6 Town and Country Venues to Check Out in Oxford County

Rural traditions combined with a bit of musical genius over the years have made Oxford County into a great spot to hear live music outdoors.   With a great combination of festivals and permanent locations, one can enjoy anything from pop to folk.  We’ve picked four of our favourite places to listen to outdoor music in Oxford County.

1. Patio Night at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa

The Elm Hurst Inn and Spa has been an Oxford County staple since 1865 when it was built for the James Harris Cheese Factory.  Since then, it has become an inn, spa & restaurant where travelers from all over Canada and beyond stay for both convenience of location and the beauty of the building and grounds.

Each summer, the Elm Hurst offers Patio Nights every Thursday night from 6-9PM.  These happen rain or shine and take place into early September.  On any given patio night, one can see a full band or solo act while sipping a glass of wine  and enjoying delicious food.


2. Stonecroft Folk

Nestled back on a country road just outside of Woodstock, Stonecroft Folk is an intimate live music venue set in an old farm house.  This farm still operates on beef, swine and cash crops and has been in the owner’s family since the 1800s.   Stonecroft Folk houses professional musicians from far and wide who entertain guests with fabulous music.  See one performance or buy up season tickets before they’re gone!


3. Canterbury Folk Festival

Summer in Oxford County just wouldn’t be the same without Ingersoll’s annual Canterbury Folk Festival.  Each July, the festival pulls thousands of people in to enjoy a bohemian-type weekend of art and folk music.   With meals, workshops, art, dance and some of the best musicians from across Canada, Canterbury Folk Fest has become an important part of Ontario’s cultural landscape.  Oh and did we mention it’s free?

GARTH_Uprightpiano_300dpiGarth Hudson (of the Band) to appear at Canterbury Folk Festival

4.  Cowapalooza

When you live in Woodstock, the dairy capital of Canada, festivals for cows are bound to be udderly fantastic.  Cowapalooza is a unique festival for the entire family where visitors can take part in a soapbox derby or cow milking contest and watch professional wrestling.  One of the high lights each year however, is two outdoor concerts featuring professional musicians that are sure to please the crowd.  Set under the Oxford County stars, in the natural amphitheater of Southside Park, you can’t go wrong!


5. Walters Dinner Theatre

The Walters Dinner Theatre is a truly special venue located on a spacious farm property in Bright.  Featuring and owned by the Walters family, who have traveled and played music all over the world (including the Ryman Auditorium) the dinner theatre is host to several shows each year.  From tribute to variety shows, the theatre is always a hit.  The theatre opened in 2000 and now sees thousands of visitors each year!


6. Downtown Woodstock Summer Streetfest

Woodstock Summer Streetfest is an amazing four-day street festival put on by the Downtown Woodstock BIA each year.  With vendors, car shows and over thirty musical acts each year, there is music for everyone!

So if you’re looking to combine your love of music and nature, look no further than Oxford County.  With a combination of amateur and professional musicians, a great time is guaranteed.

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Fun and Competition at the Embro Highland Games

Can you hear the sound of hundreds of drummers and pipers marching en masse to a Celtic rhythm? If you can then you should definitely attend this year’s Embro Highland Games on July 1st. The Embro Highland Games first began in 1856 when the Embro Highland Society was formed. However, after only two years, the society disbanded in 1888. The games were deeply missed in the area and reformed in 1937 under the Zorra-Caledonian Society. Today over 5000 spectators and competitors visit the Province’s oldest festival of its kind to listen to live Celtic music, see extraordinary athletic competition and have a fantastic day out with family or friends.

Live music is perhaps one of the biggest draws to the festival. Each year, competitions in solo and band piping and drumming entertain thousands of spectators. Additionally, live Celtic bands keep the party going and Celtic dance competitions show off the best of Scottish culture.  Perhaps the biggest attraction, is the Massed Band Performance where all competitive pipers and drummers perform together both at mid day and the closing of the games. It’s enough to turn you Scottish.


