Great Northern Ontario Roadshow makes Fort Frances its first stop

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer
kkellar@fortfrances.com

An exciting opportunity for fun, learning and shopping is quickly approaching, and there is still time for local businesses to get in on the action.

As part of a $1.4-million investment from Ontario’s Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture to Science North, the organization is embarking on the Great Northern Ontario Roadshow, an initiative that will bring the fun of Science North across the region.

One of the first stops for the Roadshow is here in Fort Frances. Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce executive director Heather Johnson said work has been ongoing to make the two day event – taking place on Friday, August 27 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday, August 28 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Fort Frances Curling Rink – as fun and as safe as possible for the entire family.

“We have the Science North group there and they will be doing demonstrations,” Johnsons explained.

“They have two demonstrations on Friday night, at 5 p.m. and at 7 p.m. and three on Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. They tell me the demonstrations are audience participation. They like to have the kids join in and help out with experiments. Then we’ll have booths set up for snacks, food, a lot of home-based businesses.”

The ministry funding, announced in 2020 and delivered through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), was to allow Science North to launch the roadshow in efforts to highlight the different tourism opportunities, both natural and manmade available across the region. The roadshow has plans to stop in 50 different communities throughout the northern part of the province, and hopes to generate some additional revenue for tourism operations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release from the Ontario Government.

“The Great Northern Ontario Roadshow will involve private and public sector partners using their collective expertise to give local and regional audiences access to new and exciting experiences across the North,” said Science North board chair Dr. Stephen Kosar in the government’s announcement. 

“Thanks to the Ontario government for its tremendous support and contribution towards this project.”

The current plan, Johnson said, is to have as many local businesses taking part in the roadshow days as possible in order to help support and provide them with sales following an extended period of shutdowns and restrictions. As the Great Northern Ontario Roadshow is completely funded by the ministry, there is no fee for businesses to get a booth during the event. 

However, the original timing of the pandemic has complicated things for particular businesses, including resorts. Johnson said originally she intended to have lodges and resorts at the event to increase the business they have been missing during the extended border closure, but now that American tourists are being allowed back into Canada, she said many of the resorts have since pulled out of the roadshow because they are simply too busy to attend.

“That’s the best possible thing, so we’re very happy for them,” she said.

Other businesses have been slow to come onboard because she feels they may still be trying to rehire staff, and so might not have the people available to attend and man a booth, but Johnson stressed that there are still many local businesses who are taking part, and there is still time for additional businesses to sign up for a booth, including additional food vendors.

In addition to the Science North demonstrations, and vendor booths, Johnson said there are also plans Friday night to feature a number of local musicians to provide a coffeehouse-like atmosphere, where visitors to the roadshow can relax for a bit and enjoy some live music. Other local participants in the event will the the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, who will be bringing their robots for demonstration purposes as well as a cell phone clinic for interested individuals to learn more about their mobile devices, the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre, who will have a display of their own, and the Fine Line Art Gallery.

In order to keep the public safe, Johnson said, the roadshow will have a number of COVID safety rules in effect, including that masks must be worn except when eating, and participants will have to self-assess before they enter the premises.

“I think it’s going to be a really nice weekend,” Johnson said.

“It will be nice to have Science North there and have stuff for the kids to see and do. I believe Science North are also bringing kits for the kids to take home to do experiments with. We’d like as many people out as we can and to have a really good event so it’s beneficial for all those businesses who have had a hard road through COVID.”

To register for a free booth at the Great Northern Ontario Roadshow, call or email Johnson at the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce at 274-5773 or thefort@fortfranceschamber.com.