South Coast Jazz Driving Tour

Sun, Twisty Roads and All That Jazz – Who Needs More?

“EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END…. and if it’s not all right, it’s not yet the end”. A line from the film ‘The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and one of my favourite quotes. Also applicable to the period before we started this year’s tour.

Last year’s version of the driving tour was so well-received that we started off this year thinking bigger – a full weekend of events for tour participants, with an included brunch and boat tour of the Grand River on the Sunday, with musicians to accompany us. Turned out a full weekend was more than many participants could commit to, so about six weeks before the event, we reconfigured the tour so that Saturday-only participation was the offer (at a lower price point too!) with a pay-as-you-go brunch option on the Sunday. That made a difference.

On Saturday, August 17th, we met at a Starbucks in Milton, with rain coming down and an ‘iffy’ weather forecast ahead of us. But, as my co-leader of the tour, Jeremy Gunness liked to say, ‘The weather gods were smiling on us’; five minutes before we got in our cars, the sky cleared and the sun came out. And stayed like that the entire day!

One of our ever-prepared participants, Cal Balcomb, volunteered as ‘sweep’ for our 10+ car group, noting that he had the only set of walkie-talkies. However, there was a three-way tussle that followed (who knew this was such a popular position?!) and Randy Gananathan won the role. We set off on a challenging route Jeremy had worked out, including Twiss Road (we renamed it ‘Twist Road’ over lunch) and the appropriately-named Snake Road, on our way to lunch at Rousseau House in Ancaster.

We set off on a challenging route Jeremy had worked out, including Twiss Road (we renamed it `Twist Road’ over lunch) and the appropriately-named Snake Road.

Rousseau House didn’t disappoint (same as last year): a three-course lunch that more than satisfied everyone – the food was excellent! And a lot of smiles around the table from the fun we had had that morning. Then back into our cars for a scenic, and occasionally spirited, drive along the shores of the Grand River, for a quick stop at ‘Timmies’ in Cayuga. With that behind us, we then headed to Lake Erie and drove the long road that closely hugs the lakeshore; we certainly got a good view of how high the water level is there, much like Lake Ontario has experienced this year.

We arrived at Bonnieheath Estate Winery and Lavender Farm, just as a wedding was concluding next to the newly-harvested lavender fields. The owner offered us a wine-tasting and a short seminar on the harvesting and processing of lavender, as well as an introduction to a variety of lavender products. Again, the weather gods had been smiling on us, as the owner told us they had had heavy rain, ending just before we arrived, such that the driveway had been flooded; luckily, lavender likes a sandy, fast-drying soil!

Leaving the lavender farm, we split up as some participants wanted to check into their accommodations before the dinner and performances that evening. We met up again at our roped-off ‘Porsche Paddock’ next to the main Festival venue, the Community Centre in Port Dover, where a dedicated security guard let us into the hall and watched our cars while we enjoyed the evening.

Dinner was surprisingly good – the Festival organizer, Juliann Kuchocki, did a great job this year in picking an excellent caterer and also in assigning our group a ‘Festival Ambassador’ (or is it ‘Ambassadress’?) to ensure our group had all our needs taken care of. So pampered.

The main performances included an ensemble group of five jazz musicians, with Juno Award winners Dave Restivo on piano and Alison Young on saxophone, and with vocalists Fawn Fritzen, Alison Young (double threat) and Juliann, the Festival organizer. And, at one point, performer Ryan Foley was tap-dancing to the music (awesome!). The headline performers were Tom Lavin and the Legendary Powder Blues Band. There’s a good reason they have been performing for more than 40 years: they deliver a great show!

A number of us re-grouped on Sunday morning for brunch at Schofields in Port Dover. For those who like Eggs Benedict and variations thereto, this is the place! We invited Dave Restivo and Fawn Fritzen to join us, and so they did. Before we wrapped up, Juliann and her assistant stopped by to thank us for our support. What a nice way to end our driving tour! </>

Story by John Buckingham | Photos by Jeremy Gunness, UCR Member

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