Horse Pull Competition - Trent Woods Photography

Fall is here, and that means fall fairs are happening every weekend around the region.  Part of many fall fairs is the Horse Pull Competition.  

Horse pulls are one of the biggest crowd pleasers at any fall fair.  Entries consist of a pair of horses, and a teamster. There are usually two classes that the teams of horses draw in, the light (up to 3200 pounds) and heavy (over 3200 pounds).

One team at a time the horses are hitched to the sled.  Blocks of concrete are added to the sled for additional weight for a total starting weight of around 1500 pounds.  Depending on the competition  The team maybe required to draw the sled 12, 15, 20, or 26 and a half feet, at which point the draw is considered a full pull.  If the sled stops its forward motion during a pull, the team must unhook,  a measurement is taken to see how far the team was able to pull the sled.  The team may then re-hitch and and attempt to complete the pull.  If the team is not able to complete the pull their final ranking is determined by the amount of weigh pulled and how far they were able to pull that weight.  After all teams have pulled additional weight is added to the sled.  The pull continues until only one team remains.

If you have never see a horse pull, it really is something not only to see but feel and hear.  When the teams start working to pull the sled you can feel the ground shake when they plant their feet.  At this particular horse pull the winner of the light category had a full pull of 8300 pounds, while the last team standing in the heavy class had a successful full pull of 8500 pounds.

To find a Horse Pull near you please visit the Central Canadian Horse Pulling Association

Playing with Nitro

What started as a labour of love in their leisure time, has now turned into a thriving race track. Larry, Jason, and Joe proudly manage one of three RC race tracks in the Barrie area. Lap times average around the twenty second mark, making this track is one of the tightest, action packed tracks around. Joe lovingly compared the action on this track to that of NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway. RC Truck

The original track was built in about 3 months over the summer of 2009, and was constructed completely by hand. Since the track has been open it has been through a redesign, along with continual improvements. The improvements have included adding a big step up jump, proper lighting, a raised platform so the drivers have a better perspective of the entire course, and better drainage.

One of the biggest reasons that the elite racing team decided to build the track was to provide a safe track for the vehicles with no rocks or bricks that tend to cause serious damage when an RC hits it. However this wasn't the only reason the track was constructed. Joe and the boys also wanted to provide a family friendly environment that encouraged mentoring between the racers, which isn't always the case at other RC tracks.

The track has a little bit of everything a racer could want, a nice long straightaway where the RC's can really open up, Banked corners, hairpin turns, jumps and more. The track is open to members seven days a week from 9am to 8pm, with practice under the lights on Tuesday's from 7pm to 10pm, and Championship Series races being held every second Saturday. Race timing is kept by transponders that are in each RC. The transponders can be purchased with your membership at a discounted price or rented by the day. The transponders also allow the lap times to be displayed on a leader board for all the racers and spectators to see.

The Championship Series Races attracts racers from all over with over 50 entries in the days events.  Classes that compete in the Championship series include Buggies, Truggys, Monster Trucks and Short Course Trucks in both 2 and 4 wheel drive. Drivers run the gamut of skill levels from first time racers right through to corporate sponsored drivers, and ranging in age from six and up. It's not only RC drivers that show up on race days many spectators come out to watch the races. Joe encourages everyone to come out to watch or get involved.

To find out more about Elite Racing's RC Track including membership information, schedule, or view the live video feed please visit

More photos from Elite Racing can be seen here

Other tracks around the area include...

Barrie Area


Eight Wheel Drive Rebels

Flash back to 1988 every Friday night at ten o'clock on Fox 29 out of Buffalo. The show that was on... Roller Derby. My memories include a crazy banked track, over the top outfits, fast action, and some of the worst acting I had ever seen. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers

Roller derby has seen a resurgence in the last few years thanks to the 2009 movie “Whip It”, and the 2006 A&E Television series “Rollergirls”.  Well now there is a Roller Derby team right in our own back yard. The South Simcoe Rebel Rollers were formed by Ken Stanbury in June 2010. Stanbury was inspired to start the team after attending a roller derby event in Hamilton. Anywhere from twenty to forty members attend practices at The Roller Skating Place in Orillia up to twice a week, from all over the region. The team members work hard, while still having fun learning the plays and improving their skating skills.

This isn't quite the same roller derby that I remember from TV. The over the top outfits are part of the standard uniform for any team. Fast action you bet. One major difference is the track, instead of the banked track that I remember, this is a flat track. As for the acting, if you get a chance to see the team I'll let you be the judge.

