When GREC science teacher Wade Leonard talked his principal into offering a course in drones (and drone mapping) a couple of years ago, he did see a lot of potential.
But he wasn’t all that sure what that potential would be.
“We’re now solving problems we didn’t even know were problems,” he said. “And we’re seeing all sorts of new tendrils of potential.”
Leonard’s program, which teaches students how to fly a drone and what to do with it once they get it up in the air, has already blazed new trails.
For example, they’ve done studies in Alderville for the Black Oak Savanna and Tall Grass Prairie, tracked last summer’s storm damage for Central Frontenac and the Office of Emergency Preparedness Ontario, done a study of a maple sugar bush, tracked milfoil in North Frontenac lakes, several projects for Central Frontenac included a 3D model of the Caboose in Sharbot Lake, trail mapping and volume of the Olden dump (which even shows trails where bears have dragged off bags of garbage) and are scheduled to create a database of headstones in North Frontenac.
“Our first field trip was to the Black Oak Savanna for the Alderville First Nation,” he said. “We got looking at it and learned that the grass is in colonies — you could see individual plants and colony density became the basis for an ecological study.
“You can’t get that from a satellite because not only does the image have to go through the entire atmosphere, it’s always at an angle and you’ll never see individual plants.”
Each job brings something new.
“When we did a project for Wheeler’s Maple Products to see what might be the best route for the sap lines, we discovered that we could do elevation data,” he said. “We didn’t know we could do elevation data until we got there.”
That’s become useful for other projects as well. For example, they’ve discovered they can see the bottom of a lake in 15 feet of water. They have images of how effective the Malcolm/Ardoch Lakes burlap methodology has been.
“And the Tryon Road severe weather research . . . lots of people were interested in that,” he said. “We saw the extent of the damage.
“We’ve filled a gap.”
And they’ve even attracted the attention of some professors at Carleton University.
“Professor Jesse Vermaire told us ‘we don’t do this on the scale you can,’” Leonard said. “He said ‘we’re doing it on scales of metres and you’re doing it in hectares.’
“We’re going to Carleton to talk to him and some other professors.”
Leonard said his program fits in well with the “Authentic Learning” program at GREC, which also includes their forestry program.
“It’s solving real world problems,” he said. “Through inception, planning, execution, analysis and communication.”
To that extent, he’s changed up his program slightly, making students responsible for setting up dates, looking at weather forecasts for the proposed flight, where to fly and even consulting and communicating with the partner for the mission.
“We’ve got it set up now so everything is hyperlinked for the students such as permission forms, pre-flight, and the students do it all themselves,” he said.
And, with changes in regulations coming in June, students 14 and older will be able fly the drones themselves.
“My read on the new regulations is that not only will the students be licensed but potentially will be able to conduct missions.”
Where this program will lead is anybody’s guess but they’re already breaking new ground continuously.
“Context is everything,” Leonard said. “This is such a new area and we’re the only program in Ontario schools that does mapping.
“We’ve just been out there poking around and stumbled on some techniques that haven’t been done before.”
Sounds like their techniques will be used quite a bit in days to come.
If you’d like to see some of the videos Leonard and his charges have made, have a look at his YouTube channel Wade W Leonard.
Alison Robinson has remained busy since retiring as the lead realtor at Lake District Realty a few years ago. Aside from extensive family commitments and other activities, she has also kept up her involvement with the local business community, helping out when she has had time. A little over a year ago, with her husband Wayne, and neighbours Rosemary and Bill Bowick and Ken Fisher, she organixed a meet and greet event at the Sharbot Lake Retirement Centre to introduce the owner, Andrew Kovacs, to the local business community.
“When we were putting together an invitation list, we found that there are over 120 businesses in the vicinity of Sharbot Lake,” she recalled this week, during her remarks at the third semi-annual Sharbot Lake business group meet and greet this week at the Crossings Pub.
