A Perth County Weekend

A 2-hour drive west of Toronto brings visitors to bucolic Perth County, near the town of Stratford, Ontario. Perth is an agricultural region of small communities with an orderly Mennonite presence. Farms are busy, produce is out and people are friendly. Autumn is a choice time to visit.

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Peanut butter balls are the most popular bakery item at Michelle and Leanne Daniet's Life's A Party in Listowell. With its busy kitchen, Life's more than that, though, as proven by their popular daily lunches. 

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A few steps down the street BK's Brand Name manager Lois Stewart shows us around the store's huge selection of clothing and footwear.

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Listowel Florist Gifts & Antiques isn't your usual place. Brenda (not pictured) handles everything at street level while Ray fashions hundreds of bird houses in his labyrinth 2nd floor workshop.

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Back around the corner, on Main Street Diana Sweets Restaurant serves up daily specials such as coney island hot dogs, fries and carrot soup.

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It's a pleasant 40-minute drive from Listowell to the Stratford Perth Museum where current feature exhibits are about local boy Justin Bieber and To Kill a Mockingbird, on loan from Monroe County Museum, Alabama.

Jan 15 2019 update: A new book Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom gives Justin Bieber fans an intimate, behind-the-curtain look at a museum exhibit, featuring 100 colour photos of the iconic pieces exhibit.

The book is now available for purchase through the publisher’s website, www.bluemoonpublishers.com/justin-bieber, the Stratford Perth Museum’s website, stratfordperthmuseum.com, or at Indigo. Fans can also order a special collector’s edition of the book personalized with their name on the front cover or on an interior page.

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Join Gregory Peck with a selfie of a scene in the film To Kill a Mockingbird, from the book of the same name which was just voted 'America's favourite novel'!

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Volunteers from 'Off the Wall' celebrate their dramatic gift to the museum — a life-size facade of steam engine 6218, the last to be repaired at the Motive Power Shops in neighbouring Stratford.

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Stratford's Shakespearean Theatre is a mainstay at the museum — flush with a few surprises. For instance, the orb used by Alec Guinness in Richard III, 1953, was actually a toilet float ball.

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Bob and Cathy Hutton are amiable, veteran hosts at their comfortably renovated Victorian Windbreak Farm B&B.

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A note from Cathy and Bob, Dec. 29, 2018: It is with sadness and regret that we must now announce the closing of the B&B portion of our Windbreak Farm businesses.

A sudden and serious illness has rendered Cathy unable to continue the duties involved with the running of the B&B.

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You haven't experienced the county until you've eaten at Anna Mae's, a popular Mennonite restaurant with traditional food in portions larger than you. 

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Milverton is a century-plus hamlet with 2 Mennonite bakeries: Guenther's and Lil Fry Pie Shop plus a handful of stores. Here horses and buggies casually share the streets with cars.

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The little crossroads village of Shakespeare unexpectedly hosts the Harry Ten Shilling Tea Room where partners Lynn and Robert serve gourmet dishes and teas in a designer setting.

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Also in Shakespeare is startup craft brewery Shakespeare Brewing Company, owned by Kate and brewmaster husband, Ayden Gautreau in a converted garage. Their ingredients are proudly sourced entirely from Ontario — a good act to swallow.

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Stonetown Artisan Cheese is the big cheesery in the county. Owners Hans & Jolanda Weber emigrated from Switzerland to pursue their dream of producing the finest Swiss-style cheese in Ontario. Continuing that dream, they've hired Ramon Eberle, a 4th generation Master Swiss cheese maker.

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From an elbow-room size kitchen at Dave's Diner in Sebringville Dave Sharples cheerfully turns out hearty fare, freely admitting he couldn't do it without his "great staff" who gleefully overheard that comment. 

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St Mary's was closing down late Saturday afternoon when the smokey aroma of coffee beans drew us irresistibly along Queen Street to Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters. Cups in hand, we walked the downtown core, admiring the work of 19th century Scottish stone masons plus the fancy legwork of a blue heron wading in the river.

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This story also appears in an edited version on the travel website vacay.ca

Photos, text and design 

© Gary Crallé 2018 

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