A roller derby game consists of two periods each being 30 minutes in length. Each of the two periods is broken into jams that last up to two minutes. The teams both field 5 players, consisting of one Pivot, three Blockers, and one Jammer. The Pivots job is to set the pace of the Jam and call plays to the rest of the team. The three Blockers work together to stop the rival teams Jammer and move their Jammer through the field. Lastly the Jammers, they score points for their team by lapping the rival team. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

If you are interested in learning more or becoming “fresh meat” please visit the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers Website or their Facebook Page

Simcoe County Trails

In 1992 the County of Simcoe created “Huronia Trails and Greenways” as a way to help convert abandoned railway lines to recreational trails. The organization started with 43km's of rough rail trails. The trail system has now expanded to include nearly 200km's of trails much of which is share use. By shared use, I mean that the trails are not just for hiking, they could be used for other activities such as horse back riding, snowmobiling, ATVing, etc.

Simcoe County Trails Trent Woods Photography

Since their inception Huronia Trails and Greenways has continued to grow and as of 1998 incorporated as a charity. While they do receive grants from the various levels of government, Huronia Trails and Greenways does raise money through their “Help Trails Grow Vehicle Recycling Program”.

The vehicle recycling program allows people to donate their old car, motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, farm equipment, or RV's. When you donate, Huronia Trails and Greenways receive $50 and you get a $50 tax receipt. Part of the $50 that Huronia Trails and Greenways receives goes directly to the trail program in the municipality where the vehicle was picked up.

For more trail information please download the Simcoe County Trails Brochure

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Getting Fresh!

Farmers Markets may be best know for their fresh seasonal produce, but that is not all you can get. In many markets you can find a diverse range of goods. One vendor may be selling their hand made crafts, and the next vendor that you come to is selling fresh bread. Some booths house a wide variety of choices, and yet other have one specific product. There is one thing that you can be certain of when you visit a Farmers' Market, you will be buying fresh. Farmers Market Vendor Table

There are at least eight Farmers' Markets currently operating across Simcoe County. The oldest market is held every Saturday from 7:30am to 12:30pm in Orillia, since 1845. A close second is the Barrie Farmers Market that was established one year later in 1846. While other markets have been established only recently, such as the one held in Penetanguishene which has only been in operation since 2009.

Get more information on a Market near you...

If you haven't visited your local Farmers' Market get out there, help support local farmers and artisans.  You never know you might save a little bit of money and discover something new.

The Spirit Catcher

The year was 1986 and Canada was a buzz with Expo fever. The theme of Expo '86 was Transportation and Communication, and was held in Vancouver. As part of the planning for the Expo nine artisans were asked to submit their ideas, of the nine, two artists were commissioned to create their sculptures. Ron Bairdwas one of the artist that were chosen to make his vision become a reality. Ron used the theme of communication and the influence of west coast First Nation mythology as inspiration for his creation. Spirit Catcher

The centre piece of Barrie's water front is the sculpture Ron created, named “Spirit Catcher”. Spirit Catcher stands a mighty 65ft high, by 70ft wide, and weighs in at 20 tons. The Spirit Catcher was actually created from a special type of steel known as COR-TEN, that actually creates a layer of oxidation on the steel that helps to protect the sculptures structural integrity. As opposed to regular steel which consumes itself with oxidation.

After the close of Expo '86 the sculpture was sold to the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation for $230,000. The Foundation then donated the Spirit Catcher to the Barrie Gallery Project, which later became the MacLaren Art Centre. The Spirit Cather was dedicated September 12, 1987 at which time the site where the Spirit Catcher now stands was blessed by burning sweet grass and a Native Drum performance by Rama First Nation.

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Please support Ron Baird by visiting his website and checking out his work which can be found in many places around central and southern Ontario. Also, please help support the MacLaren Art Centre, which can be visited at 37 Mulcaster St. in Barrie.

Oro's African Heritage

Starting in 1819 the township of Oro issued land grants to veterans of the 1812 war that had fought with Capt. Robert Runchey's Colour Corps. The initial issue of grants was to about twenty-five soldiers from all regiments, with nine actually taking up residents in the newly established settlement. By the early 1830's that number had grown to total approximately forty, and at it's hight numbered approximately one-hundred settlers. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the last reminder of this settlement. African Methodist Episcopal Church

The Church itself was erected in 1849, after the community had purchased one acre of land for one pound. The church served the communities needs from 1849 right through to the early 1900's, when the black community in Oro seemed to dissolve, and in 1916 the church was declared abandoned.

