. Bongard Godfrey says. “If we’re too rigid, life will hit us. The next 30 or 40 years is going to be [a period] of rapid change.”
Anita Gaffney talks turnaround for Canada’s biggest theatre festival
That could be the understatement of the season.
After spending a scary 2012 season sinking deeper and deeper into red ink, eventually posting a deficit of $3.4 million, Canada’s biggest theatre festival is enjoying a fiscal comeback that deserves a standing ovation.
With the season not yet at the halfway point, the festival has sold 336,000 tickets, which is 32,000 more than it had at this time last year, and is on target to balance its $58 million budget.
The biggest demand is for plays at the Tom Patterson Theatre, where the season has already been extended for a week.
Gaffney, who joined the festival in 1991 as an assistant publicist, worked her way up, becoming the director of marketing and earning an MBA at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
After the 2012 season, Gaffney took over as Stratford’s top administrator when the former executive director, Antoni Cimolino, became artistic director, succeeding Des McAnuff (who presided for five seasons, starting in 2008).
“Antoni has played a huge part in this turnaround,” she says. “He selected a playbill that really resonates with our audience and people are excited by his vision.”
No doubt choosing the plays, the actors and the other members of the creative team is crucial. But there are many other factors involved in the art of filling seats and balancing the books.
Perhaps the most startling factor is that ticket sales to visitors from the U.S., after declining alarmingly for a decade, have increased by 11 per cent so far this year.
Why? Americans are feeling better about a looming economic recovery, but Gaffney thinks they are lured by intriguing shows they could not see closer to home.
A restaurant owner I know believes the biggest factor in the turnaround is a change of how scheduling is done, filling more mid-week slots and providing more choice for people who stay two or three days and want to see several productions.
As Gaffney explains, the festival has introduced a number of touches that have cumulatively boosted attendance.
One of them was to bring back its two-for-one Tuesdays program, a draw for bargain-seekers.
Another is the development of the Forum, a festival within the festival featuring debates, mini-performances and discussions, offering audiences a way to explore the plays and players before or after seeing a production, thus encouraging visitors to extend their stay in Stratford.
For the first time this year, Toronto theatregoers who do not drive cars and can’t afford limos have an easy and inexpensive way to experience the festival. That’s because of a new express bus, which can whisk you from Front St. near the Intercontinental Hotel to your Stratford show for $10 each way.
Earlier this year, the dispute between Ontario schoolteachers and the Ontario government threatened Stratford’s group sales to schools, a program that not only fills thousands of seats but plays a key role in developing audiences of the future. But that problem has vanished and, impressively, school sales have increased 17 per cent this year compared to 2012.
And in the fascinating category of “the return of lapsed patrons” (meaning former ticket buyers who have not been to Stratford in recent years), the number this season is more than double the 2012 figure.
At this stage, Gaffney is cautiously optimistic, rather like the manager of a baseball team leading the league at the all-star break but not yet counting on winning the World Series. But the evidence suggests that the Stratford Festival will wind up the 2013 season as a big winner.
By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald
Sunday, June 16, 2013
A small, tightly knit group of people gathered in Upper Queen’s Park on the weekend to demonstrate that weaving and stitching is not just for little old ladies in rocking chairs.
“This is all about knitting awareness,” said Laurie Krempien-Hall as she and nearly a dozen others, needles in hand, patiently and skillfully transformed balls of yarn into colourful, wearable creations.
The annual gathering in the park in Stratford Saturday was held as part of World Wide Knit in Public Day, when knitters around the world take their craft outside for all to see.
Knitting and other fibre arts are often solitary, indoor hobbies, noted Krempien-Hall, so the event gets knitters out, knitting together and sharing their projects in a social setting.
But it’s not the only time they get together.
There’s a Revel Knitters group that meets Tuesday mornings at Revel Caffe, and the Wednesday Night Knitters, which meet regularly in the lounge at the Arden Park Hotel.
Knitting in public also helps to dispel some of the stereotypes surround the craft, said Krempien-Hall.
“It’s not just a granny thing,” she said as she looked around the semi-circle of non-granny types knitting in the park. “Anyone can do it at any time.”
In fact, local members have participated in a number of public “yarn bombings” in Stratford, including an AIDS awareness one last year in which knitted red scarves were displayed prominently in the community.
“Far more people are knitting in public now,” said Krempien-Hall.
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