Of course, what would a Scottish festival be without a little athletic competition? Each year, competitors bulk up in hopes of dominating heavy events that include stone put, weight for distance, hammer throw, caber toss, weight over bar and road races. Additionally, the Memorial Tug-Of-War Tournament (started to memorialize six Embro farmers who won the world Tug-Of-War contest in Chicago, 1893) proves to be Canada’s largest Tug-Of-War event.  Amateurs and youth can also compete in more light-hearted competition that includes stone for distance and two-person log sawing.  They can also watch some fantastic sheep herding and sheering demos. There is something for everybody!


Finally, everyone is welcome to stroll through Concession Alley which boasts loads of Scottish vendors selling their wares.  This includes anything from jewellery and Scottish food to bag pipes! No matter who you are, you are bound to find a treasure you love.

This year, the 2015 games are stacking up the fun with musical guest, the Shananigans, George Watson’s College Pipes and Drums from Edinburgh, Scotland, a youth road race and a Women’s Heavy Events competition. The athletic competition will be host to the 2015 Ontario Heavy Championships which promises to be an amazing display of strapping power.

So whether you attend for serious competition or sport, the Embro Highland Games is the place for you!

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Wienerfest 2015: A Pawfully Good Time!

Where can you find thousands of wiener dogs all in one place? Wienerfest Home County Festival of course! Founded in 2000, The Wienerfest Home County Festival 2015 promises to be one for the books. With celebrity dogs, sport competitions, dachshund shopping and games – all are welcome to come out in Embro, Ontario on June 20th. This of course includes well behaved dogs (and owners) of all breeds.

Each year, a celebrity dog is featured at the festival and it is always a major draw.  Last year, Wienerfest was proud to have Obie, the dog who was incredibly obese but through the hard work and care he managed to lose 50 pounds in one year.  After making his first visit to Canada attending Wienerfest Home County Festival, he jetted off to New York to be on Good Morning America the next day! This year’s highlight event is the appearance of celebrity dachshund, Crusoe (named after Robinson Crusoe), the international jet-setting pooch.  With his own book deal and over 270,000 Facebook followers, he is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  This pooch is living  a life of luxury as he travels the world in style.   Check out this hilarious video of Crusoe and his brother Oakley who will also be at Wienerfest.

On site, dog owners can also ask both a trainer and veterinarian questions about their pets. This is a great opportunity to learn about dachshunds and how to train and raise your dog in the healthiest way possible!

If your doxie is a spirited little rascal, why not have them compete? As always, the festival features all sorts of dachshund races including puppy races, special capable races and “honorary dachshund” races for dogs of other breeds.   You can apply to race on the Wienerfest website.  Moreover, dogs can take part in a yogurt licking contest, costume contests, bob for wieners and have their photo taken in true wiener style. Finally, owners can stroll through a plethora of 142 vendors that appeal to dog owners of all breeds and participate in a treasure hunt to win prizes.


Not only is Wienerfest a great time, but it is a worthy cause to support. All proceeds for the day go towards the rescue of endangered and homeless pets. The two charities chosen for this year’s festival are Tiny Paws Dog Rescue Canada and Helping Homeless Pets.com.  If you would like to volunteer at Wienerfest please see the website for details.  Wienerfest 2015 promises to have all the fun and humour of the dog breed itself packed into one day. You won’t want to miss it!

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Come Out of Your Shell at Tillsonburg Turtlefest 2015

It’s time to come out of your shell and head down to Tillsonburg for a turtley good time! From June 19-21, Tillsonburg Turtlefest will be in full swing with all kinds of events to kick your summer off right!  The festival is always a great event to attend as it exemplifies the strong spirit of Tillsonburg and its sense of community. Come on down for the full weekend or enjoy one day of the festival. No matter what you choose, you won’t be sorry!


indexTillsonburg Turtlefest started in 2011 based on a historic town legend. George Tillson, who founded Tillsonburg in 1825 is said to have made a promise to come back after his death as a turtle. Several years later, a large turtle was found near the Tillson home on the shore of Otter Creek. Townspeople believed that this was in fact George Tillson reincarnate and brought the turtle to the down town to show George how the town had grown since his death. Tillsonburg continues to prosper today and Turtlefest is a testament to George’s success.