At that first event, about 100 people showed up, and during a go around doing introductions, the business owners talked a bit about what brought them to Sharbot Lake to open a business and how they felt about the community. The stories were very particular, but a theme emerged. They all said that the support of the local community had been crucial to them at some point in their business development. Something about those short heart felt testimonials, coupled with the overall energy in the room, led the group of friends who had co-sponsored the event, to start thinking about harnessing some of that energy. After a summer meet and greet in July, which introduced Greg and Arlette Rodgers, the owners of the Rockhill B&B, a business group started to form.
In a year end letter summing up the development of the group, Alison Robinson described a September strategy meeting aimed at beginning to look at the future business climate in Sharbot Lake and vicinity.
This is what she wrote, in part:
“17 people representing over 120 businesses met to strategize on Sharbot Lake’s economic development. We described our current situation as being on the cusp of change. While we continue to serve as a magnet for cottagers and tourists from around the world, one way or another, the next phases of development for Highway 7 and expansion of tourism related businesses will tell our tale.
After that September meeting, the first business meeting of the new group was organised for November. At that November meeting, some concrete measures aimed at developing the tourist potential in the region with Sharbot Lake as a hub community, were discussed. One them is a spring tourism conference engaging about 40 participants to establish a working relationship with local tourist related businesses. Greg Rodgers brought the idea to the group, and he has taken a leadership role in developing the event. Central Frontenac Township, Frontenac County and the Ontario Highland Tourism Organization – “Come Wander”. OHTO have all been approached and are getting behind the event.
At this week’s third meet and greet, which was sponsored by Bill Everett of B.E.E. Sanitation, Alison Robinson spoke about the history of the new group, as did event MC Ken Fisher, and then Greg Rodgers brought an update into the planning for the tourism conference.
Before getting into the details, Rodgers talked about how his thinking about running a B&B in Sharbot Lake has developed in the 18 months since purchasing the Rockhill B&B with Arlette.
“At first, we though of ourselves as running a B&B, pure and simple. It started to changed when I realised that we were attracting people from all over the world to our B&B. We have had visitors from 21 countries, including all of the continents with the exception of Antarctica,” he said. “I now am proud to think of us as tourist operators.”
Last fall, at the urging of Alison Vandervelde, who is half of the County of Frontenac Economic Development department, Rodgers attended an Ontario Highlands Tourism Summit in Haliburton.
Apart from seeing first hand how business in Haliburton and elsewhere in Eastern Ontario were working together to develop tourism in their region, he also saw how powerful and inspirational the stories told by tourism innovators could be. He decided he would try to bring that kind of experience to the business community in Sharbot Lake.
With help from a steering committee, a one-day conference has taken form. It is set for May the 4th at Camp Kennebec and will feature a couple of speakers and an opportunity for 40 or 50 tourist related businesses to talk seriously about the future of the region, and what they can do to take advantage of the natural beauty and build a stronger tourism industry,
“I met with someone today over coffee, another tourist operator and I told him I thought this region could be the ‘next place’. He told me that he thought the same thing when he came to the area, 20 years ago. This time, I want us to make sure we make it happen, in our own way,” Rodgers said.
The final speaker of the evening was Kelly Pender, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Frontenac County. During his municipal career, Pender has worked as the CAO in the towns of Perth and Huntsville. He was in Huntsville when the G7 summit of 2010 was being organised.
He said that one of the initiatives that Frontenac County has undertaken, is to integrate the economic development and planning departments.
“We have seen increases in planning applications in the order of 30% per cent in recent years in both Central and North Frontenac, and making the process work for people who want to invest here is a major effort at the county and township levels.”
He also said that two transportation issues could have a drastic impact on the development of Sharbot Lake as a tourism and business hub community.
“One is the development of Highway 7. The long-term plan is for it to be expanded to four lanes, and for the communities south and north of the highway in Central and North Frontenac, it will make a huge difference if it becomes a 4 lane highway like the 416, or if it becomes a road that is more like the Thousand Islands Parkway,” he said.
“Now is the time for the business community to create a vision for Highway 7 and the communities that surround it to make sure it brings people here rather than rolling through like a 400 series highway.”
