The Citizen looks back at an eventful 2017
Crystal Taylor, chair of the Blyth 140th committee, said that a special New Year’s Levée to kick off the village’s anniversary year was a great success.
The event included a symbolic Christmas tree burning, musical performances and sled dog demonstrations by Blyth’s own Siertsema family.
Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company was named Ontario’s best new brewery based on a poll conducted by the Ontario Beer Network.
The local company garnered 835 votes, which edged out Stray Dog Brewing Company and its 718 votes for the top spot.
Huron County Council decided to press pause on the funding process for the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity in Blyth.
Council felt that the organization had failed to meet some conditions set out by the county regarding the funding and wanted to see them met before the next round of funding was to be released.
Tim and Donna Prior of Brussels became the first Huron County residents to erect a barn quilt. The quilt was designed by Cheryl Gardiner of Gardiner’s Gate and the Priors hoped they would be the first of many to adorn their barns with the artwork ahead of the International Plowing Match in September.
North Huron Township found itself needing a new fire chief after the resignation of David Sparling, who had been the chief for a number of years and a firefighter for decades.
Less than nine months after being the first major hire of North Huron and Morris-Turnberry’s ambitious shared services agreement, Director of Public Works Jeff Molenhuis resigned from his position.
Gary Clark, the minister for both Blyth and Brussels United Churches, announced that he would be moving to Forest Hill United Church in Kitchener after spending almost 10 years in Blyth.
Morris-Turnberry Fire Prevention Officer James Marshall also resigned from his position with the municipality. He first began with the township five years earlier in a part-time capacity, eventually becoming a full-time employee along the way.
Following the resignation of Molenhuis, North Huron and Morris-Turnberry Council officially voted to dissolve the shared services agreement that had earned them such praise one year earlier.
Blyth resident Crystal Taylor, who had worked extensively with the Blyth Legion and with the Blyth 140th Anniversary committee, was announced as the winner of the Sergeant Margaret Eve Award from the Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund. The award annually recognizes the community’s volunteer of the year.
Taylor said that when she first received word that she was being honoured in such a way, she was shocked.
Huron East Council approved the creation of a new Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for Brussels that would see financial incentives given to those who improve their buildings in the downtown core.
Huron County Council directed its staff to produce a report on the intersection of Blyth and London Roads after much discussion at various levels.
There had been numerous collisions at the intersection in the previous months and several concerned citizens brought the issue first to North Huron Council and then to Huron County Council.
Dr. Lisa Walsh was appointed the new Director of Education for the Avon Maitland District School Board. She came to the board by way of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).
Animal Control Officer Bob Trick told Central Huron Council that he felt bears were hibernating in the county. The issue wasn’t too concerning at the time, he said, but it would be when they woke up later in the year.
Severn Thompson, a woman with a life-long history with the Blyth Festival, was named the associate artistic director of the Festival.
The Festival had not had an associate artistic director since current Artistic Director Gil Garratt held the position several years earlier.
A report from consulting firm KPMG outlined a number of missed opportunities for North Huron’s Emergency Services Training Centre. The main issues outlined were delays in finalizing programs and changing directions in the provincial government over the course of the centre’s lifespan.
Huron East firefighters were preparing to lace up their skates for a charity hockey game in which they would be taking on Ontario Provincial Police officers, all in an effort to raise money for Huron County Victim Services.
Huron County Council decided to take a wait-and-see approach to the intersection of Blyth and London Roads. While a petition had been presented and concerned citizens had spoke to both Huron County and North Huron Councils, the county’s public works department suggested that the intersection was on the cusp of major development and that the county should wait and see what those changes meant for the community.
Central Huron Council voted to retain its ward system after some discussion regarding abolishing it. Councillors felt it was important to keep the wards for community identity, among other factors.
A final open house was scheduled for the former Blyth Public School building, as it was set to be demolished later in the month. Former students, teachers and community members were all welcomed back to the building to enjoy it one last time.
The communities of North Huron and Huron East mourned the passing of Paul Josling. Josling served as the fire chief in Blyth for decades and worked for years as Huron East’s chief building official.
Ryan Ladner was named the new chief of the Fire Department of North Huron. A graduate of Humber College, Lambton College and the Ontario Fire College, Ladner had worked in Mississauga, Puslinch and Erin and said he had focused his career on the training of others.
The Blyth Brussels PeeWee Local League Crusaders finished their hockey season with a record of 13-2 and capped it off with a win of the Western Ontario Athletics Association Division Championship.
The Old Colony Mennonite Church officially purchased the former Brussels Public School building after being its primary tenant for several years.
The church had started its own school in the building several years earlier, welcoming over 150 students to the village every day for a number of years.
