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Jim Cuddy wraps ONTour in Petawawa

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


PETAWAWA – What a way to end summer.

Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and the other headliners from the ONTour Concert series had a crowd of 600 dancing and clapping on the hillside overlooking Centennial Park Sunday night as the town played host to a rare open air show.

In stark contrast to the leaves turning colour along the Petawawa River, it was a muggy, humid evening more akin to July than late September, a remarkable turn of events for a summer that will go down in the history books as cold and rainy. Even the star of the free concert couldn't help but notice the irony of the weather.

“Hello, Petawawa!” the youthful-looking Cuddy yelled out to audience that had collected on the hillside behind the town hall on Victoria Street to watch the performances. “It's very nice to be here on this beautiful, finally summer night.”

This was the final night of ONTour, a series of free concerts being held across the province in celebration of Ontario’s 150th anniversary. The series, courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, has showcased some of Ontario’s diverse musical talent with veterans acts, such as Serena Ryder, Kim Mitchell and The Tea Party, sharing the stage with the stars of the future like Karl Wolf and Next Generation Leahy.

Appearing before Cuddy, singer and songstress Jessica Mitchell thoroughly entertained the folks with not only her hits, including “Workin’ On Whiskey” and “Tear it down,” but her many stories from the road. This was the second ONTour show for Mitchell, who splits her time between Toronto and Nashville, and it is a venue she enjoys.

“When you get into this sort of environment, it's nice,” Mitchell said adding it's an honour to share the billing with an industry legend such as Cuddy. “I am happy if I go home with a handful of new fans.”

Nominated this year for a Canadian Country Music Association Award for Roots Artist of the Year, Mitchell has opened for Terri Clark, Bonnie Raitt, Ron Sexsmith and actor Kiefer Sutherland and toured with Tom Cochrane. Last year, she released her first EP “Hold Onto The Light” produced by Grammy-nominated producer Dave Brainard. She added her appreciation for the Petawawa crowd.

“Ontario is great,” said Mitchell. “There is a lot of support for the music industry and the arts and bringing this particular kind of show to these towns has been such a wonderful thing for the towns and the people.”

In addition to the musicians, the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 National Flag Tour was also on hand to collect signatures. This was the first type of event for the park outside of the annual July 1 Canada Day festivities.

“This type of show is new to Centennial Park so we thought this would be a good litmus test,” said parks and recreation manager Kelly Williams who thanked the Ontario 150 organization for putting Petawawa on their schedule.

Although the Evergreen Stage was utilized as a support base for the show as ONTour brought their own portable stage, Williams noted that the town could host future acts as the venue is perfect for such a presentation.

“When the Millennium Trail was first put together, one of the ideas was that we could do shows like this in the future,” he added. “We're realizing that now.”

Ontario150 is a year-long effort to enhance a sense of community across the province, celebrate the unique qualities that make Ontario such a great place to live, and leave legacies behind for future generations. ONtour visited 24 towns and cities showcasing the talent, creativity and diversity of Ontario artists - both emerging and established.

“Music has the ability to cross generational and cultural lines and create a wider, more inclusive sense of community,” said Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport spokeswoman Denelle Balfour. “We are thrilled that ONtour exposed more than 112,000 Ontarians and visitors to live music, many expressing thanks in person or on social media for the opportunity often denied them due to geography or economics.” 

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