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Spring Awakes! celebrates the fertile season

Annual event happens Sunday at Ignatius Jesuit Centre

Every year around this time, a group of earthy artists, singers, musicians and dancers head out into the woods and make something special happen. Their stage is the site of the ambitious Old Growth Forest Project on the Ignatius Jesuit Centre lands.

“The hike is a fundraiser for the Old Growth Forest Project, but it’s also an opportunity to get people out into the beautiful woods,” said event co-organizer Sue Smith.  

About 40 performers will take part, giving their own unique interpretation of the arrival of spring, Smith said. In past years, musicians wearing hip-waders have waded out into the Speed River and played their instruments. Performers step out from behind trees, or are perched in the branches. Others do short, improvisational performances in groves of cedar.

The 5th annual Spring Awakes! happens on Sunday. The SKSS Productions event gathers at 1:15 p.m. in the Orchard Park parking lot at Ignatius, and the procession proceeds from there on a performance hike through woods and trails. About 50 hikers usually turn out.  

The progress made on the forest project will be evident to participants. A great deal of planting of new native trees has taken place, to go with the very old trees that already stand on the land. Invasive species like the buckthorn have been cut back in recent years to make more room for the native growth.

Tickets are $25, with all proceeds going to help establish a forest that is expected to be ‘old growth’ centuries from now. Tickets are available (cash only) at Janus Books in the Royal Plaza at Paisley and Norfolk streets, or at the Loyola House office at Ignatius.

Spring has suddenly erupted in Guelph. Everything that grows is flowering and leafing. The trails are full of life, the birds are back and singing, and the creeks are running. Spring Awakes! is about rejuvenation, a celebration of the long-awaited return of spring that also aims to help with the restoration of the natural world, Smith indicated.

At every stages along the meandering path, audience members will encounter members of a troupe of performers, some dancing, some singing, others chanting poetry, or making ethereal music.

Performers include Jeff Bird, Tricia Brubacher, Gary Diggins, Jane Ellenton and Christy Munro, the Guelph Youth Dance Company, and Ondine Chorus.  A number of artists had a hand in the choreography.

“The hikers are lead by a guide, in silence so that they can hear and absorb that sounds of nature,” Smith added. “There is always a surprise awaiting them.”

Child are admitted to the event free, but must be accompanied by an adult, and capable of hiking with a group. A potluck picnic will follow the hike. Good hiking footwear and insect repellant are recommended, and food to share is welcome.  

SKSS Productions is run by writer, singer and harpist Shannon Kingsbury, and Smith, a singer-songwriter and music instructor.  

The Old Growth Forest Project was conceived back in 2006, and began in 2010 with the removal of an historic dam on the Marden Creek that runs through the property. The creek now runs freely, and its banks are filling up with new growth.

Ignatius Jesuit Centre consists of about 600 acres, with 93 of those acres reserved for the forest project. The land is protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement. Two areas cleared in former times for agriculture will soon be planted with trees.

The funds raised through Spring Awakes! will be used as needed by the project.  

For more information on the Old Growth Forest Project:


Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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