Similarly, the impact of a potential for a high frequency VIA rail train, which he describes as a 50-50 proposition, will be vastly different if there is a station in Sharbot Lake or not.
“If the Federal government decides to fund a train line, it will happen. They have the power to get it through. The only question in that case is, will it stop here or not. If they do approve it, from what I’ve been told, there will be a one-year planning window from the announcement until the plans are drawn up. That could start this April or some other time, but they like to invest in willing communities, so a group like this needs to help make the business case for a station here. What can Sharbot Lake do to make the case that people will stop here?”
Rural Frontenac Community Services has been awarded $952.83 from Blue Skies in the Community to continue the Frontenac Skies bucket drumming ensemble. With the Blue Skies funding new percussion instruments were purchased for the group.
Frontenac Skies is a percussion ensemble that features children and youth using bucket drums to create sound, rhythm and songs. This project continues to address the need for free, fun musical activities in the area that encourage rural youth to learn an instrument, be active and connect with a group in their own community in a fun environment that promotes inclusion.
Children and youth interested in joining the ensemble, join Lily at the Child Centre (1004 Art Duffy Rd., Sharbot Lake) on Wednesdays from 3:00-4:00 pm.
Upcoming: Join Lily and the Frontenac Skies on Sunday, February 10, 2019 during the Heritage Festival to try out the new percussion instruments and listen to the ensemble. The Child Centre will be open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm with lots of activities for families to enjoy, including snow shoeing.
Feb. 15 – 17, 2019
This year marks the 13th year of the Frontenac Heritage Festival in Central Frontenac. The Festival Committee has been busy the past few months putting together a line-up of events that have something to please everyone and help us to enjoy our great Canadian winter.
The Official Opening takes place at the Sharbot Lake Legion on Friday, Feb. 15 with a baked chicken dinner. Saturday starts with the popular Lions Club breakfast at OSO hall, then spend the rest of the day in Arden at the Community Centre with Empty Bowls, Historical Society, Wood Carving and games outside. The Kennebec Lake Association will sponsor activities on the lake near the bridge. Enjoy the music of Shawn McCullough and Wade Foster at the Sharbot Lake Country Inn on Saturday evening.
Sunday events include the Polar Plunge in Sharbot Lake followed by a chili lunch at the Legion. The Child Centre will sponsor a children’s day of games and food at the Centre while Bob and Mike serve up free pioneer food at the Railway Heritage Park. New this year, Bill MacDonald will be demonstrating logging techniques in a hands-on display, sure to be of interest to young and old. A new game called Crokicurl that combines crokinole and curling will be held at the Sharbot Lake ball field. Come on out and try this new and exciting game.
Also, on Sunday the Matson Family will offer a display of old time logging in Arden. This was a very popular event last year, one you’ll want to see.
Again, Bob and Mike will be holding an overnight winter camp in the Sharbot Lake area, to be held when weather is good, but space is limited so contact Mike at 613-279-2572 ASAP if you are interested. Look for Frontenac Heritage Festival on Facebook.
If you thought the Villages Beautiful Festival of Trees just gets bigger every year, you’d be pretty close. “We have 61 entries this year,” said Sally Angle, one of the organizers. “That ties for another high. “But the biggest thing this year is that we’ve had much more community support than in previous years. “We have a bunch of newer residents, new blood, and it’s been nice to share the work out more.” One big change this year is that all of the trees came with lights on them, but none of the entrants seemed to mind. “It’s hard to find trees without lights now,” Angle said. “We buy the trees so that everybody starts off on the same footing and since the trees are more expensive, and though we subsidize them to a certain degree, we’ve had to charge a little bit more. “But we’ve had no complaints. “Frankly, I think a lot of people were just as happy not having to string lights on their trees.” This is Villages Beautiful’s fundraiser for the year and has been following the same format more or less since it began. Entrants create Christmas creations in eight categories, then people come in and put tickets in the boxes by the entry they’d like to win. Winners are chosen by a ticket being picked out of the box. The weekend show also features local music and goodies for sale. This year’s theme was “Christmas Stories.” Of course the main reason for entering the Festival of Trees is to help support the good work Villages Beautiful does. But there’s also a bit of bragging rights for the year involved. The Festival organizers have compiled a complete list of winners (see below)
2018 Festival of Trees Winners
Christmas Stories . . . was the theme for this year’s Festival of Trees. All entries showed creativity and great talent. Winners were two-fold: those who entered an item, and those who took it home!
