What started out as a fun day for friends has transformed into a new festival hoping to raise awareness of the countryside line in the Waterloo Region.
Hold the Line will be coming to St. Jacobs in September. The event is a cycling and folk music celebration of the line, with the hopes of building a movement in support of enhanced protection.
Established in 2003, the countryside line acts to protect the cultural, economic and environmental heritage of rural lands from urban sprawl.
“The five of us who are organizing it, we live in Kitchener, and we love the city. We love the fact that it is growing up, it is changing and it is a dynamic place. It is changing and we want people to have a more active role in deciding what the direction of that development is. If cities are going to grow and thrive, then we need to make sure that there is investment in that and in making sure that happens in opposition to just growing outwards,” said Alex Szaflarska, one of the founders of the movement.
The small self proclaimed ‘nonprofit-that-could’ made up of Szaflarska, Richard Garvey, Sam Nabi, Sean Campbell and Tyler Plante, is hoping to plan fun events and engagement opportunities focused on moving towards sustainable development in Waterloo Region; Hold the Line is their first step.
The festival, to be held at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club, will include cycling, music, activities, food and drink offerings.
“Most of the day will be outside and then we will be moving inside for the evening, people can camp over so it is a full day of celebrating the countryside line, which is the Region of Waterloo’s very unique and very effective policy tool that helps maintain regions like this and make sure that they are not eaten up by suburban sprawl,” she said.
A new initiative, it originally started out as an idea to do a day of cycling on the countryside lines and has quickly grown into a small scale festival supported by grants, local businesses and musicians with more than 100 guests – and growing – in attendance.
“We were originally just going to ride it with our friends, just do a little trip,” she said. “And then the next thing you know we are applying for grants and talking to townships, booking the rod and gun club and things kind of spiraled from there.”
“We are hoping it’s going to become an annual event. We really love the response we had from the community,” she added.
Although the Waterloo Region’s countryside line is made up of six different growth boundaries, the group decided to hold only three cycling rides.
“The challenge was to stay as close to those lines as possible, as well as making sure the ride was comfortable, relatively scenic and fun for all of the cyclists who signed up,” she explained. “So we ended up with three different lines to cycle.”
The KWC line is a 120km route that travels from St. Jacobs, along Waterloo and Kitchener, across the Grand River to the tip of Galt in Cambridge, and continues past Puslinch Lake and Hespeler, along the north end of Waterloo and hooks back up to St. Jacobs.
For those who don’t want to do the 120-km ride, but would like a little more challenge than the 10-km ride, the Elmira line is a 34-km route across the Conestogo River and looping around Elmira’s countryside line, beginning and ending at the rod and gun club.
Finally, for those looking at a shorter adventure, the St. Jacobs line ride follows the boundary of the village beginning and ending at the club.
Cyclist will have pre- and post-ride tune-ups available to them, bike valet, a rescue van for those unexpected hiccups and a camp shower station.
“So really there is something for all cycling levels and then of course if you aren’t able to or choose not to cycle, you’re welcome to come and hang out with us all day,” she said.
For those who choose to just participate in the day, the organizers have arranged activities with local partners, including THEMUSEUM, who will have their Underground Makerspace on site, and a yoga session will happen following the ride.
Coffee, craft beer, food and drink tents will also be on the premise, provided by Borealis Bar and Grille and The Working Centre’s Maurita’s Kitchen as well as Together We’re Bitter, who will be pouring beer all day long.
As for the music portion of the festival, artists Blue Sky Singers, Sam Nabi, JoJo Worthington, Richard Garvey, Jared Freeman and Carlos Morgan will be performing from 4 p.m. on. Following the performers, the festivities will wrap up with a late night collaborative party.
The group is hoping to draw a broad audience out to the event.
“Folks who are cyclists, and foodies and those who love local music,” said Campbell.
“And we want this to be a family friendly and youth friendly event,” Szaflarska added. “We really want this to appeal to a wide range of people, people who have lived here and grown up in the Waterloo Region, new Canadians who maybe have just moved here or new ‘regionites’ who are just learning about this space to come and see it as a fun day out, to see what makes this space unique.”
In addition to the festival activities, people will see an overall sustainability theme present. All food will be vegetarian and vegan, there will be no disposable water bottles, all containers will be compostable or recyclable, and sustainable transportation is encouraged.
The group wanted to make the event affordable for all to attend, with admission 30$ it includes, camping and package breakfast are an addition $10 and parking, without an accessible pass or permit is $5 – to encourage busing, biking or carpooling.
“The countryside line is pretty unique across the province and indeed in Canada and what we want to do is have more people know about it, especially as governments change, as cities change around us, it is important that some things are protected and that we really prioritise things like the Countryside Line because that is a direct link to the fact that we have the best farmers markets around, we can get really great local food at so many restaurants here, we’ve got culture that values the unique heritage,” she said. “We want more people to know about that so that they feel that it is part of their identity as a Waterloo Regionite. like when they tell people why they are excited to live in this region that that is one of the reasons they cite because it really is cool.”
The festival will kick off on September 16 at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacobs. More information is available at www.holdthelinewr.org.