The first season for the Rainy Lake Square has proven the locale to be a vibrant hub of activities for the community.
Tannis Drysdale, economic development consultant for the Rainy River Future Development Corp., told council Monday night that in advance of the square opening in mid-May, organizers developed a brand for the square similar to the Fort Frances “Boundless” one.
They got sponsors on board, established a list of vendors, began marketing the square through an electronic mailing list and Facebook page, and even had Lake of the Woods Brewery in Kenora create a special beer, “Rainy Lake Blonde Ale,” exclusively for sale at the square.
The square hosted the sponsored-Rainy Lake Series of Thursday evening free concerts featuring brother-sister duo Entyrely Mac, popular children's entertainer Fred Penner, local rockers Kings of None, and pop/electronic music singer IsKwé (with opening act Distant Legacy).
The final free concert in the series will be tomorrow (Sept. 13) from 6-8 p.m. with roots-rock outfit The Old Salts.
But Drysdale also announced a “bonus” concert will take place next Monday (Sept. 17)—featuring Scottish act The Cutting Edge Band.
Described as a unique Celtic musical experience blending Scottish, Latin, and rock sounds, the band will take the stage at 6 p.m.
“It's supposed to be really high-energy and lots of fun,” Drysdale said of The Cutting Edge Band's performance.
The Rainy Lake Series was supplemented by other concerts throughout the summer, including by the Mine Centre Church Choir, Rough Cut Pine, Bob Wepruk and the Northern Jammers, Doug Judson, a tribute concert for the late Myron Hawrylak, Dylan Ossachuk, and Myra Donaldson.
Other Thursday evening activities also took place there, such as “sip and paint” night with Cher Pruys, a Fort High grad photo shoot, and four movie nights.
“We tried to build a pattern so people knew if you come to the square on a Thursday night, there's going to be something to do,” Drysdale said.
During the daytime, the square also was used by a Tai Chi group and the Fort Frances Museum.
The Rainy Lake Square also has hosted Thursday markets, which will continue this fall until it gets too cold for vendors, and Saturday markets, which will keep going until the end of this month.
Drysdale said square activities have been made possible through a series of grants from the provincial and federal governments and the Ontario Arts Council, as well as sponsorships by Gillons', Sunset Country Métis, Sunset Country Ford, New Gold, and Tbaytel.
Looking ahead, Drysdale said she's hoping to get more buskers to play at the square next year.
“We tried as hard as we could to get buskers . . . it's an area we need to do some improvement on,” Drysdale said in response to a question from Coun. Wendy Brunetta.
“One of the things that I noticed about really successful markets is they have entertainers there, even just for a couple hours,” she noted.
Coun. June Caul lauded the RRFDC for its successful efforts in making the Rainy Lake Square a community hub.
“I think you've done an awesome job of promoting the square this summer,” she remarked.
“I've attended some of these events. Everybody was having a good time," she noted. ”You did a great job of picking the people who performed there.
“Kudos to you because it really made our square come alive and made everybody in town now believe what a wonderful position we're in having this square and how great it is,” Coun. Caul added.
“Thanks for all you've done with that.”