Large Trees: W.A. Robinson Asset Management Ltd. won 1st prize for their tree “12 Days of Christmas” and the lucky winner was Neda Debassige-Toeg. The 2nd prize went to Community Living for their creation “A Spidery Christmas Miracle”, taken home by Debbie Hackett. The 3rd prize was St. Lawrence College Employment Services with “The Polar Express to Employment Service” which was won by Phil Gray. “It’s Joyful and Triumphant!” decorated by the Township of CF went to Dawn Gillam. The Friday Night Ladies tree “Nutcracker SWEET” was won by Tanya Whan and “Rudolph” by Mike Dean’s Super Foods went to Dawnalda Wilson.
Medium Trees – 1st prize entry by NFTC “The Legend of the Poinsetta” was won by Glenda Sly; 2nd prize by Sharbot Lake Pharmasave, “Merry Grinchmas Tree” went home with T. Asselstein; and 3rd prize winner, “The Little Engine That Could” by CF Railway Heritage Society went to Mike Thompson. “Once Upon a Christmas” by Lakeside Readers went to Debbie Harding; “The Best Stories begin with an Experience” by GREC Parent Council went to Maureen and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by N.F. Little Theatre was won by D. Jones.
Mini Trees: Yoga Connection won 1st prize for their entry of “Tree Meditation” which was won by Alysha Hamilton. “The Story of Christmas” took 2nd prize by the Parham United Church Sunday School and went to L. Pickett. RFCS Day Care won 3rd Prize for their entry of “Tree of Knowledge (A Gift of Reading) went to Stephanie.
Anything Goes: “A Christmas Carol” by Coldwell Banker received 1st prize in this category and was won by Jacob Whalen. “The Three Bears’ Christmas” by Nancy Harding took 2nd prize and was won by Scott Carl. The 3rd prize, “Let Christmas Sparkle” by Linda DeVries went to Shirley Burke. “Included in all the Reindeer Games” by the Treasure Trunk was won by Sarah McCullough. “The Grinch” by Seeds & Co. was won by Sharon Gable and “Christmas Conversations” by Goodfellow’s Flowers was brought home by Ilona Cox. “Talk Around the Table” by Ram’s Esso went to Bonnie; George Allen’s “Sharbot Lake Express” went to Nicki Hearns and the Community Drop In “Light of the World” was won by Shirley Burke; “A Gift of Love” by Lindsay Stephenson went to Kathy Scott; the entry by the RFCS Youth Program of Arden “Frosty the Snowman” was won by Barry Allen. The Maples “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was won by Barb Hopper and C.J. won Joanne Pickett’s of Arden Pottery “Bee Sweet”.
Baskets – “The Night Before Christmas at Grandma’s House” by the Medical Center Fitness Class took 1st prize and was won by Betty-Ann Blyth; “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Seed to Sausage won 2nd prize and went home with Shelley Purdy; 3rd prize, “Nutcracker Suite (Sweet)” by the Friends of Arden to Faye Steele. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the Sharbot Lake & District Lions won by Mary Stinson; “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Frontenac Catalyst LEO Club was won by Nathan; “Getting Ready for Christmas Stories” by the Canadian Legion to Germaine Wilks; “Tales over Coffee” by Cardinal Cafe to C.J.; “Sweet Christmas Time” by Sharbot Lake Country Inn to Shelley Hamilton; “Sugar Plum Dreams” by Wine Plus to Justin Gray; “Christmas Magic” by Sharbot Lake Retirement Centre to Glenys Bender; “Christmas in Whoville” by the Food Bank went to Cindy Young; “A Frosty Sleigh Ride” by St. Lawrence Employment Services to Sondra Feasby; “Believe in the Magic of Christmas” by S.L. Wellness Clinic was won by Nolan; “Festival Brushings!” by S.L. Dental Office went to Misty Wheeler and “Go Nuts” by Lake District Realty went home with Janet Anderson.
