Explore the Shore brings thousands down County Road 50

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A strategic alliance of neighbors along County Road 50 started something big eight years ago, and it’s since grown to be an incredible tourism driven event.

In 2010, County Road 50 businesses came together and put on the Explore the Shore event in just nine weeks. Ann Wilson, who is in charge of the communications for Explore the Shore, and also owns Oxley Estate Winery, said she was astounded when they were nominated for the best Ontario Tourism Marketing Campaign in their first year, coming out as the runner up to the Stratford Festival.

“Our real goal for this, besides having fun, is to create a very vibrant business community along County Road 50,” explained Wilson. “We think that we’re special, I guess every community does in some way, but we have a lot of small businesses. Even the wineries are considered a small business. We have a lot of entrepreneurial people, we have a lot of people with ideas and one of the things that’s developed over the last eight years, is that we have a network now. We know each other, we know what the other business does, we refer people up and down the road, we work together on events.”

Wilson said the road has come to be much busier over the last eight years, and she believes they are on the right path.

Each year the Explore the Shore festival has a theme – this year’s theme was Canada’s 150th. As it turns out, it was also the Village of Colchester’s 225th birthday as well, so the town of Essex also celebrated their birthday during Explore the Shore, which brought new evening events to the festival such as entertainment and fireworks on the beach.

Old fashioned games were part of the day at John R. Park Homestead as part of the “Explore the Shore” weekend.

Old fashioned games were part of the day at John R. Park Homestead as part of the “Explore the Shore” weekend.

Wilson said a synergy has developed in the town, and so many businesses want to be involved. This year alone they expanded by 13 businesses, giving them a total of 38 stops on their route.

“We encourage everybody to make sure people have fun, if they have fun here, they will come back,” said Wilson. “They see how close we are to each other and how we work together and they find their way down the road. The first year it was so difficult. They would pull in and they would ask ‘where is the lake from here?’. They would ask if this was the old 18-A, which it was, the road has changed names a couple of times which was confusing, but they came, and we regularly draw an excess of 5,000 visitors over the two days.”

Stop number one on the map was Ure’s Country Kitchen, where patrons were welcomed to breakfast or lunch. The 29-year-old business, owned by Laurie Ure and her family, is all about fun, family and local.

“It’s really wonderful the way all the businesses get together to showcase everybody’s business and we’re always happy to be involved in this,” said Ure. “We’re on the map, marked number one, and a lot of people will start here for breakfast, and then head down along County Road 50.”

From lawn dice, to bocce ball, to ice cream, to bouncy castles and even beach volleyball, there was something for everyone at this year’s Explore the Shore event. Wilson said the support they receive from the community is incredible, and they look forward to continuing to bring people down County Road 50, and not just for the festival.

 

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