I think most of us would agree 2016 has been a tumultuous, shocking, and at times surreal year (in fact, Merriam-Webster selected “surreal” as its word of the year).
In global news, the past year gave us the US presidential election and the surprise victory of Donald Trump, Brexit, the Syrian civil war, an attempted coup in Turkey and consequential crackdown on citizens, the mass shooting at the Florida nightclub that killed 49 and injured 53, police shootings of black people, Europe’s migrant crisis, the spread of the Zika virus, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the Fort McMurray wildfire, multiple terrorist attacks in Brussels, Turkey, Belgium, France, and Germany, the Dakota Access pipeline protests, the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Whew.
Speaking of deaths, 2016 was a busy year for the Grim Reaper, who claimed many celebrities. The list of famous people who died in 2016 was Wikipedia’s most edited page. To name a few we lost this past year (in alphabetical order): Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Keith Emerson, Carrie Fisher, Glenn Frey, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn, Merle Haggard, Florence Henderson, Gordie Howe, George Kennedy, W.P. Kinsella, Greg Lake, Harper Lee, Garry Marshall, George Michael, Prince, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman, Leon Russell, Morley Safer, Garry Shandling, Alan Thicke, Robert Vaughn, Abe Vigoda, and Gene Wilder. (While I was writing this story, both George Michael and Carrie Fisher passed away, and Debbie Reynolds passed away the day after publication).
Locally, we lost Erica Cherney, Dr. Judith Buys, John Badham, and Courtney Druce, among others. On a personal note, my own mother passed away unexpectedly this past July.
With all the bad news in 2016, it’s easy to forget there were also a lot of positive things that happened in our community. Here’s my selection of our top stories from 2016, organized by month. While Peterborough and the Kawarthas had its share of bad news in the past year, the positive stories far outweighed the negative ones.
2016 started out on a positive note. Manon Rhéaume — the first (and only) female to play for the NHL — spoke at the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough and dropped the puck at the “Face off Against Dementia” Peterborough Petes game. This was followed by the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough donating $16,001.33 to YWCA Crossroads Shelter and the Faceoff Against Dementia hockey game raising over $16,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland & Haliburton,
For the 30th anniversary of his annual swimathon in February, Carl Oake was to be joined by four women who have swum across Lake Ontario — Marilyn Bell, Vicki Keith, Annaleise Carr, and Trinity Arsenault — would be joining him. Unfortunately, due to an operation, Carl was unable to swim in his swimathon for the first time and Marilyn Bell had to withdraw due to ill health.
Maclean’s Magazine profiled the Peterborough sponsors of a Syrian refugee family and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Peterborough after meeting with the local Muslim association and attending the open house at the mosque firebombed last year.
Downtown Peterborough shoppers raised over $10,000 for Kawartha Food Share by donating money to downtown parking meters in November and December and the Downtown Business Improvement Area and the City of Peterborough announced they were going to make Peterborough the public mural capital of Ontario. The Peterborough County-City Health Unit announced that it had exceeded its campaign goal for Myrtle’s Kitchen, a new community kitchen to open in downtown Peterborough in the spring.
In other local news, the Canadian Canoe Museum unveiled the “visionary” winning design for the new museum to be located at Peterborough Lift Lock, ReFrame Film Festival screened more than 70 documentaries, Jake’s Bar and Eatery in Lindsay closed , and Peterborough’s Wendy Trusler and co-author Carol Devine appeared on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with host Shelagh Rogers to discuss their book The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning.
The community continued to support good causes, with the Pink in the Rink campaign raising a record $97,035 for cancer research and New Stages Theatre Company hosting a fundraiser (featuring Sean Cullen, Fiona Reid, Glynis Ranney, Kate Suhr, Jonathan Cullen, Stephen Cullen, Paul Crough, and Kate Brioux) for the New Canadians Centre to support Syrian refugee families relocating to Peterborough.
