Even if you’ve visited a community many times over the years, that special little nook will always find a creative way to surprise you.
And that’s how a recent trip to the Sunrise Trail greeted me and Cathy in late August, when we spent three days and three nights in the Tatamagouche area for its annual Tata Fest.
We each have some history here. Cathy grew up in Lyon’s Brook, just outside of Pictou, so she’s had a long-time affinity and affection for this part of Nova Scotia. I made several musical trips to Tatamagouche in the early 2000s, developing some wonderful friendships with a few folks in that area.
More recently, Cathy and I became regular visitors of a wonderful local spot – specifically, Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown – and we’ve often enjoyed strolling along Tatamagouche’s Main Street. This time, however, we gave ourselves a little more freedom to enjoy all that Tata Fest had to offer.
And that let me test-drive a hobby that has enchanted several relatives – including my mother, and Cathy herself – but always scared me away:
No, that’s not a typo. I truly wanted to get a knitting lesson on this trip, and I found a willing teacher in Gillian Crawford, who operates Lismore Sheep Farms in River John with her husband John.
On a quiet Thursday morning in August, Gillian jovially guided me through my first crack at a set of needles, which yielded six successful stitches. It’s going to be awhile before I can knit a sweater (or even a dishcloth), but I’ll take those six stitches.
A day later, Cathy and I found the Seafoam Lavender Farm, which delivered an aura of calm despite serving as the location for an open house and ice-cream social. You might think lavender ice cream and lavender lemonade would be our most unusual indulgence of the day. Not quite – a couple of hours later, at the Earltown Farmer’s Market, we found a young woman selling carrot cake popsicles. You wouldn’t expect it to work. And yet, it did.
Then again, that kind of ingenuity is all over the Tatamagouche area. The community’s Main Street pops with colour, featuring unique gift stores, restaurants, brewpubs, coffee shops (I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season, a week before the fast-food franchises brought them back), and – of course – a yarn store.
Down the hill, you’ll find Creamery Square, the culmination of years’ worth of effort by Tatamagouche’s community leaders. Formerly housing one of Nova Scotia’s busiest farm operations, the Tatamagouche Creamery is now a museum, with professional exhibits detailing the building’s history of dairy production, as well as an impressive look at the fossils found in nearby Brule.
Creamery Square is more than the actual creamery, however. On the left, you’ll find the Grace Jollymore Performing Arts Centre. Off to the right, a former grain elevator hosts another farmer’s market, while the North Shore Diner serves up some of the best waffles I’ve ever had.
The whole square was bursting with Tata Fest activities on the morning of August 24. The outdoor stages offered everything from historical re-enactments to a young dance troupe and a Zumba demonstration. The latter activity was led by Raissa Tetanish, who’s also the editor and one-person newsroom for The Light, a monthly newspaper owned by The Reporter’s parent company, Advocate Media. (Tatamagouche takes multi-tasking to a whole new level.)
Even as we were making new friends, we got some quality time with familiar faces. Bob and C.J. Prest made the trip from North River, just outside Bible Hill, to join us at Big Al’s Family Restaurant for the all-you-can-eat fish-and-chips special. The Prests have joined me onstage for many gigs in Tatamagouche, so Cathy and I were delighted to create some new memories with them at Big Al’s and then make a late tea-and-treats run at the Robin’s Donuts outlet not far from our motel.
The following day, our last official stop – at the gift shop just above Main Street’s Guardian Pharmacy – yielded one last surprise. Paying for a mermaid-themed glass, I mentioned to the cashier that “we’re mermaid collectors” and then turned to find a grinning Stephanie Norman standing next to me.
If you attended last year’s St. Peter’s Pirate Days, you might know Stephanie better as “Raina The Halifax Mermaid.” On this day, after a busy summer of public appearances, Stephanie and her husband Sean got out of the city for the kind of peace you only find in a place like Tatamagouche.
We returned to Port Hawkesbury to discover more Destination Reeves Street upgrades underway, with new sidewalks taking shape and a street’s worth of freshly planted trees.
Is the town, and the Strait area, finally in line for some Sunrise Trail-style growth?
We just might surprise you…