The day was here, our annual student and front line staff Familiarization Tour was now upon us! On this day we take tourism business employees around The Heart of Georgian Bay
to show them all of the great sights so that they will be able to relay this information to those visiting our area. When you're visiting a place who do you ask what you should do? Servers, accommodation staff and those on the front line. For this reason we created the FAM Tour so that our front line staff are heavily equipped with information on all of the areas great attractions!
All of our participants piled on the bus for 9am and we were on our way! Our first commute was a short trip down King Street to the Midland Cultural Centre
! We were fortunate enough to take in a few skits by “Good Morning Apocalypse”, a local comedy troupe, which was a great start to our day! We learned about the facilities at the MCC, and about some of the upcoming shows. After this we got back on the bus and headed to the Huronia Museum and Ouendat Village
. While surrounded by a “pre-contact” Huron/Ouendat village, we were taught about Indigenous art, from local artist Paul Whittam "Star Otter" and told a fascinating Indigenous legend. The story we heard included a vampire but that’s all I’ll say, I wouldn’t want to ruin the suspense!!
Paul Whittam telling Indigenous stories
We were then on our way out to Awenda Provincial Park
! This stop was special to our tour as over ⅔ of our group had never been there before! We toured the campgrounds and then headed down to the beach! Our knowledgeable guide, Tim, explained all of the fun things you can do in Awenda year-round. We quickly stopped by Kettle’s Lake which is the only body of water completed enclosed within Awenda Park and the view was just breath taking! A great place to canoe or swim, it’s perfect for the whole family to enjoy!
Learning about Kettle's Lake from Tim
It was then lunch time, so we headed to Balm Beach to have a famous burger at the Georgian Grill
. We were also fortunate enough to have Chris Figgures, a local musician, come and play for us while we devoured our fantastic food! Chris plays regularly at Busk til Dusk, where local musicians set up every Thursday night right on the beach. With no time to waste, we were back on the bus in no time and off to Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons
! Here we took a quick tour of the grounds and made Okis, which are little clay faces that in the Ouendat people use as a sort of spiritual protector. Anything with a face in this culture has a spirit, so they would mold Okis to ward off other bad spirits or to draw in good ones.
Brianne's Oki, what will it bring her?
It was then off to the final legs of the tour, with our next stop being the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre
. We were greeted by JJ the Spectacled Owl, one of their Birds of Prey, which are birds kept because they have either grown up in captivity or have been injured and can no longer live in the wild. We were then taken on a tour to the lookout tour where you could see the whole Marsh! What a beautiful view!
The Wye Marsh from the Lookout Tower
Our second last stop was the S.S. Keewatin
! On a very speedy tour we were able to see the whole ship but most of us agreed that we must go back to get the full experience! Even from only getting the basic information about the ship, everyone on our tour came to the conclusion that this ship is a must see, as it is the last Edwardian ship of its kind!
Hearing the S.S. Keewatin's story
Then we were off to the Martyrs’ Shrine where Father Pat hoped on board our bus to give a tour of the grounds. He told us to look out the window and admire the grass, which we thought was a tad strange but followed his order. He then proceeded to tell us that throughout the summer they have multiple pilgrimages which bring in up to 21,000 people on a single weekend. Meaning that these very large grounds are completely covered and you cannot see an inch of grass!
Inside the Martyrs' Shrine
This was all for our first Student and Front Line Staff Familiarization tour this year! But, if you missed out on all the fun don’t worry, we are offering a second tour in July with all new stops and exciting experiences! You will have to be there to see it! You can register for it here on our website (under the ‘About’ tab if you go to the partner resources section).
Written by Katie Lalonde, Student Tourism Marketing Assistant
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