In business news, Peterborough Economic Development announced their new President & CEO Rhonda Keenan, young entrepreneur Adam Noble of Noble Tech Inc. announced a $20-million clean tech algae plant in Peterborough would be built at the Trent Research and Innovation Park in 2017, Sir Sam’s in Haliburton celebrated its 50th anniversary as a family-owned and oriented resort, and Peterborough Utilities announced more green power for Peterborough with a new hydroelectric generating station on the Otonabee River going online by the summer.
In other local news, there was a public meeting on the “transformational” development of lands at Trent University, describing the plans for a research park, hockey arena, sports field, and more. The City of Peterborough reversed a decision to refuse an anti-abortion ad on Peterborough Transit buses. Local author Mary Giuffre launched the Ruby’s Love Letter campaign to shut down puppy mills across Canada, and Kawartha Nordic hosted the provincial midget cross-country ski championships.
Our feature stories for February included the YWCA’s weekly START program, which connects women in abusive relationships to community services, and The Canadian Canoe Museum’s efforts to help aboriginal youth connect to their heritage.
In theatre, we reviewed The Motley Collective’s production of Les Belles-Soeurs, The Theatre on King’s Double Feature: Monstrandum Corpus Hominis and Three One Act Plays by Alice Gerstenberg, and Peterborough Theatre Guild’s production of Of the Fields, Lately.
March began with news that everyone who had ever needed a tool they didn’t have would be able to borrow one from the new Peterborough Tool Library in the spring. To be located at The Endeavour Centre, the organization also launched a crowdfunding campaign.
Community support continued with a fundraising dance for the Lakefield Refugee Sponsorship Project that raised over $4,000, the New Canadians Centre launching a donation drive to welcome Syrian families to Peterborough with non-perishable food items and other kitchen-related items, and the Peterborough Petes donating $2,800 in sales of commemorative jerseys to a crowdfunding campaign for a local woman, Courtney Druce, who was close to losing her final battle against cancer (Courtney passed away in April, eight days shy of her 28th birthday).
The federal government was good to Peterborough in March, with federal tax funds allowing the City of Peterborough to purchase six new accessible transit buses and the Art Gallery of Peterborough receiving $440,000 in federal funding for recent renovations and upgrades to the gallery building.
In other community news, strong objections were raised at a public meeting on the potential sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One, the Peterborough County-City Health Unit declared a community-wide flu outbreak for the Peterborough area, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre launched a new online chat service for survivors of sexual violence, the City of Peterborough announced the first two public mural locations for downtown Peterborough, and the Peterborough Airport announced charter airline Nextjet Canada would offer flights to Quebec and Kitchener-Waterloo from Peterborough in the spring (the service was discontinued by the fall after NextJet failed to meet its obligations).
In local music and arts, we interviewed glam-pop rocker Hawksley Workman in advance of his April concert at Showplace Performance Centre, Public Energy presented the world premiere of Bill Coleman’s new dance work “Dollhouse” at the Market Hall, Peterborough natives Chad Maker and Kirk Comrie of A71 Entertainment continued to bring the work of Canadian independent filmmakers to Peterborough, and the SPARK Photo Festival kicked off with a showcase exhibit of photographs of Peterborough’s manufacturing era.
We began April with a feature interview of Peterborough filmmaker Lester Alfonso about his new documentary Birthmark, as well as a feature interview with Steve Patterson, host of CBC’s popular radio program The Debaters, in advance of the taping of the program at Showplace Performance Centre in May.
Elsewhere in the arts, the Peterborough Theatre Guild hosted the Eastern Ontario Drama League festival, Artspace issued a call for proposals for a second public art mural under Peterborough’s Hunter Street Bridge, the City of Peterborough issued a call for a new outdoor mural at Simcoe and Queen Streets in downtown Peterborough, and International Jazz Day Peterborough returned on April 30th.
In local news, the Peterborough Public Library relocated from its Alymer Street location to Peterborough Square to prepare for renovations, the Province of Ontario announced nine electric vehicle charging stations at six locations in the Peterborough area, and the federal government invested $4.87 million in Peterborough-based aviation company Flying Colours Corp. for the construction of a 100,000-square foot hangar at the Peterborough Airport. Some 250-year-old trees were identified in Peterborough’s Jackson Park and Cottage Life magazine named Lindsay and Port Hope as two of the “quaintest” towns in Ontario.