Gingerbread Creations: 1st prize went to “Bumbles’s After Cookies” by Northern Connections Adult Learning and was won by Noah Hertendy. 2nd prize, “Railway Heritage Park” by Heritage Railway Assoc. went to Miles Moore. 3rd prize “Christmas Vacation” by Suzanne Veh was won by Mia Camean and “The Christmas Tradition” by Anne Howes and Heather Card was won by Deb Jones.
Wreaths: “The Story of Christmas” by Sharbot Lake 39’ers received 1st prize and was won by Shirley C. The 2nd prize wreath, “A Wilderness Christmas”, entered by the Arden Seniors, went home with Mickey; and 3rd prize, “Journey in Ginger” by Flight Centre Independent to Lilley Legacy-Zierer.
Wall Hangings: Mike Mahoney was the lucky winner of the 1st prize “Grandma’s Christmas Storybook” by Arden Batik; 2nd prize “The Raven that Stole Santa’s Hat” by Gallery on the Bay went to Marisa Hibbard; and Janice Anderson was the 3rd prize winner for “The Grinch” to Marisa Hibbard. The winner of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Rosmarie Bowick was Brenda Perrin; “Frosty the Snowman” by Ron Veh went to Angie Cowdy and “Memories of Poppa” by Carol Raymo was won by Angie Mallette.
Gift Certificates – The Gibson’s Garage gift certificate for an Oil Change was won by Liz Bonser; the Amazing Dollar Store certificate went to Max Conboy; the Weekend Stay at Rock Hill B&B was won by Lynne Taylor and the Free Platter from Subway was won by R.B.
The food hamper (valued at $200) put together by Villages Beautiful, was won by Jim Dew. The People’s Choice Award, as well The Children’s Choice Award went to “The Grinch” by Seeds & Co.
Each year Villages Beautiful recognizes a person or persons who have contributed their time and effort to the festival over the years. This year that recognition went to Ann Howitt.
Many others must be recognized too: there are those who, instead of making an entry, contribute “in kind”, either financially or through services needed by the festival. Villages Beautiful thanks the following: Cota’s Catering; Sharbot Lake Marina; Ireton Fendley Prof. Corp; Donna’s Sign Shoppe; Home Hardware; Gray’s Grocery; Mike Dean’s Super Foods; Tarasick Carpentry, Sydenham Veterinary Services; Leonard Fuels; Goodfellows Funeral Home; Ultramar/Square Boy Pizza; and 1010 Lawn & Garden Centre.
Thank you to all the volunteers that made this year another success. The theme for next year is: “Down Home Country Christmas”.
(SHARBOT LAKE, ON) - The Frontenac Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is seeking assistance from the public to identify a male who is a suspect in a theft. The incident occurred at The Amazing Dollar Store in Sharbot Lake on Saturday the 8th of December, 2018 after 3:00 p.m.
Video footage captured images of the male who is described as: male white with short dark hair with grey on the sides, scruffy grey beard, blue jacket, dark blue pants and dark coloured shoes.
Anyone with information regarding the investigation is requested to contact the Frontenac Detachment of Ontario Provincial Police (Sharbot Lake Office) at 613-279-2195. If you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), where you may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2000.
For a lot of people Christmas Day and Christmas dinner is all about family, but for some family is made up of more than blood relatives. Local communities become families over time, and it this spirit that makes Community Christmas Dinners happen. In our region, there are three Christmas Dinners that have been around for a number of years, in Northbrook, Sharbot Lake, and Verona. They are all different, but they serve a pretty similar menu, they are all free dinners that are community funded, and they are all open to anyone and everyone in the local community.
