Picton, Ont., in the summer and Picton, Ont., in the fall, is a tale of two towns. In summer, traffic on Main Street in the community of about 4,000 in Prince Edward County, the peninsula of land jutting into Lake Ontario south of Belleville, crawls along, while pedestrians fill the sidewalks visiting quaint cafés and shops. After Labour Day? You could almost shoot a cannon down the same street and not hit anyone. But while the crowds have largely disappeared by fall, many of the attractions that draw visitors to town, and the county in general, are still open. And there are a number of autumn events that showcase the best the area has to offer. Here’s a selection.
When: Sept. 11, 12 and 13, 2015
Where: Picton Fairgrounds, Highway 49
What: One of the oldest agricultural fairs in Ontario, held annually since 1836. See exhibits of local handcrafts, woodcrafts, cattle and horses, etc., plus a midway for the kids and live music at the historic Crystal Palace.
Bonus intel: If you can pull yourself away from the fair fare, try lunch or dinner at the Painted Peppercorn (172 Main Street, Picton). The restaurant offers home cooking and ambiance, with fresh salads and entrées, many inspired from local produce, on offer.
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: Sept. 18 to 27
Where: Church of St. Mary Magdalene (334 Main Street, Picton), The Regent Theatre (224 Main Street Picton) and Huff Estates Winery (2274 County Road 1, Bloomfield)
What: Some of the nation’s best known performers and ensembles gather to celebrate (and play!) a wide variety of classical music.
Bonus intel: Host venue The Regent Theatre is nearly 100 years old (it opened in February 1922) and is one of the nation’s only remaining Edwardian opera houses. It also hosts first-run movies, art films and international satellite feeds of opera, dance and theatre events.
PEC STUDIO TOUR
When: Sept. 18, 19 and 26, 27
Where: various locations throughout the county
What: One of the longest running and most diverse studio tours in Ontario, meet 37 artists (from painters to jewelry makers) who call Prince Edward County home, in their home spaces.
Bonus intel: Stay or eat at the historic Drake Devonshire on the lakeshore in Wellington (24 Wharf Street). The former bed and breakfast is now a boutique inn boasting modern-designed guest rooms and a top-notch restaurant, which features farm and lake to table cuisine. The tour’s wrap party takes place here on Sept. 27.
When: Oct. 17
Where: along Main Street, Wellington
What: Massive pumpkins (weighing thousands of pounds) are paraded down the main street in Wellington annually. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, many adorned in bright-orange knit pumpkin beanies, turn out for the festivities, which include local craft and baked good sales, kids’ activities and a giant vegetable weigh off.
Bonus intel: Try lunch or dinner at the swank East & Main Bistro (270 Main Street, Wellington). Like many of the region’s restaurants, its offerings are inspired by and feature county produce, from five spice magret duck breast with barely squash risotto to steak and fries.
When: Nov. 4 to 29
Where: restaurants throughout the county
What: The best of the county’s local eateries, all famed for their top-notch cuisines largely inspired by and featuring Prince Edward County fare, offer three-course, fixed-price menus. You simply can’t go wrong.
Bonus intel: While it’s not part of Countylicious, foodies headed to the county won’t want to miss a visit to, or stay at, The Waring House Restaurant, Inn, Conference Centre & Cookery School (395 Sandy Hook Road, Picton). The getaway is a popular wedding site (for both ceremony and reception), and its cooking classes, for cooks of all skill levels, are extremely popular.
When: Nov. 21, 22, 28, 29, Dec. 5, 6
Where: locations throughout the county
What: “Ontario’s most unique wine celebration,” Wassail offers oenophiles a self-guided or bus tour of a selection of the county’s famed wineries, with complimentary tastings at each stop.
Bonus intel: Prince Edward County is home to nearly 40 wineries and is considered the fastest-growing wine region in Ontario. Nearly two-thirds of the wineries are clustered in the area’s west end near Consecon, so it’s an ideal focal point for vine hopping before or after Wassail.