Turtlefest 2015 kicks off on Friday June 19th with the opening ceremonies at 5:00pm. The ceremonies will feature live music, exotic pets from Hands on Exotics and a magic show with Bella Magic. The rest of the evening features a plethora of performances, vendors, a car show, contests and more.

The Friday night Block Party  really shows the spirit of Tillsonburg as stores along Broadway open their doors.  Businesses, community groups and volunteers all offer turtle themed games, menus, activities and more!  It is a great chance to check out local businesses and get to know all the great groups that Tillsonburg has to offer. Why not take part in a giant human foosball tournament or have a swingin’ good time at the hula hoop contest?


Saturday June 20th marks the main event for Turtlefest where turtle-themed events take place all over town.  Each year thousands come out to enjoy an affordable day of fun for the entire family. At the fairgrounds, one can pay one price and have access to numerous activities including face painting, hot air balloon rides, bouncy castles and more!  At Annandale NHS, children and adults can enjoy loads of free fun including games, crafts, historic walking tours, turtle tales and even watch as Nick Blandin of Happy Dragon Studios sculpts a turtle out of sand!  Visit the Station Arts Centre and stroll the Tillsonburg Farmers Market on its 30th anniversary or be in awe of the sweet creations made for the Turtley Treats Baking Contest.  Besides these main hubs for turtle fun, there are still other locations to enjoy the day!  You can plan your jam-packed day ahead of time by looking at all the events happening here.


Finally, Sunday June 21st completes the weekend with an Ultimate Air Dogs show at the Tillsonburg Fairgrounds. Although a show will also take place on Saturday, the fairgrounds will be Air Dog Exclusive on Sunday. With four categories dogs can compete in- Splash, Catch It, Fetch It and Chase It- it is sure to be an exciting day. Sign your dog up here quickly as limited spots are available!

All in all, Tillsonburg Turtlefest 2015 promises to be a great time for all. Whether you love action, art or both, you’re bound to get that and more from June 19-21 in Tillsonburg.

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Flagon Slayer: The Fairest Gruit in All the Land

Flagon Slayer is a beer that really makes you feel medieval. Prepared by Railway City Brewing Company in partnership with Wildflowers Tea to be featured at Oxford Renaissance Festival, Flagon Slayer is a gruit beer. This means that the beer is brewed completely hop-free. As the name hints, gruits were actually quite a common drink during the medieval era. The taste of hops is most often replaced with various herbs and spices.

The name was selected via a social media campaign by Oxford Renaissance Festival. When taken to the festival board and those at Railway City Brewing Company, Flagon Slayer was the name that came out on top! A flagon is actually a medieval drinking vessel most often made of pewter.


For those who do not enjoy the bitter flavour of hops, this may be the beer for you. With flowery, aromatic flavours being prominent, one can taste the additions of lavender and honey as well as a subtle spice note. The gruit is very similar to a wheat beer with a nice clean finish, making it the perfect beverage to enjoy all summer long.   Pair this sweet tasting beer with a fresh salad featuring fruits like mango and you’ve found a great summer meal.

Quantities of Flagon Slayer are limited and can be purchased at the Railway City Brewing Company retail store in larger 650mL bottles, as well as select restaurants and bars including Oxford Kitchen in Woodstock. Your best guarantee for trying this one-of-a-kind batch however, is at the Oxford Renaissance Festival where you can purchase a commemorative cup to go along with your gruit. The gruit is one of many reasons to visit the Oxford Renaissance Festival this year with live jousting, comedy and excellent musical acts going on as well! Be sure to release your inner knight and try Flagon Slayer before it runs out!

Buy tickets and learn more about the Oxford Renaissance Festival.

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Oxford Renaissance Festival: Unleash Your Inner Dragon Slayer

Huzzah! The Oxford Renaissance Festival is back for its third year at the Woodstock Fairgrounds June 26-28th. This year, festival organizers plan to bring out the inner medieval warrior in all visitors! With live professional performers, hilarious comedy and a tournament put on by the International Jousting Association, there is something for everyone and not just enthusiasts of the era.

