You can’t be proud to be from somewhere, because chances are you had no say in the matter. But you can be proud to return once you’ve left - which I did, like so many other locals.
My aunt and uncle have an embarrassing VHS tape stuffed away in their house - one that includes a 3 or 4-year-old me, professing his love of the area by proudly announcing his lofty career goals - selling feathers to tourists in Owen Sound’s Harrison Park. The dorky grin, the inability to stand still, and the blissful adolescent belief that I didn’t have to go far to be happy — and with one fell swoop of the camera, my forthcoming legacy as prime Grey County lifer material was born.
Years later, I find myself back here - equipped with a mortgage, two young kids, my wife, a sensible and family-oriented midsize SUV, and a Labrador we picked up from the Mennonites at Keady Market.
In 2017, Made In Grey Magazine likened me to the Irishman in Braveheart, who boldly claims Ireland as his island. Grey County may not be mine and mine alone - but it does have an uncanny ability to make me feel like I’m important to its landscapes and its identity - It feels like my County.
You can’t be proud to be from somewhere, because chances are you had no say in the matter. But you can be proud to return once you’ve left - which I did, like so many other locals. So for your consideration, my stereotypically rural Grey County credentials:
- I routinely swam across Owen Sound Bay to sneak into Summerfolk as a teen.
- It’s Musk-oil, not Muskol.
- The only time Heartwood Hall has sold Labatt Crystal was for my 30th birthday party.
- My wife has made me sleep outside with the dog after a late-night skunk encounter.
- Freaked out some Torontonians by swimming at Big Bay in November.
- I’ve had to fight off coyotes with a stick.
- I wear shorts in March when I’m over the snow.
- There’s an autographed Owen Sound Platers poster on prominent display in my basement.
- I’ve made a pool out of the bed of a pickup truck.
- I’ve nearly amputated my own toe chopping wood barefoot.
Wide-eyes and laughs aside, it’s not all hick references and going to the dump to look for bears. There’s another side to this place that many don’t see coming. With some grit and elbow-grease, you can create and nurture just about any type of passion you have - personal or professional.
My not-so stereotypical Grey County credentials:
- I co-founded the Scenic City Film Festival and helped start a unique cultural event that’s now in its fifth year.
- By day, I’m a remote content writer and media strategist for an inbound marketing firm based in Vancouver BC - the internet allows me to live here while working for numerous clients stretched all over North America.
- I’m a Contributing Editor for Thornbury/Blue Mountains based Mountain Life Magazine where I get to cover issues ranging from the environmental impacts of sustainable tourism and natural history, to out-of-province resort trips, local swimming holes, and sporting events.
- I co-organize the Pursuits Film Fest in Meaford to support the outdoor-centric leadership-based Pursuits program at Georgian Bay Community School.
- I was accepted to the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival’s Accelerator Program, as the sole representative of rural community nationally.
- I was lucky to work with a killer group of kids from both the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation, doing workshops on filmmaking and advocating the importance of a national inquiry on Murdered/Missing aboriginal women through film.
- As the Managing Editor of the Wiarton Echo newspaper for three years, I had the opportunity to help support LGBTQ initiatives in local schools, foster dialogue and collaboration between Sportsmen and local First Nations regarding fishing rights and the local sports fishing industry, and welcomed Syrian refugees to Georgian Bluffs/South Bruce Peninsula during a time of global crisis and war.
If you asked me what to do during a good old fashioned Grey County heatwave, I’d tell you to:
- Hit up the Big Bay General Store for an ‘adult’ ice cream cone, then take a dunk in the indigo depths overlooking Griffith, White Cloud, and Hay Islands.
- Enjoy a frosty pint of any one of Grey’s world class beers, wines, or ciders stretching from every corner of the County. Shout out to Side Launch Dark, the only beer my wife will drink - you’re doing something right.
- Hike any section of our infamously epic trails - personal favourites include Boyd’s Crevice, Skinners Bluff, Loree Forest, and the Black Lake/Camp Oliver Forest.
There’s life up here. There’s business, technology, opportunity, a strong sense of community and loads of culture - that’s what the Colouring It My Way Campaign is all about — showcasing the incredible places, people, and opportunities this beauty slice of Ontario has to offer; some you may know, others you probably don’t - and a few that won’t be given away so easily.
I’m both honoured and privileged to be one of 2018’s Grey County Insiders, and during my tenure as one of Grey County’s unofficial poster boys, I’ll be trekking cross-county to show off some of my favourite places, pastimes, events and opportunities, while enjoying local fare, flora, and fauna along the way.