On the charitable front, 14 restaurants in Peterborough, Lakefield, Port Hope, and Campbellford participated in A Taste for Life to support people affected by HIV/AIDS, Paul Rellinger camped out for 48 hours on The Brick’s roof in support of Habitat for Humanity for the sixth year of Relly on the Roof, and the annual fundraiser for Hospice Peterborough in honour of the late great Paul O’Sullivan took place at Peterborough’s Market Hall.
We continued to support local theatre with reviews of New Stages Theatre Company’s production of The Pitmen Painters, “Beckett Fest” at The Theatre on King, and Enter Stage Right’s satirical look at children’s television with their production of Welcome to Butternut Grove.
In other music news, Peterborough’s Jesse Slack was a regional finalist in CBC Music’s Searchlight competition (he didn’t win) and, in one of our most popular stories of the year, we broke the news that music legends Kris Kristofferson and Gordon Lightfoot joined Ronnie Hawkins at his Stoney Lake home for a secret recording session of “Me and Bobby McGee”.
We ran a four-part series called “Washboard Hank’s guide to the best breakfasts in Peterborough”, where the local musician and greasy spoon expert guides his daughter Eva through some of the best diners in Peterborough. Part one covered the Monaghan Cafe, part two the Lock Street Diner , part three The Speak Easy Cafe, and part four the East City Coffee Shop.
In local news, we profiled the reconstruction of King Street in downtown Millbrook,, the planned makeover of Peterborough’s Bethune Street, a public meeting describing the design and plans for the new Canadian Canoe Museum near the Peterborough Lift Lock , and described the outpouring of community support for Peterborough artist, actress, and musician Sarah McNeilly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at just age 31.
Our feature stories included Cam’s Kids, a charity raising awareness and support for youth struggling with anxiety named in memory of Cam Hicks, 4th Line Theatre’s plans to bring the story of the 1916 Quaker Oats factory fire in Peterborough to life in the new play The Hero of Hunter Street, a new television series capturing life on South Pond Farms in Pontypool, and the expansion of The Canadian Canoe Museum’s Voyageur Canoe tours, where you can experience the Peterborough Lift Lock in a Voyageur Canoe.
In local theatre, we featured local radio personality Matt Diamond’s role as Buddy Holly in the Peterborough Theatre Guild’s production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story and we reviewed the show. We also reviewed two more plays in The Theatre on King’s “Beckett Fest” — Krapp’s Last Tape and Waiting for Godot — as well as Lakefield College School’s intense production of The Laramie Project, about the 1998 murder of LGBTQ college student Matthew Shepard.
In local news, the Peterborough County-City Health Unit announced it was rebranding as Peterborough Public Health and also opened Myrtle’s Kitchen, a new community kitchen in downtown Peterborough. The Peterborough Pathway of Fame announced 11 new honourees for 2016 (including Serena Ryder, Sylvia Sutherland, Kim Blackwell, Dan Fewings, and Erica Cherney), Delectable Fine Foods opened in Peterborough, and Edmonton artist Jill Stanton was selected to paint the next Hunter Street Bridge Mural in Peterborough.
Our feature stories included a look at the many volunteers, spectators, and paddlers who took part in Peterborough’s Dragon Boat Festival, an exclusive story on Peterborough filmmaker Michael Morritt’s new powerful short film in support of Chris Culgin’s latest record, starring Bobby Watson and other local actors (Michael and his wife Gillian are moving to Spain in February!), and described 15 things you might not know about The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.
In music news, we covered the announcement that Bahamas would kick off the Peterborough Folk Festival along with local emerging artist Nick Procyshyn and that Serena Ryder was opening Peterborough Musicfest’s 30th season followed by actor-turned-musician Kiefer Sutherland.
In the arts and theatre, we profiled 4th Line Theatre’s The Hero of Hunter Street, covered the premiere of Megan Murphy’s emotional documentary Murphy’s Law at Showplace, and reviewed Mysterious Entity Theatre’s The Blind Eye and The Theatre on King’s One in a Million.