Friday June 26th will mark the kick off for the weekend with an opening pub night. Sample beer and food and listen to the fantastic and widely-known Celtic rock band, Mudmen. Don’t miss out on tasting the widely anticipated Flagon Slayer, a gruit beer done in partnership with Railway City Brewing Company for the festival. This is an authentically medieval style of beer.


Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th will have lots in store! The highlight of the weekend will be the live, non-theatrical, jousting tournament hosted by the International Jousting Association and boasting jousters from Canada and the United States. Visitors can watch professional competition all weekend long with the final joust taking place Sunday afternoon.


The Renaissance Festival will also host to several live bands and comedy acts that are sure to please all. Acts to watch out for include the Middle Eastern bag piping band Cu Dubh and the Shakespeare-parody team, Men in Tights.

Over the weekend there will also be two exciting tournaments with the chance to win cash prizes. The first is a Live Action Role Play (Boffer) Tournament and the other is a Live Steel Tournament. Participants will don armor and weaponry to fight for their chance to be the winner and take home the cash.  Applications can be downloaded on the festival website.

Of course, there is always a place for free time to wander the Oxford Renaissance Festival. With creepy crawlers coming from Hamilton Ball Pythons and over fifty vendors, everyone will find something incredibly unique. Wander the aisles and see anything from medieval armor to one-of-a-kind jewelry and natural candles. You are bound to find treasures that you will be unable to find elsewhere!


The Oxford Renaissance Festival 2015 promises to be a fun-filled and exciting weekend full of medieval action and excitement. For more information please visit their website at www.oxfordrenfest.ca

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Spring at its Finest: VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery

Nestled back on a quiet lot on Ostrander Road, VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery is just the right size for Anne VanHoucke and her husband Roger.  For those who have never visited before, keep your eyes peeled for the signs on Highway 19 and Ostrander Road that direct you to the site or you just might miss it.  Trust us, you don’t want to!


VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery had modest beginnings but has grown into a successful and fulfilling business.  Anne was raised on a farm and always loved country living.  When she and her husband began to raise their own family in the country they planted trees to shelter their lot.  Before they knew it, people were coming to their door to ask if the trees were for sale.  The VanHoucke’s saw an opportunity and opened a small nursery that allowed Anne to stay home with her kids while exploring something she loved to do.  Since then, it has grown considerably but Anne and Roger try to remain true to the nursery’s country roots. VanHoucke’s specializes in a wide variety of plants, trees, flowers and shrubs that are sure to please the pickiest of homeowners.


Not sure what you want?  Fear not!  Co-owner Anne VanHoucke is more than happy to assist you in picking out what type of tree and landscaping is right for your yard.  She will sit down with you and sketch out a plan tailored to your needs. The nursery and its surrounding gardens reflect  the beauty of Oxford County.  On a typical spring day, one can walk through the lot and see a plethora of birds including oriels and humming birds. Stroll by the pond (currently under construction due to a pesky muskrat which Anne tells us is “cute as a button”) or snap a few photographs of the site.  What could be better than basking in the sunshine and going home with a few new additions for your yard? What’s next?  Anne is hoping that in the spring or fall, the nursery will start teaching horticultural and landscaping seminars once more.  This includes on site instructions about growing and maintaining one’s landscape.  The site is a testament to how valuable these courses will be! If you’re looking to spruce up your yard this spring, why not plan a visit to VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery?  You won’t be disappointed!

