Discover authentic small town experiences!

It all starts tomorrow, folks!

Our hearts are beating a little faster today because of the anticipation of the Ontario Festival of Small Halls starting two weeks of amazing music while paying tribute to rural halls with history and heart.

As you know, the Festival has expanded this year. That means we’re kicking off in two locations: Stonefield’s in Beckwith while being fired up by The Abrams and Sacha, and at the Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall with the sweet sounds of Great Lake Swimmers and Seamus Cowan!

So, you have your tickets – why not extend your visit to explore some of Eastern Ontario’s intriguing small towns? It’s easy to stay and celebrate small town charm and community – by discovering it. We even have three new halls on the schedule for this weekend, too!

Here are some suggestions for authentic experiences to get you in the spirit for kicking off the Festival this week. Spend time in…

Chaffey’s Lock – Grab an ice cream cone and stroll the grounds at the fabled Opinicon in Chaffey’s Lock or go for a walk along the Cataraqui Trail – just five minutes from the hall is a brilliant view from a former trestle bridge high above the Rideau Canal! Or, come earlier in the day and take a boat cruise or rent a kayak to explore the Rideau Canal with Rideau Tours.

Beckwith – How about lacing up and enjoying Beckwith’s Goodwood Marsh Nature Trail before listening to the Abrams at Stonefields Heritage Farm?

Winchester – Beginning at 5 p.m., the Winchester United Church (519 St. Lawrence St. Winchester) will host its annual turkey dinner. The cost is $15 per person at the door and includes dessert. The venue is also fully accessible. Round out the country experience by visiting a nearby apple orchard with pick-your-own opportunities. Don’t forget to arrive a few minutes early for the sold-out show to marvel at the Old Town Hall.

Almonte – This is one of most picturesque and unique downtowns along the Mississippi River. Enjoy shopping and dining on Mill Street and then visit the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum National Historic Site to discover static and working displays of textile equipment and processes focusing on the region’s heritage, culture and the role of the textile industry in the development of Canada.

Athens – On your way to the show, stop by Mensen Farm on County Rd. 42 for delicious local produce – and be wooed by the resident goats. Once in Athens, be sure to stop by Willard’s Bakery and Deli on Main Street for their famous baked goods. Their oatmeal cookies are the biggest around and the donuts are to die for! The village is also accented by wall murals that depict the area’s rich history, which are painted on the side of local landmark buildings. Small-town atmosphere combines perfectly with strong agricultural roots here.

Dunvegan – A visit to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum is a must before the Jenn Grant show! Open in the fall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, this gem is hidden away but includes nine unique buildings – eight of which have been relocated to the site from the surrounding areas to interpret and house its rich history. These include a cheese factory, a trapper’s cabin, the old Star Inn, a livery, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop and more! If you’re attending the show, don’t forget that there’s a chilli dinner being held across the road beginning at 6 p.m. The cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children and includes fresh bread and dessert.

Morton – Head over to Jones Falls to marvel at the engineering genius of the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal as you watch boats going through the locks. Don’t forget to visit Wendy’s Country Market on Fortune Line Road to feed the animals, count the bunnies and discover delicious, locally grown and produced foods before the Fred Penner matinee show.

Balderson  – Before the show, stop by Balderson Cheese (1410 Highway 511 in Balderson)  to sample some of their delicious cheeses – and maybe even take a few home too!  Balderson is also the home of a unique shopping experience with vibrant stores right in the village, but also antique shops in the countryside. Even getting there is remarkable while driving through the gorgeous Lanark Country countryside!

Tamworth – This village has the beautiful Salmon River flowing through it – and nearby Beaver Lake to accent it’s variety of amenities and highlight its milling history! Before the Great Lake Swimmers show, take a jaunt in the Beaver Lake Lions Park along the waterfront to enjoy the scenery!

Don’t have your tickets yet? See our full schedule here! There are also wonderful community dinners, events and more taking place in many host communities! See the list of dinners, apps, markets and more here.

Tickets remain for the Rose Cousins with Julia Finnegan show in Athens Saturday night, for Jenn Grant and Jasmine Bleile at the Dunvegan Recreation Hall on the same night and for Canadian icon, Fred Penner in Morton with Barbershop Therapy on Sunday afternoon! We would love to see you there. Celebrate the weekend with us at the Joshua Bates Centre in Athens and at the Morton Community Hall!