July was a milestone for kawarthaNOW, as we launched our new mobile-friendly website and expanded our coverage of local news. And 2016 was also our 20th anniversary — we originally launched quidnovis.com in 1996, as one of the first local community portals (as they were known back in the ancient days of the internet).
In honour of summer, we published our guide to 25 patios in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.
Local news stories included the return of Peterborough Pulse, the second annual open streets event in downtown Peterborough, the hiring of Michael Skinner as President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, a drone video of a world-record breaking 138 canoes and kayaks squeezing into the Peterborough Lift Lock on National Canoe Day, the relocation of turtles from a pond being drained for Highway 407 construction, the filming of another Subaru car commercial at farms in the Kawarthas, a profile of Bobcaygeon in Maclean’s magazine, and the launch of the City of Peterborough’s new online construction map.
Our feature stories included a profile of local musician Bobby Watson, who celebrated his 70th birthday in August with a fundraiser for the Peterborough Musicians Benevolent Association, a profile of Sarah Quick and James Barrett of Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon, a profile of Kawartha Settlers’ Village in Bobcaygeon, and a look at Wayne Eardley’s Project Caribou, a photographic exhibition of the historic buildings of General Electric.
In local theatre, we reviewed the premiere of The Hero of Hunter Street at 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook, Globus Theatre’s production of Buying the Moose, Sweet Dreams: A Tribute to Patsy Cline and Knickers! A Brief Comedy at Lakeview Arts Barn in Bobcaygeon, What I Did Last Summer at Peterborough Theatre Guild, and Paper Planes at Ennismore Homestead Theatre.
August wasn’t such a great month for the Peterborough community.
A stolen plane crashed near Lansdowne Place, killing the pilot (fortunately, no-one else was killed or injured). Despite fears of terrorism, federal authorities confirmed there was no national security issue; the 20-year old Markham man who stole the plane suffered from schizophrenia.
A few days later, Peterborough community leader and relentless volunteer Erica Cherney passed after a battle with cancer, prompting an outpouring of love from those who knew her. On the same day, kawarthaNOW broke the news that Peterborough dentist Dr. Judith Buys had died after suffering severe burns after an explosion at a local cottage.
In other local news, the long and dry summer eventually resulted in total fire bans being implemented in almost municipalities in The Kawarthas, Peterborough Utilities new hydro plant on the Otonabee River began generating enough green energy to power 12,000 homes, Peterborough hosted its first “game jam” for video game developers in downtown Peterborough, VentureNorth announced plans to establish an innovative business hub in the former Promenade Building in downtown Peterborough, a 152-year-old time capsule was unearthed at the site of the old Peterborough County Jail, and famous wildlife artist Robert Bateman sold his Haliburton cottage.
The biggest musical event of the summer was The Tragically Hip’s final tour, after frontman Gord Downie was diagnosed with brain cancer. Our music columnist shared his feelings about The Hip’s August 10th concert in Toronto and we published a guide to all the community screenings in The Kawarthas of the CBC’s broadcast of The Hip’s final show in Kingston on August 20th.
Other arts and music news included a viral painting on display at The Gallery on the Lake in Buckhorn, photos of the Hunter Street Bridge mural being painted by Edmonton artist Jill Stanton, photos of The Hootenanny on Hunter Street in Peterborough, the episode of CBC comedy series Still Standing featuring Omemee, and the story behind the historic recording of “Me And Bobby McGee” at Hawkstone Manor in May by Kris Kristofferson, Ronnie Hawkins, Gordon Lightfoot, and Willie Nelson.
Our theatre reviews in August included the Globus Theatre and The Irish Stage Company production of Stones In His Pockets, 4th Line Theatre’s restaging of The Bad Luck Bank Robbers, and Globus Theatre’s spoof of rural life Funny Farmers.
We started September with a story about Peterborough novelist Michelle Berry’s plan to launch Hunter Street Books in downtown Peterborough (also read The Globe and Mail’s December 2016 story on the bookstore), and then covered the unveiling of Jill Stanton’s “Bloodroot” mural under the Hunter Street Bridge, when photographer Samantha Moss also captured an unusual photo of a car on a hydro pole.
