Cobden's Taste of the Valley the biggest one yet 0
This year's Taste of the Valley series wrapped up with a bang this weekend, as an estimated 5,000 visitors turned up at the Cobden Fair Grounds to celebrate local farmers, food vendors and artisans.
In all, more than 100 booths were set up, with vendors offering everything from wooden furniture and handmade jewelry to hemp cookies and wood-fired pizza.
Renfrew County media relations coordinator Bruce McIntyre was on hand, both taking part in and observing the event as it happened, and he was ecstatic by the turnout and the enthusiasm of the crowd and vendors.
"This is our sixth year in Cobden," says McIntyre "and it's our biggest event so far. The thing is, everybody wants to buy local. They want to support their local neighbours, taste the local food, and it's not just residents, either. We've had a lot of visitors come in. I've talked to a lot of people from Ottawa today, and Belleville, Brockville, so they're coming from everywhere, and it's been a great day. A lot of our vendors are selling out very quickly, so that's good, too."
The organizers aren't the only ones who hold the Cobden event in high esteem. Tony Walsh from Lanark has spent a long time taking his blacksmith forge on the road to various festivals all over the region, and now that he's almost retired from the circuit, Cobden's Taste of the Valley is the only one that draws him back.
"I used to do a lot of fairs," he says, "and this is probably the best one I've seen. It's the only one we come to anymore."
Christine Tomka has long been an passionate advocate for shopping local, first as the owner/operator of Pembroke's Cafe Ole coffee shop and now as the owner of the Hemp Cookie Company. She feels that events like Taste of the Valley serve a distinctly useful purpose in raising awareness of the sheer amount and variety of things you can buy and eat that have been produced locally.
"It's just a great opportunity for some of the less-known local vendors to highlight themselves," she says in between waves of cookie-hungry customers, "and also for the people to see all the stuff that's produced right here in Renfrew County. It's all right here in our backyard."
This year offered a brand new attraction to visitors: a rock climbing wall set up by Ry-J's Climbing Adventure in Pembroke, and for McIntyre, the key is to never rest on laurels but to keep looking for new ways to expand in different directions.
"It's been a fantastic day," he says, "and we're looking forward to next year and making it bigger and better again!"
Follow him on Twitter @PRyanPaulsen.