“Some people come because they are alone, some come to spend part of Christmas with friends and neighbours, and some couple come because it is a log of work to make Christmas dinner for only two people,” said Marylin Bolender, who has been the principal organiser of the Northbrook dinner for a number of years, a job she inherited from others who started it up as much as 20 years ago. She puts up the posters and cooks the turkeys, hams and pies the day before, and volunteers show up at the Lion’s hall on Christmas Day to help with all the final cooking, setup and cleanup.
“People always see to donate enough money to pay for the following year,” she said, “and since the Lion’s Club donates the hall, we keep the costs down.”
Bolender said she never knows how many people will come, as few as 50 and as many as 100. Last year there were 80, and the crews will be ready for that many or more this year.
“I enjoy it, and people enjoy coming out and sharing,” she said. The Northbrook Dinner starts at 12noon.
In Sharbot Lake, a committee meets throughout the fall to get everything organised for the dinner, which runs from 2pm-4pm at St. James Catholic Church Hall. The dinner is often followed by music and a lot of socialising.
In Verona, the Lions and the Verona Community Association combine forces to put on what they call a Community Feast, with lots of music and presents, starting up at 10am, and running well into the afternoon.
To a certain extent, last Friday’s Small Business Expo ’18 at the St. Lawrence College Employment Service in Sharbot Lake was a vendors’ market. Many of the local usual suspects were there and things were for sale.
But this one was a little bit different.
“We thought we’d take advantage of the expertise in the area,” said coordinator Karen McGregor. “We started calling it the entrepreneurs expo but that wasn’t sexy enough so . . . vendors sale.”
But, unlike the various craft shows and farmers markets, sales and fellowship wasn’t the only thing on the agenda.
“We wanted to tap into the wisdom of people who’ve been doing this for awhile,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to learn the do’s and don’ts from people who’ve learned them already.”
In order to accommodate this exchange in the marketplace of ideas, unlike most similar events, this one was free for the participants.
Also, they held it on a weekday.
“Most of our participants are busy with other shows on the weekends, particularly at this time of year,” she said. “And, having it next door to the Festival of Trees didn’t hurt either.
“Many people coming for the festival stopped in here too.”
One of the things McGregor said people were exploring was the possibility of teaming up.
“If I take half of your treasures to one show and you take half of mine to another, we cover two shows and double our exposure,” she said.
And another thing that set this show apart was the presence of Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation Director Anne Prichard.
“Anne’s an excellent resource,” McGregor said. “It’s one thing to say how do you make your jams and jellies sell and quite another to find loans and grants to get your business off the ground.”
This was the first such expo and judging from the response of the 10 vendors present, McGregor said they plan to do it again next year.
“It brings local entrepreneurs together,” McGregor said.
Allan Zahara has been living on 14 Island Lake for a number of years, and for most of that time he has been working in the e-learning sector in healthcare.
“It has meant heading off to Toronto from time to time, and maintaining a professional profile outside of where I live. My goal now is to live and work in South Frontenac and Frontenac County, and that’s what got me into the accommodations field,” he said, in an interview from Sharbot Lake in early November.
Zahara has been developing his new company, Frontenacrentals.com, for a couple of years.
“I saw that there is a lot of potential for waterfront property owners to take advantage of the global market for the lifestyle that some of us enjoy all the time around here, but don’t know where to start and what they need to do,” he said.
Using himself as a bit of a test case, Zahara developed a 500 square foot cabin on 14 island lake, on his own property, which he rents out on a nightly basis at a premium price.
He uses Airbnb as a booking service, and his cottage is booked from early spring until well into the fall, even into the winter, belying the traditional concern that it is only possible to rent out a cottage in the summer months.
Frontenacrentals.com provides a set of services for property owners looking to generate revenue from their waterfront properties.
These include: online marketing and customer service, concierge and security services, staging and design, professional cleaning and maintenance, and account setup and training.
“There are some key factors involved in establishing the kind of 5-star ratings that can elevate a property to a gold star rating on Airbnb. We managed to get there for our property and the increase in interest has been dramatic,” he said.
