Open Sky celebrates fall harvest in lieu of summer festival

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After deciding to take a hiatus from its annual summer shindig, the Open Sky Creative Society in Fort Simpson welcomed autumn with a harvest festival last weekend.

From workshops to displays to dances, a flurry of arts and gardening activities carried on at the local recreation centre from Sept. 13 to 14.

“This year was a little bit of a transition year for Open Sky,” said the society’s executive director Anyes Dimsdale, explaining the transition from a summer to a fall festival.

“We’re reassesing our programming. Things were a little in flux with the organization, so we didn’t feel comfortable putting on our usual festival in July. We thought, well, maybe this year we could partner up with the garden society that did their first fall fair last year,” Dimsdale said. “Next year we’ll go back to our regular spot, but this year we thought we would just do something so we had one of our events happening but a little bit different.”

Open Sky partnered up with the Fort Simpson Garden Society for the event.

“The aim of the garden society is to showcase some of the great success stories of gardeners in the Dehcho region,” Dimsdale said. “Community representatives will be bringing in some of their produce baskets, they’ll have display tables showcasing things from people’s gardens.”

The festivities kicked off with kids’ activities, including a show with fiddlers Miranda Currie and a puppet workshop with Ben Nind and Natalie Labossiere. While the children kept busy, their parents perused through the Dehcho community garden and displays, and food and craft vendors available throughout the two days.

At noon, the Open Sky stage began to fill with folk and country artists like KINI North, Pat Coleman, Mark Lyon and fiddlers Calvin Cairns and Bonnie Gregory.

On the arts side of the event, workshops included traditional canvas bushbag decorating, silk scarf painting, watercolour painting, moose hair tufting, beaded earring making and puppeteering.

At the same time, those with more of a green thumb than a rhythm learned about growing indoors and saving space with micro greens, dehydrating foods and using permaculture. After the full day, attendees learned how to make spring rolls using some of their fresh ingredients.

In the evening the adults put on their dancing shoes for the night of dancing with a country fiddle and guitar jamboree, followed by DJ Ronnie Antoine.

On Sunday, the fun continued with mural painting with Diane Boudreau and more arts workshops. The NWT’s department of Industry, Tourism and Investment hosted several info sessions that fell under the umbrella of their Growing

Forward small-scale harvesting initiative, focusing on food preservation, composting, mushroom harvesting and preparing, and wild plant harvesting.

“It’s the start of the new school year, it’s fall time, (and) I think the community is due for a celebration,” Dimsdale said. “Everyone worked hard on their gardens; it’s nice to showcase that for people who are interested in gardening but maybe aren’t too sure. You can do amazing things in Northern gardens and it’s always fun to showcase our local musicians, our artists and artisans. We’ve got some great talent in the region.”

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