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September, 2000

This Week In Muskoka - September Edition

Ah yes... fall in Muskoka. The leaves are turning, bus loads of Asian tourists are doing their best to keep Kodak in business, and this year we have a new twist to it all - election signs! Why is it that democracy in action has to be so ugly? The local papers are chocked full of news concerning who will be running where in the November 13th municipal election - as long as you don't mind that all of this information has been skewed to the personal preference of one of our two local flyweight press barons. I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be running for cover in my ward this year. Unopposed, I might add...

And with elections come issues. The big issue this time around is tiers - one lump or two. First the provincial government was going to shove it down our throats like a pet vitamin. Then the choice was ours. Naturally the candidates are split on the issue. But you know you're reading a small town newspaper when its publisher (Ted Britton of the Advance, this time) runs an editorial ridiculing this week's offering from one of his own columnists (Ken Black) because they disagree on the issue. The press ain't free when you own it...

Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP and all-round slick customer Ernie Eves was in town recently for the "Gateway to Northern Ontario" schmooze-fest. In case you haven't heard, Muskoka has now been officially recognized as part of 'northern Ontario'TM by the provincial government. This little slight of hand move means that Muskoka will now qualify for provincial money earmarked for 'northern economic development'. After all, you get more votes hooking sanitary sewers up to condo developments than you do rebuilding roads in Kapuskasing. It also means that as a 'northern Ontario'TM community vehicle license fees around here will drop from $74 to $37, the liquor store will now stock naptha gas, and this winter it'll be culturally acceptable to leave your elderly parents out on a frozen lake to die.

Everyone agrees the first Monday in September Is Labour Day but in Muskoka the first Tuesday in September is The Day The Gnomes Come Home. Sort of our attempt at the Capistrano/ Hinkley Ridge thing. Seems all the lawn gnomes that disappear over the summer (and there are a lot of them) magically reappear on Gnome Tuesday. Last year they reappeared in the Hydro One work yard standing around, strapped into the seats of trucks, and staring off into the distance just like real Hydro One employees do! If they could get a gnome to smoke you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. Anyway, the O.P.P. are warning gnome owners to keep theirs under lock and key until Gnome Tuesday passes and anyone with information concerning 'gnome crimes' has been asked to call Crimestoppers. Ask any cop - 'northern OntarioTM' towns can be a tough beat...

Bracebridge OPP have reported that counterfeit bills are turning up around town. You know you're in 'northern Ontario'TM when someone takes the time to counterfeit $5 bills!

The Bracebridge Rotary Club has named naturalist and town clock minder Bob Burton Citizen of the Year. Yes, clock minder. Apparently he's the guy who takes care of and WINDS the town clock. Everyday. Way to go, Bob - that clock is the only thing in downtown Bracebridge that's still going after 5 p.m.!

The Sept. 10 edition of The Muskoka Advance ran a huge headline proclaiming "Chop Shop Suspects Arrested". That story may sound pretty run of the mill to you but in a region where every second rural home looks like a chop shop it represents some serious police work.

The Golf Course Research Advisory Committee, whoever they are, have asked for beaucoup bucks from each local municipality to pay a Trent University research team to study the effect of golf course development on Muskoka. Let me save you some cash, guys: we've got huge tracts of land suddenly fenced off for private use, forests being leveled, wetlands being filled in, chemical fertilizers and pesticides turning the ground water into MiracleGro, butt-ugly condo developments springing up around every course like zebra mussels on an intake pipe, and the scariest outcome of all - the district we all know and love is suddenly up to its ass in golf weenies! If that doesn't make for a toxic environment, what does?

Muskoka Bassmaster Club member Garrett Green came home from Michigan all smiles after qualifying for the BASS Federation Nationals to be held in Mobile, Alabama next April. Nobody in Michigan could figure out what 14.8 kilos of bass came to 'in American' but it sure did seem like a big 'ol mess of fish so Garrett was declared the winner. Way to go, Garrett!

Speaking of athletic achievements watch out who you whistle at in this neck of the woods. Bracebridge resident Wenda Orchard recently won the Canadian ladies right- and left-handed master division arm wrestling championship in Kelona B.C.

Fall is here and the number of deer and moose hits on the highway has increased. Those of you who are thinking this might be a cool way to bag yourself some venison for the winter might consider this - heavy animal, long legs. Half a ton of fresh moose meat delivered to your lap at 100kph through a glass windshield can knock the wind out of you. Forever.

Paulmac Pet Food was the place to be in September for their annual Herbie Derby hamster race (people only go to these things for the crashes). Teddy, the winning hamster owned by Kaitlin Gauthier, took home a hefty prize package that included food, bedding chips, and an evening out with Richard Gere.

The Bracebridge Fall Fair was held on the third weekend in September. I'm not the guy to ask about this one - I grew up on the Niagara Peninsula and was spoiled by some amazing fall fairs in places like Caledonia, Simcoe and Beamsville. But the Pioneer Power Show in August is a must see.

Speaking of autumn, the local Crime Stoppers is asking for the public's help in reporting any suspicious people harvesting very tall "weeds" in the woods. It's funny - most people hear the word 'Muskoka' and think of pine trees, rock outcroppings and the Segwun. But if I had to choose a symbol for this area I'd go for the omnipresent helicopter. If they're not flying in some Hollywood/NHL muckety-muck, they're looking for the latest Beaver Creek escapee (if you can call hailing a cab and leaving the compound escaping) or combing the countryside for what I can only assume are huge marijuana plantations. I didn't even know you could grow dope outside in our climate zone. Can you grow opium poppies here? Way more mark-up, guys!

The Bala Antique Show in late September is always a kick - where else will a guy tell you that the sweater he wants $225 for was abandoned at a dry cleaners. Still... it's always fun to see what they're calling 'collectible' this year. Last year it was old fishing lures. This year - table cloths. Go figure...

Only in Bracebridge can a female newspaper columnist run a piece with a banner headline screaming "Innovative Bedroom Ideas" and it's a boring article about window treatments.

Only in Bracebridge does the local Chamber of Commerce ignore local businesses and farm the printing of its directory out to a company in Pennsylvania. And the Chamber of Commerce mandate is what?

The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs has announced that trail passes for the upcoming season will cost $150 - the same as last year. For everyone. They had toyed with the idea of charging $300 for non-residents but that idea was thrown out when they realized the cottager-gouging season officially ends on Oct 15th.

When I heard that the RCMP Musical Ride was coming to Bala I immediately wanted to get tickets. When I heard that they were going to perform in a gravel pit I almost passed on the deal. But I set those reservations aside and went. What can I say - I had a toy Mountie on horseback when I was a kid. The Ride itself is amazing. I'd recommend it to anyone. But you have to wonder who rigged up the sound for the event. With two speakers both pointing west from the edge of the stage, everyone sitting in the east stands was treated to dead silence. As east standees, we didn't know the opening act had started until the people in the stands across from us started applauding. Then they all burst out laughing simultaneously. Talk about feeling left out - was there a mime act we couldn't see? As it turns out, someone was giving a speech - it's just that sound is not known for its ability to turn corners. We moved to the west stands and everything was fine but everyone who stayed in the east stands was treated to the RCMP Ride - Closed Caption version.

And finally, hats off to local golfing wiz-kid Ryley Webb who couldn't turn up in the Bracebridge Examiner more if she owned it! I can see the first story - local gal attends University of New Mexico on golf scholarship. It's human interest meets local pride. But weekly updates on her intramural achievements are a bit much. Is there some family connection to the paper that I don't know about or is this just an all-too-ugly case of public stalking?

READ ON (October Edition)

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