For the third year running, Blyth’s Part II Bistro was honoured as the province’s top restaurant offering Canadian cuisine and Ontario’s top bistro, beating out thousands of competitors.
Morris-Turnberry Council decided to look into part-ownership of the Brussels division of the Huron East Fire Department. As one of the few communities in Ontario without any ownership stake in a fire department, Morris-Turnberry had been on the hunt for a fire department for a number of years, including a well-publicized attempt at creating its own.
The grand re-opening of Memorial Hall was planned for May 19 in Blyth, while plans for the Grant and Mildred Sparling Centre, at the site of the former Blyth Public School, continued to take shape.
The members of the Dutch-Canadians Remember as One committee announced that Princess Margriet of the Netherlands would be coming to Goderich after years of their efforts.
James Speer, a native of the Brussels area, claimed the top spot in the provincial Legion public speaking competition in the Grade 1-3 category.
Speer first triumphed locally and then again at the Area competition in Barrie before competing at the provincial level in Stratford.
As the topic of his speech, he chose to focus on the odd things parents and grandparents say.
A delegation from Blyth made its way to Ottawa to host an event called, “A Taste of Rural” that aimed to introduce the movers and shakers in the nation’s capital to all of the exciting initiatives ongoing in Blyth and throughout all of Huron County.
As part of a moment that will live on throughout the Brussels community for generations, the first frames of the new Brussels Four Winds Barn were raised in the first steps of the new event centre’s creation.
Memorial Hall in Blyth re-opened to the community after over $4 million in renovations were completed. The hall opened to much fanfare and an open house that welcomed hundreds through the hall on May 19.
Due to projected enrolment pressures at Hullett Central and Clinton Public Schools, the Avon Maitland District School Board was investigating the possibility of sending the school’s Grade 7-8 students to Central Huron Secondary School. The move would be similar to the shift that occurred in Wingham just a few years earlier, as F.E. Madill Secondary School welcomed Grade 7-8 students from surrounding schools.
The Festival of Wizardry, which had created a stir in Goderich and sold nearly 10,000 tickets for its 2017 event, was looking to relocate and Blyth was mentioned as a potential landing spot.
Following the resignation of North Huron Chief Administrative Officer Sharon Chambers earlier in the year, Jeff Molenhuis, the shared Public Works Director for both North Huron and Morris-Turnberry, also opted to leave his post.
North Huron Reeve Neil Vincent said that Molenhuis had chosen to move on and work for another municipality that was much closer to his Stratford home.
Alex Peters of Blyth was honoured with the Ontario Hockey League’s Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy. The award crowned Peters the league’s best captain thanks to his work with the Flint Firebirds.
Jim Prior, a long-time member of the Brussels Lions Club, was honoured with a Melvin Jones Fellowship. After being a member of the club for over 50 years, Prior was just the second member of the Brussels club to ever be honoured with the fellowship.
A number of familiar faces to the Blyth Festival won Dora Mavor Moore Awards for excellence in Toronto stage productions, including newly-named Associate Artistic Director Severn Thompson for her work directing Peter Pan for the Bad Hats Theatre Company.
After the intense rainfall of June 22, a number of flooding safety measures were put to the test throughout the Maitland River watershed. The Blyth Creek was at its highest level in 40 years.
East Wawanosh Township and its residents celebrated the 150th anniversary of the community with a weekend full of events, including an extended parade.
A number of locals were honoured with Canada 150 medals by Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb for their years of hard work in the community. Those honoured included Brussels’ Doug McArter and Joe Seili and Steven Sparling of Blyth.
The Blyth Festival opened its season, the first in the renovated Memorial Hall, to much acclaim.
Mr. New Year’s Eve: A Night with Guy Lombardo opened the season, followed by The Berlin Blues.
An agreement with the Festival of Wizardry was in place and the much-heralded event would be coming to Blyth, set to be held at the village’s expansive campground.
After two previous successful Win This Space competitions in Huron East, a third was planned specifically for Brussels. The winning entrepreneur would earn a storefront and marketing training, but those involved insisted that the real winner would be Brussels.
A number of local firefighters qualified for the provincial FireFit competition, which would be held in Ottawa. The competition tested the skills associated with both fitness and being a skilled firefighter.
Organizers of the Walton TransCan announced that the storied event would not be held in 2017. Due to a number of factors, the event, scheduled for late August every year, the event was shelved, but with plans to come back when the time was right.
Blyth celebrated its 140th anniversary with a weekend full of activities, including a sidewalk sale and a special installment of Cenotaph Day at Memorial Hall in collaboration with the Legion.
Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company welcomed thousands to its new location as it officially opened to the public on Aug. 5. The company invited Blyth residents to be the first to see the building and sample the fruits of its labour before opening to the public at large on Aug. 7. Nearly 1,000 people would come through the building’s door on the special Blyth day.
