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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stratford's all dressed up for the holidays



   One-Tank Trip for Nov. 22/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s beginning to look a lot like a “Victorian Christmas” in Stratford.
   The “Festival City” invites visitors for holiday shopping, traditions and fun.
   “As you stroll snow-dusted streets in our heritage downtown, you will be captured by the beauty of cedar-draped shops tied with big bows as lights twinkle in the windows,” Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance said, setting the scene.
   The “magic of our Victorian Christmas” includes a wide range of experiences to mark this festive season, she added.
Stratford City Hall takes on a seasonal glow at this time of year.
   It all begins with Santa arriving during the evening Parade of Lights on Sunday (Nov. 23) with his favourite reindeer, Comet.
   The agenda includes carolling at city hall from 4:30 p.m. with free refreshments served by the Optimist Club of Stratford and Tim Hortons.
   The one-hour parade moves along Lakeside Drive with the first float arriving at city hall at 5 p.m.
   Santa and Comet will also be making public appearances on Nov. 29, Dec. 6 and 13 from noon to 4 p.m. at Memorial Gardens, Ontario and Downie streets.
   Children can have a “photo opportunity” with Santa, his sleigh and live reindeer.
   Hop aboard the free horse-drawn carriage rides and listen for carollers heralding the season on selected weekends. Even parking is free on Saturdays and Sundays.

   Follow the trail
   There’s holiday shopping on the Victorian Christmas Trail with 13 local businesses offering distinctive presents.
Shoppers strolling downtown Stratford with the stores all dressed for the holidays.
   This has become a “Stratford tradition and fun for a girls’ shopping day,” Rehberg said.
   It’s an opportunity to explore new shops and see many “unique gifts in a friendly atmosphere,” she added.
   Presented by the tourism alliance, the trail package is available until Dec. 19 and includes tickets that can be redeemed at a choice of six of the shops for a special gift.
   Among the items are giant traditional hand-made peppermint candy canes, locally made brittle, chocolate created using pedal power, tasty holiday preserves, buttery toffee and flavoured olive oils.
   Art cards and one-of-a-kind costume fabric earrings and cufflinks can be found along with moisturizing scented soaps in such fragrances as frankincense and myrrh or sandalwood and aromatic teas.
   The trail shops adorned for the season are: Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail; Chocolate Barr’s Candies; Distinctly Tea; Gallery Indigena; JENN & Larry’s Brittle & Shakes; The Milky Whey Fine Cheese Shop; Olive Your Favourites; Small-Mart General Mercantile; Stratford Festival Shop; Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar; Totally Spoke’D; Treasures and Watson’s Chelsea Bazaar.
   Trail tickets are valid for three days from the date of purchase and cost $25 (plus tax), with a value of about $40 in goods.

   Culture, food, fun
   For cultural traditions, the Alternative Theatre Works and Off the Wall re-mount their holiday show, “A Wind in The Willows Christmas.”
   It takes place from Dec. 17 to 30 at the Stratford Masonic Concert Hall (15 Church St.), with the family show telling the journey with Mole and Ratty to Mole End.
Shoppers strolling downtown Stratford with the stores all dressed for the holidays.
  The performance was “an instant hit” at last year’s premiere and the cast is returning to make it a family tradition for the holidays, said Peggy Coffey.
   The original cast of Robert King, Brad Rudy, Stephen Russell and Jessica Seguin will reprise their roles as Mole, Ratty, Badger and Field Mouse.
   Special guest star Graham Greene will join the cast as Toad, zooming into the theatre in his motor car. Tickets are $25; $15 for children. www.visitstratford.ca/wind
   There are other musical holiday favourites by Ali Matthews and Liona Boyd, a community messiah on Dec. 6 and Stratford Symphony Orchestra’s Festive Night, Dec. 19.
   At the heart of the seasonal celebrations is food, with holiday pairings of tea and chocolate, craft beer dinners, a themed “Griswald” supper and internationally inspired menus created by the Stratford Chefs School’s aspiring chefs.
   The weekly farmers markets and local food purveyors are bursting with offerings for that holiday feast and tasty gift-giving.
   Make it a getaway with an overnight package at one of the inns of Stratford or at a forested retreat just minutes away.

   Need to know
   For more information and a list of Stratford’s Victorian Christmas events: visitstratford.ca; 1-800-561-7926
   Check out the Victorian Christmas Trail at visitstratford.ca/christmas/victorian-trail14.html
   To learn about overnight packages: visitstratford.ca/christmas/getaways.php

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Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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