One of the key factors to get to that point is to cover all the bases, from staging a property the way a realtor might, to excellent photography and making sure that visitors are greeted, the house rules are clear and reasonable, and that everything is impeccably clean.
"Homeowners may not realize they are sitting on tens of thousands of untapped revenue potential and that it can be done with very little effort or risk. They just need to ensure the whole experience, both online and on site, is white glove to appeal to a global market. When online shoppers see top reviews from people from many countries, the bookings flow in. It's all about knowing how to get those top reviews while ensuring your property and guests are in good hands."
Zahara thinks that the development his business, and others, reflects a change in the tourism potential for Frontenac County in the near future,
“I think that something is happening in our region. New businesses are coming up, visitors from all around the world are interested in coming. It is a good time for new people to step forward, and we are hoping our business can help that happen,” he said.
The North Frontenac Little Theatre Production of The Red Plaid Shirt, by Ontario based playwright Greg Wilmott, was a solid production of a play that explores a topical subject: how male baby boomers handle retirement and how that affects their relationships with their wives.
The play centres around two couples, but the central role is that of Marty, who was played convincingly by Greg Morris. Marty is a newly retired English teacher who does not know what to do with himself, and his sense of ennui provides the impetus for the comedic plot twists that propel the action. Of the other three characters, Marty’s wife Deb, played in a suitably befuddled manner by Sharon Rodden, has the most to do. Her transition to retirement seems to have been seamless, but reacting to Marty’s new neediness throws her off balance, forcing her to ultimately adjust her own lifestyle somewhat.
Marty’s friend, Fred (the always comical John Stephens) is an already retired accountant, whose transition to retirement enabled him to pursue his own peculiar hobby, hypochondria. Meanwhile, Fred’s wife, Gladys, played with a mixture of frustration and irony by Kelly Meckling, would like to more with her life than listen to Fred’s ever-expanding list of ailments. Gladys also serves as a sympathetic ear to Deb. Fred does his best, whenever he takes a break from his obsession with the possibility that he could perish at any moment from some unusual ailment, to help Marty get through his state of unease.
Marty thinks the solution to his funk is to buy a motorcycle and hit the open road. Deb is fearful that Marty is being reckless and will get hurt, since he has never been on a motorcycle, and also feels left behind. She encourages Marty to try wood working with Fred before doing anything foolish. Gladys would like to see Fred be more active, and would also like him to focus on more than his own health. Wood shop doesn’t go that well since both Fred and Marty lack skill and interest, but when Fred comes up with a project that really speaks to home: making a coffin, the plot of the play is able to spin out from there.
In the end, the characters all change in a way that is consistent with their own goals, and the two couples are set off on a new path. The production itself played up the humour in The Red Plaid Shirt, and the ensemble acting made the relationships between the two couples ring true.
Although the play has a decided urban, privileged class bias (most retired or semi-retired men in Frontenac County don’t need to run out and buy a red plaid shirt and many have money worries as well as concerns over what to do with themselves when they wake up in the morning) it still touches on some realities that resonated well with the audience on Saturday night (December 1) when I saw it.
The play marked a return to directing from long time Little Theatre mainstay Pam Giroux, who last directed a production about 30 years ago, but has been on stage dozens of times since then in a variety of roles and is also serving as NFLT President this year. Under her direction, the versatile set by Carol Pepper and Steve Scantlebury allowed for relatively quick transitions between scenes, with simple props creating a café, a woodshop and even a life drawing class, while the central location of the action, Marty and Deb’s Living Room, remained in place.
The Little Theatre’s spring 2019 production will be the new musical, The Boy Wonder, which is set in New York in the 1930’s. It was written by long time NFLT lighting director Jeff Siamon, with songs from the great American songbook, by the likes of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. The casting call for that production will come in the new year.
Members of NFLT and interested community members are invited to a Public meeting held at the United Church Hall in Sharbot Lake on Tuesday December 11 at 7 p.m. We will be brainstorming ideas for our celebration year starting January 2019.