Erin McMahon of the Bluevale area was crowned the Ambassador of the Brussels Fall Fair. She beat out three other competitors to take the crown in a very special year, when the fair would be held at the International Plowing Match in Walton; something that had never happened before.
Emily Bieman was named the Junior Ambassador of the fair and Casey Bernard would be the fair’s Little Ambassador.
Paul Dodds of Winthrop and Lucas Townsend of Blyth both prevailed in their respective classes at Huron County Plowing Match, paving the way for them to represent the county on home soil at the IPM in September.
Ryan Jacklin of Belgrave won a gold medal in the Men’s Midget shot-put at the national Royal Canadian Legion track and field meet. He also won a silver and a bronze while in Manitoba for the championships.
The Blyth Festival’s season was rounded out with world premieres of both The Pigeon King and Ipperwash.
Justin Trudeau was in Goderich and Stratford, visiting the Salvation Army in Goderich before attending a Stratford Shakespeare Festival function later that night. Trudeau greeted hundreds of adoring fans and supporters in Huron County, signing autographs and administering high fives.
The annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association was marred with some cold and wet weather on its Thursday and Friday, but the warm, sunny Saturday that would come more than made up for it, as thousands came to Blyth for the event.
Goderich claimed a win of the Kraft Heinz Project Play competition for its overhaul of Goderich Recreation Park. The win came with $250,000 for the project.
The ribbon was cut on the International Plowing Match, with dignitaries both local and provincial there to lend a hand. Premier Kathleen Wynne and others were in Walton for the first day of the match, which saw a massive downpour of rain that would result in the cancellation of the second day of the match and the closure of the site.
The closure threw the match into disarray, forcing the rescheduling of a number of events and the outright cancellation of others, but after the community pulled together to repair the site, the match opened again on Thursday.
The Brussels Fall Fair 4-H competition was moved from the IPM grounds to its traditional home at the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre and all of its events went well, while the fair’s tent back the IPM grounds welcomed tens of thousands of guests in the four days of the match.
While it was Kailey Donaldson of Halton who was named the match’s Queen of the Furrow, it was Huron’s Brooklyn Hendriks who was crowned the match’s Princess, a first for an IPM.
Artistic Director Gil Garratt was pleased to see that the Blyth Festival’s year-over-year attendance was continuing to climb. In addition, the inclusion of an extended run for The Pigeon King to coincide with the IPM proved to be a worthwhile gamble, as the hall welcomed hundreds of IPM-goers to Blyth during the match.
Dwayne Evans was hired away from Goderich to be North Huron’s new chief administrative officer after the resignation of Sharon Chambers earlier in the year.
The Festival of Wizardry was deemed a success and brought thousands to Blyth. Many who attended the event had wonderful things to say about the village and local business-owners reported record days.
However, not all was rosy, as extreme weather forced the cancellation of the festival’s second day and a messy social media war ensued. Some patrons complained of critical comments being deleted, while others who planned to attend on Sunday worried that they wouldn’t be refunded.
Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4) began a process called DestinationBLYTH that aimed to identify strengths and opportunities for the village, as it was set to grow and welcome more visitors in the coming years and become a bonafide tourist destination, according to the organization.
Jackie Dewit and her JD and Company business prevailed at the Brussels Win This Space competition, held at the Brussels Legion.
Not only did Dewit win a year’s rent in the village, but she also claimed educational opportunities and assistance from local businesses as she got up and running.
Peter Gusso, chef and owner of Part II Bistro in Blyth, announced that he would be opening a second restaurant, this time in Goderich. Gusso had purchased The Bistro in Goderich on The Square and planned to be open by the end of the year.
Ric McBurney was named Citizen of the Year for the Blyth area, while Elaine Armstrong was awarded as Citizen of the Year for the Brussels community.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt announced the theatre’s 2018 season, which will open in June with Mark Crawford’s The New Canadian Curling Club.
Several locals were awarded at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, including Blyth Farm Cheese, Connor Rodger of Auburn and others.
Living Water Christian Fellowship of Blyth marked its final service after its elders made the tough decision to close the church.
Ryan Ladner resigned from his duties as chief of the Fire Department of North Huron, just nine months after he took the job.
He spoke highly of the department and its firefighters, saying the community is lucky to have them.
Forty-one North Huron firefighters all walked off the job in protest after a replacement for Ladner was chosen.
The decision led to a frenzied five days, where North Huron councillors were scrambling to find a solution and a number of special meetings were called.
The firefighters, however, returned to the job on Dec. 11 after a joint resolution was reached. The firefighters did, however, respond to a number of calls during this time, assuring the community that they were not left without coverage.