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Some Like it Hot: Van Dyk’s Greenhouses’ Hot Peppers

Some like it hot.  At Van Dyk’s Greenhouses, they like it scorching!  As a family-owned and operated business, Van Dyk’s Greenhouses has provided Oxford County with fresh vegetables, perennials, annuals and shrubs grown on site since 1980.  Owners Di and Jim invest time in growing a wide variety of hot peppers- and we aren’t talking your average jalapeños! Sweet peppers like chili, Hungarian and cayenne have been a staple at Van Dyk’s for years but the hot, new trend (emphasis on hot) is, you guessed it- heat!    Just a few years back, Van Dyk’s began growing their own ghost peppers, an interspecific hybrid pepper from India that boasts heat more than two thousand times that of a jalapeño.  After huge success growing ghost peppers, Van Dyk’s decided to add Trinidad scorpion peppers to the mix this season.  If you love heat, these scorpion peppers have twice the spice of a ghost pepper. But act fast!  Quantities are limited.  They have only seven pots of the scorpion peppers available and a few pots of equally hot varieties. IMG_4227 Then there is the mother of all heat-holders.  It is a hybrid between the ghost pepper and a red habanero pepper.  It is also the world’s hottest pepper according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  The Carolina Reaper lives up to its fiery name and Van Dyk’s is at the ready to supply.  According to their blog, the Carolina Reaper should be grown in large pots with light potting mix.  Fertilizer should be avoided once peppers have begun to grow.  Grow your own or head on over to Van Dyk’s Greenhouses to try them if you dare… imagescarolina-reaper-2

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Ingersoll Cheesey Playground on Giver

Rolling in cheese, squishing your way through a whole of brie – the dream of every mouse, right?  That and every child, too. cheese parkThis dream is a reality now in Ingersoll where children’s TV show Giver and local volunteers just completed a new Cheesy Playground.   Children can crawl through the holes in giant slices of cheese, take a spin on the blue cheese wheel, play in the giant sand box or rest in the shade on a cheesy bench. You can even take a “cheesy portrait” using the giant picture frame by the park.  Naturally, this playground is ideally located in Oxford County right beside the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum.  For families coming to explore the Oxford County Cheese Trail this makes a wonderful stop for a picnic after exploring the museum. GiverP1050191 (Sinking Ship Productions) travels to local communities and builds safe, fun playgrounds working with local children and community groups.  Local children helped build this playground from the creative process to painting.  For this project children also had an opportunity to to learn about the history of cheese and its relationship to Ingersoll.  Giver worked in conjunction with PlayRight Playgrounds a local group that builds playgrounds in Ingersoll. They are also known for their annual family new years celebration FUNomenon and outdoor movie night. Giver’s cheesy playground episode will air on TVO May 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm. Be sure to tune in to see the kids visit to the Ingersoll Cheese Museum and Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and to watch the local volunteers who made this park possible.

Stop by today and check out Ingersoll’s Cheesey Playground.  Remember to pick up some curds and local cheeses at the museum or along the cheese trail for your picnic.

Where to see it:  The Ingersoll Cheese Park Episode 305 on TVO May 11 at 6:30.  Episodes run first on Mondays at 6:30 pm, with repeats on Saturday at 1:30 pm and Sunday at 11:00 am. All episodes can be watched online a week after they first air.  Join PlayRight for a premier party on Monday May 11 at the Fusion Youth Center (121 Thames St N Ingersoll). Doors will open at 5 and the show begin at 6:30.  BBQ and drinks will be available for purchase.

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Van Dyk’s Greenhouses – Exceptional in Products and Service

For over 30 years Van Dyk’s Greenhouses has been supplying Oxford County residences with amazing arrangements, hanging baskets, planters and annuals/perennials.  From the heart of Oxford County, they create beautiful and unique arrangements out in time for Mother’s Day each year.


Healthy and homegrown is the name of the game.  From plants to a wide variety of herbs such as sage and rosemary, Van Dyk’s starts with the seed and nurtures plants into maturity for buyers.  The results are beautiful.  You can contact them online or better yet, visit the greenhouse where they grow! Here, owners Diane and Jim are happy to answer questions and give advice.  They are incredibly knowledgeable on the subjects of plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs.  No question is too tough- just ask!  Not only can you learn about the growth cycle, you can also learn about adding various flavours to recipes.


All in all Van Dyk’s Greenhouse is the place to go for all your flower and plant needs.  You won’t be disappointed!

Contact Information:

Van Dyk’s Greenhouses

1311 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON N4S 7V9


Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford


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