Festival of Small Halls returning to Winchester in fall

Winchester's Old Town Hall. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — The festival that melds big names in music with rural communities in Eastern Ontario will return Winchester’s Old Town Hall this fall.

Building upon last year’s Festival debut in the North Dundas village, the Main Street venue has been selected again to host one of the dates, organizers announced yesterday.

Last year, the Ontario Festival of Small Halls expanded its scope and brought internationally-renowned musicians to two dozen rural gathering spaces. For 2017, the Festival will encompass more than 30 community halls from even further afield.

The celebration of exceptional live music takes place from September 14 to October 1 in intimate settings to showcase local hubs, attract visitors to new regions and build community.

The Winchester site will be joined this year by new venues stretching from Dacre to Merrickville to Alexandria. A few of the added spots include Dunvegan, Chaffey’s Lock and Balderson.

Kelly Symes, general manager of the Ontario Festival of Small Halls, said the festival allows music fans to experience a memorable evening of song and dance in cherished places that have a long history of gathering people together.

“We’re delighted to continue showcasing these intimate gathering places, and welcome big name musical acts to small town Ontario,” she said, noting that 30 new halls applied from across Eastern Ontario.

Among the successful applicants was the North Dundas Arts Council, on behalf of the Old Town Hall. The Council’s Ann Brady said the group is “thrilled” at the Festival’s planned return to Winchester.

Last year’s Sept. 22 Festival show in North Dundas featured Sheesham and Lotus & ‘Son along with local performers Box n’ Bow.

Organizers of the Ontario Festival of Small Halls will be announcing the 2017 dates and participating “big-name” acts later this spring.

Symes said the new venues were selected based on their history, charm and the eagerness of their volunteer teams. “These spaces play a vital role in bringing people together,” she said. “Some of the new venues include heritage spaces, a former schoolhouse and even a radio concert hall.”

This is the fourth year for the Ontario Festival of Small Halls, which has grown from only three halls the current roster of more than 30. The festival is expanding quickly thanks to loyal supporters, as well as the eagerness and kindness of host communities, according to Symes.

This year’s chosen venues include:

La Fraternité, Alexandria
Almonte Old Town Hall
Joshua Bates Centre, Athens
Balderson United Church
Stonefields, Beckwith
Althorpe Bolingbroke Community Hall
Burritts Rapids Community Hall
Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall
DACA Community Centre, Dacre
Delta Old Town Hall
Dunvegan Recreation Hall
The Red Brick School, Elgin
Lyndhurst Legion (Royal Canadian Legion Branch 504)
Maberly Hall
St. James Roman Catholic Church, Maxville
McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall
Merrickville United Church
Union Hall, Mississippi Mills
Morton Community Hall
Portland Community Hall
Valley Heritage Radio, Renfrew
Batstone’s Northern Ramble
Seeley’s Bay Community Hall
Spencerville Mill
Tatlock Community Hall
St. Andrew’s United Church, Pakenham
St. Andrew’s United Church, Toledo
Westmeath Recreation Centre
Winchester Old Town Hall


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