By Stephen Patrick
As I write this today, Wednesday, February 22, 2012, the snow is dripping off the roof, the temperature is plus 2, the expected low is just minus 4, and the steep street outside is awash in spring runoff. It must be late March, right? Early April?
This has been one of the warmest winters on record, playing havoc with the sledders (although we have more snow than most jurisdictions to the east and south of us). The conditions are stretching the patience of our accommodators, restaurateurs, and the myriad other businesses that rely on winter tourism, and on the regular presence of winter cottagers.
But last Saturday, another beautiful and even crisp day, the feeling atHaliburtonVillage’s Frost Fest, inMinden’s Family Day celebrations, atDorset’s Snowball Winter Carnival, was buoyant, positive, and filled with down home country charm. We had guests up for the weekend and they loved the warm and welcoming ambience of the Frost Fest, the ponies, the sled dogs, the maple syrup. Corny? You betcha!
Later in the morning we headed up to McKeck’s for lunch; at12:30there were maybe 20 people in the pub. By1:15the lineups stretched out the door and down the block. “A service tsunami,” Manager Karen Frybort called it, with a happy grin.
Retail merchants reported a good, but not spectacular weekend, but the events in both Minden and Haliburton proved once again that if the event — and the marketing, and the weather — come together, this county has great economic potential, and not just as a tourist destination. We have something almost akin to a special character in theHighlands; how to market it, how to focus it, how — yes — to brand it, is the challenge.
And we’d better get going. If you weren’t anxious about our provincial and national economies before, the dreaded report by economist and bureaucrat Don Drummond was enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head for the next five years or so. If implemented – one huge ‘if’, I realize – the changes in our health care system alone could be simply massive. Our local hospital autonomy, such as it is, could be at permanent risk, for starters.
But for now, let’s continue to bask in the crazy weather, cheer on our terrific Bantam and Midget Highland Storm teams as they start their semi-final all-Ontario runs, and remember that warm and fuzzy feeling we collectively produced all over this county last weekend.