By Angelica Ingram
Published July 28 2016
When local artist April Gates decided to move her home and business to the hamlet of Donald she was excited about the offerings her new neighbourhood would bring.
A potter who has called the Highlands her home for more than a decade Gates has long been inspired by the creativity on Gelert Road which stretches from Haliburton to just north of Kinmount.
“I think that along this road there are a number of people who have things happening” said Gates.
For the past year Gates and a team of people have been working on an initiative to highlight this creativity and showcase the many artisans business organizations and recreational opportunities along Gelert Road.
In recent weeks the initiative titled Get on Gelert launched a brochure/map that illustrates the offerings along the corridor.
The project started with Gates approaching her neighbours many of whom she already knew with the idea.
Many were already on the same page marketing their businesses through other avenues such as the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization. They were keen to create a project that not only highlighted themselves but their neighbours.
The idea for Get on Gelert was partially inspired by an earlier project Gates had seen that promoted business and artisans along Highway 118.
“Sandi Luck initiated a brochure called the 118 Wiggle” said Gates. “The whole goal was to let people know about the Art Hive but also to be neighbourly and help promote the route and the other businesses that existed.”
Get on Gelert grew from a rack card to a brochure/map once Gates and the other partners realized there were so many things to highlight. About a dozen places are featured from Sunny Rock B&B to pottery and glassblowing studios antique shops Wintergreen Pancake Barn Snowdon Park Dahl Forest and much more.
Also showcased on the map is the Rail Trail which plays a significant role in the area.
“Without the Rail Trail and that railroad being there we wouldn't be here” said Gates.
Get on Gelert is not just about promoting shopping in the area but about highlighting heritage buildings and recreational opportunities as well.
“We wanted it to reflect what we feel is the character of the area which is different from the rest of the county” she said. “You can go for a hike or a paddle. You can go for a yoga session or a latte. You can have some tarts or go for a picnic at Ritchie Falls … there's a lot of things to do. You could easily make it a day trip or a destination for the weekend. It's more about celebrating what we have in this little pocket and letting people know.”
The brochure/map was created by local illustrator Darby Bayly who brought her own artistic flair to Get on Gelert.
Bayly hand drew the icons for each point of interest which emphasized the creativity on the route.
“We wanted something that would reflect who we are” said Gates. “We weren't just making a brochure we were making a brand we were branding ourselves.”
The initiative was a partnership among all the businesses/organizations featured on the map she said.
“It's all pretty grassroots much like all of our businesses.”
Get on Gelert was a phrase coined by Gates that she began using when she moved into the area.
“It just flows.”
Gates's studio Blackbird Pottery is in a former schoolhouse which was converted over the years to become a dwelling. More than 100 years old the schoolhouse was also a church at one time and a community centre.
“It's a perfect place to have a business” she said. “It's close to town and it's already a destination route in that there are points of interest along the route.”
Apart from the brochure/map the initiative has been promoted with the hashtag #GetonGelert and a Facebook page.
The artist is hoping the project expands and includes more points of interest in the future. The map has been distributed all over the county and been well received so far.
The first release of the brochure/map for Get on Gelert included 4000 copies and a second order has already been placed exceeding expectations.
“I'm so excited with how it turned out” said Gates. “We love it as a group … I've had people pop by with the brochure and say 'Who did this? This is an amazing brochure.' Because it's really different there's nothing like it out there. It's like a little treasure map.”