Our follow-up story on the stolen plane that crashed in Peterborough in August revealed the inexperienced pilot was likely unaware the plane wasn’t airworthy.
In other local news, Peterborough’s Jeff Day was appointed as Executive Director of Community Futures Peterborough, a pot store in downtown Peterborough opened and closed several times after raids by police, prompting the “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery to come to Peterborough to protest the arrest of the store’s owner, the Ontario government put possibly the final nail in the coffin of Peterborough’s Parkway, and there are new requirements for cat owners in the City of Peterborough.
Our feature stories included an interview with adult puppeteer Frank Meschkuleit in advance of his performance at Showplace Performance Centre, a story by Norwood high school student Abigayle Partington about volunteering at a camp for Ugandan children living with diabetes, a profile of veteran actress and improv performer Linda Kash in her new musical, and a story about Cross Wind Farm in Keene selling goat milk soap for breast cancer awareness.
We expanded our content to include a new style column by Eva Fisher, with new looks and style tips from the region’s fashion trailblazers.
And, in our most popular story of the month, actor/musician Kiefer Sutherland gave a shoutout to Peterborough on Live with Kelly, describing how he was reunited with his childhood best friend at his Peterborough Musicfest concert in June.
Our top story for October was the fly-in of 58 dogs from northern Ontario to the Peterborough Airport to find forever homes, with the animals ready for adoption at the end of the month.
Other local news and business stories this month included the relocation of Port Hope’s monument to Farley Mowat, Peterborough’s Deputy Police Chief receiving an Order of Merit, the continued expansion of Peterborough biomaterials company Noblegen, the winners of the 2016 Peterborough Business Excellence Awards, City of Kawartha Lakes councillors voting to reduce the size of council by half in 2018, the launch of the Win This Space entrepreneurial competition with a $35,000 prize package including a free one-year lease of downtown Peterborough storefront, and Hydro One’s offer to buy Peterborough Distribution Inc. for $105 million — days after the City of Peterborough launched a community consultation on the potential sale.
In the arts and theatre, we interviewed Canadian comedian Steve Smith (“Red Green”) in advance of his performance at Showplace Performance Centre, we reported on Peterborough writer Ian Rogers whose haunted house short story is being developed for American television , and we remembered the late Willie P. Bennett on what would have been his 65th birthday. We reviewed The Theatre on King’s play The Makers of Madness, 4th Line Theatre’s The Shadow Walk of Millbrook, and My Narrator at the Peterborough Theatre Guild.
Good news on the community front included Shorelines at Kawartha Downs donating 200 turkeys to Kawartha Food Share, Peterborough’s Dragon Boat Festival raising $196,469 for breast cancer screening, Cram-A-Cruiser collecting over 20,000 pounds of food for Kawartha Food Share, and Bras Around the Building collecting 7,000 bras and raising $16,500 for breast cancer research.
Perhaps proving that people were starved for good news in 2016, our most popular stories in November were about Bentley, a comfort dog that Lakeland Funeral & Cremation Centre adopted from the Kawartha Lakes Humane Society to welcome and comfort grieving families and about the Syrian refugee family who opened OMG (Oasis Mediterranean Grill), a new restaurant in downtown Peterborough.
Other local good news stories included The Bucks being chosen as Peterborough County’s Farm Family of the Year, the federal government announcement of $970,000 in funding for the new Peterborough County Agricultural Heritage Building at Lang Pioneer Village Museum in Keene, and Canada’s first female astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar delivering the keynote address for the 7th annual Philanthropy Forum.
Bad news this month included GreenUP reporting that the bee colony at GreenUP Ecology Park had died, possibly from colony collapse disorder, and that six people were arrested for the murder of Terence Pringle of Peterborough.
