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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Way down upon Stratford's 'swanee' river; signs of spring in Ontario Parks

   One-Tank Trip for April 4/15
   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s not just people who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring-like weather, but our fine feathered friends, too.
   There’s pent-up demand by the swans of Stratford to “escape” from being cooped up in their winter home to waddle their way to the Avon River.
The Stratford Police Pipes and Drums show the way to the river
   It’s there where they establish nesting areas and – more importantly to them – their mating grounds.
   They’ll be doing the noisy waddle walk to the river with great pomp and ceremony on April 12.
   It’s part of a weekend of “family fun announcing the arrival of spring,” said Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance.
   The crowd gets into the action, too, with many wearing swan hats given out along the route to watch the “graceful yet feisty” swans along with a gaggle of geese head to the chilly water.
   This is how Stratford welcomes spring and there are decorated topiary swans dotting the heritage downtown streetscape, live entertainment and family activities, Rehberg said.

   Ready, set, waddle
The swans of Stratford honk and waddle their way to the Avon River.
   The parade itself is a free event on the Sunday starting at 2 p.m. along Lakeside Drive (between Waterloo Street and Morenz Drive).
   That’s when members of the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums lead the flat-footed critters to the river from their winter quarters at the William Allman Memorial Arena.
   The procession includes some 26 white mute swans and two Chinese geese who usually lead the pack.
   The event from noon to 3 p.m. has “all the music, drama and celebration that is Stratford, the Festival City.”
   Food trucks will be offering tasty treats along with a charity barbecue and there will be Stratford’s Freddy Fusion Science and Magic show and Loki’s Big Dream puppet show.
BJ the Swan mascot entertains visitors to Stratford’s annual spring celebration.
   Other entertainment includes the Wild Swans by Alternative Theatre Works, comedic juggler Craig Douglas, ONStage Dance Studio, Bogle the Clown, a castle jumper, community mural, face painting and swan hats and crafts for children.
   Guided Swan Walks will view the critters in their winter quarters, see popular nesting spots and stroll along the river bank at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on April 11and at 11:30 a.m. on April 12 from the arena.
   Free horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered both days from noon to 3:30 p.m. departing from Memorial Gardens on Ontario Street.
Spectators to Stratford’s parade wear swan hats given out along the route.
   “You're invited to take the Swan Quest, a search for your favourite decorated topiary swan; meet Brazilian mime and story-teller Antonio Rocha presenting Jungle Tales; delight in a swan-inspired children’s book reading and view swan and nature photos and art,” Rehberg said.
    Visitors can also have their photos taken with BJ the Swan mascot and be entertained by Playmakers! Theatre School at two outdoor performances.

   Need to know
   For those attending the swan parade events, free parking is available in the Stratford Festival parking lot at Lakeside Drive and Queen Street and along Lakeside east of Front Street.
   More details are available at visitstratford.ca/swans; 1-800-561-7926

   10 signs of spring
   You know it’s spring in Ontario Parks when you discover these 10 signs.
   Lori Waldbrook of Ontario Parks has put together this list, starting with seeing moose that are salt-depleted by the end of winter.
Sure signs of spring are moose lapping up winter road salt in ditches. (Ontario Parks)
   They head to roadside ditches to lick up road salt especially along Highway 60 in Algonquin Provincial Park.
   Then there’s hearing the great horned and eastern screech owls and seeing mourning cloak butterflies in forests on sunny days and spotting spring tails, tiny insects that look like black powder on patches of snow and downed wood.
   Listen for a chorus of spring peepers – tiny frogs on warm evenings – seeing the sap flow and turning into maple syrup, hearing the chickadees sing and the tundra swans return en route to the Arctic.
The owls are screeching and hooting this spring. (Ontario Parks)
   You can see buds forming on trees during a spring park hike and see experienced paddlers on an ice-out adventure with higher water levels that allow them to explore areas not accessible by canoe or kayak in the summer.
   More details on the Ontario Parks blog: parkreports.com/parksblog/?p=7112


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

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