The wood siding that you see on the Church today is not original. The original building was a square timber structure, the siding was added some time in the 1920's or 1930's, to protect the exterior of the building from further exposure to the elements. There have been three restoration projects for the church since that time. The building was likely saved by the first restoration in 1947. Without this first renovation the church would have undoubtedly succumb to the ravages of the elements and moisture. Again in 1956 Oro Council set aside funds to continue to restore the church. Part of the plan that the Oro Council approved was to start a Historical Society to help with recommendations and preservation of the Church. The final major restoration project was in 1981 after 2 stolen trucks had been used to ram the building.

I would be amiss to talk about the history of this church if I didn't mention the Underground Railroad. Until I started to do the research in to the last remnants of the African settlement in Oro, I was one of the believers that thought this church was the last stop on the Underground Railroad, for slaves fleeing the United States, looking for a free life. According to research that was conducted by Elmvale Lawyer Gary French, most if not all of the settlers were either “freemen” from the northern United States that emigrated to Canada, or Veterans.

There is a stone cairn about twenty feet from the church's southwest corner that has one plaque on each of the four sides. The first of the four plaques is from the County of Simcoe and the Township of Oro in 1947, and list some of the family names that originally worshiped at the church. The County of Simcoe placed the second plaque with a brief overview of the history. The Township of Oro-Medonte place the third plaque in 1999 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the church. The final of the four plaques was placed in 2002 recognizing the church as a national historic site of Canada.

Stephen Leacock's Summer House

In 1928 a new house was built, on the shore lines of Old Brewery Bay and Barnfield Bay, both part of Lake Couchiching.  This new house was to become the summer home of Stephen Leacock and his family. Stephen Leacock House

Stephen Leacock is perhaps one of Canada's most celebrated writers of the 20th Century.  After Leacock's death in 1944, the  Stephen Leacock Memorial Committee was founded in 1946.  One of the committees highest priority's was to establish a medal in Leacock's honour for humorous writing.  The Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal was first awarded to Harry L. Symons for Ojibway Melody in 1947, and continues to be awarded to this day.

In 1957 the City of Orillia purchased the former Leacock property (approximately 9.5 acres) with the intent of turning it into a Museum, which it has been ever since.  The Main Floor of Leacock House features a portfolio of original signed portraits by the master photographer Yosuf Karsh, taken of Stephen Leacock at Old Brewery Bay in 1941, along with personal possessions, and books.  The secondy floor houses the the Art of Writing Galleries, which until 2001 had been guest rooms.

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In 1992 Leacocks summer home became a national historic site, two years later the plaque was unveiled.

No Mud Slinging Here!

Nestled in the trees along the North shore Kempenfelt Bay sits a moderate size church, that has stood since the cornerstone was laid in 1838. It took roughly four years to finish the construction of one of the most unique structures in Simcoe County, before the church was officially opened on February 27, 1842.

Mud Church

What makes this church so interesting is method of construction. St. Thomas' Church is build with mud, also known as “Rammed Earth”. Maybe not mud in the traditional meaning of the word. It's not just dirt and water, it is a mixture of wet clay, and chopped straw. Once mixed together the mud was then packed into forms. After the mixture had a chance to cure, it was covered in a layer of plaster to protect the building for the weather. Church of the Holy Cross (Stateburg, South Carolina) is the only other known example of the cob or “rammed earth” style church that can be found in North America.

The Land for the church was donated by Edward George O'Brien, who had moved from Thornhill to “The Woods” (later to be named Shanty Bay) in 1832. O'Brien's move was prompted by his job as emigrant agent for Oro Township. During his time as emigrant agent for Oro he played a large role in the African Methodist Episcopal Church located about 10km from Shanty Bay, but more on that at a later date.

St. Thomas' is located just south of Ridge Rd. In Shanty Bay is listed as a Historical Site of Ontario. The plaque stand about thirty feet from the South East corner of the church.

To the first step!

Ok so you found my blog. If your reading this with only the first post on the page how did you even find me?

Well your here now, and likely wondering what sort of things you can expect from the Simcoe360 blog. Well let me tell you, ummm... To be honest I'm not completely sure what's going to be posted here yet. If I had to describe what I had in mind it would be a little bit editorial, part current events, and part local features. Think photo journal.  What ever the content is, it will be Simcoe County focused.

Now you are likely saying to yourself, Simcoe County covers a lot of area, how is one person possibly going to cover all that territory? Well that is where knowing the right people comes in handy, and if your reading this that means your the right person I know :). Do you know something really neat about Simcoe County that maybe only a few people know about? Do you know another local blogger or local website that you find extremely useful for local information? If you think it's interesting and local I would love to hear about it!

Lastly, I should thank another blogger with 360 in their title for giving me the inspiration to start this blog.