In business news, Karl Moher was selected as the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism’s Citizen of the Year, we profiled the work of Peterborough Economic Development’s Business Advisory Centre, we covered the Trent Severn Waterway Trail Towns Workshop presented by Kawarthas Northumberland and regional tourism funding available from Kawarthas Northumberland, and we published author Ann Douglas’ story about why she invited seven local women out for breakfast.
In lifestyle, we featured four unique dining and shopping experiences in downtown Lindsay and fashion at John Roberts Clothiers and My Left Breast in downtown Peterborough.
In music, Peterborough Musicfest announced that Kim Mitchell would be performing to help Peterborough celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. We interviewed Fred Eaglesmith in advance of his concert at Showplace Performance Centre, and we were a media sponsor for former Great Big Sea founder Séan McCann’s performance at Market Hall in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge.
In the arts and theatre, “A Certain Place: The Bernie Martin Festival” took place during November and we reviewed two of the festival’s one-act plays. We published an excerpt from A Dark Day In Peterborough: A Time To Remember December 11, 1916, a new book by Peterborough historian Gord Young about the Quaker Oats factory explosion and fire, and we profiled an upcoming documentary from filmmaker Lauren Bridle about Lovesick Lake. We reviewed the Peterborough Theatre Guild production of Eclipsed, St. James Players’ family production of The Wizard of Oz, and Lakefield College School’s musical parody The Drowsy Chaperone.
Apparently, 2016 wasn’t about to let December go by without its own share of bad news. Depending on your perspective, one of these stories was Peterborough City Council’s decision to sell Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One, a decision council confirmed after a raucous public meeting at Market Hall that left opponents of the sale frustrated.
We published a lot of crime-related news this month. Northumberland OPP issued a warning about a night time prowler in Brighton, two Peterborough teens were arrested after stealing a car from Peterborough and taking it on a joy ride to Timmins, an off-duty Peterborough police officer was charged with impaired driving , and Peterborough police arrested nine more suspects of a local drug trafficking gang and seized guns, drugs, and cash. On a somewhat lighter note, Peterborough police dog Wolfe sniffed out burglary suspects hiding in a snowbank and he also located illicit drugs in a vehicle.
The most tragic news of the month was the death of a family of four from Toronto after a Christmas Eve fire destroyed their Stoney Lake cottage. Geoff Taber, his wife Jacquie Gardner, their two teenage sons Scott and Andrew, and their two family dogs Haley and Shelby all perished in the fire.
Now on to the good news for December …
The design for the new Canadian Canoe Museum received an award from Canadian Architect magazine, teenager Faith Dickinson continued to make her Cuddle blankets for sick kids this Christmas, fans of the Peterborough Petes fans donated 1,525 toys at the annual Teddy Bear toss game, the New Canadians Centre collected hundreds of holiday message cards welcoming newcomers to Canada, and supporters of The Canadian Canoe Museum raised funds to allow the museum to purchase a new van and equipment to support their outreach programs.
In other local news, Reggie’s Hot Grill in Peterborough’s East City reopened under new ownership, the Peterborough Public Library offered a sneak peek into the new interior of the Alymer Street location currently under renovation, GreenUP described improvements in the works for Ecology Park in 2017, and the team at Cornerstone Family Dentistry installed a touching tribute to founder Dr. Judith Buys, who died this past summer after a tragic accident.
In the arts and theatre, the first annual Light Hunters’ Promenade took place in downtown Peterborough on the winter solstice and we profiled Peterborough actress Kate Suhr’s career success in Toronto. We reviewed Amber Coast Theatrical’s premiere production First Date: A Musical Comedy, the family-friendly production of The Reluctant Dragon at the Peterborough Theatre Guild, and The Theatre on King’s production of Cocaine.
We launched our weekly Publisher’s Picks column, featuring top events curated by kawarthaNOW publisher Jeannine Taylor. We also published our annual guide on harvesting your own Christmas tree in the Kawarthas, as well as our “give local” list of unique gifts from local non-profit organizations that give back to the community (this list is good all year round!).
And, finally, so that we can all say goodbye to 2016 and hope for a better year in 2017, we published our top picks for family-friendly and adult-only New Year’s Eve celebrations in The Kawarthas.