Toronto International Film Festival – Good Luck Charm or Fluke?

TIFFEuropean films festivals like Cannes and Venice may have the history and prestige — but the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has shown every best picture winner since 2007, and many have premiered there. Time will tell if any of this year’s films will take top honours, but recent history suggests one will. Find out which Oscar-winners made their way from TIFF to the Hollywood stage.

Chariots of FireChariots of Fire (1981)
In its fifth year of existence, TIFF landed its first big fish: Chariots of Fire, the true story of how British sprinters Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams won glory at the 1924 Olympics, and sprinted its way past the competition to Oscar gold.

American Beauty (1999)
The world got its first peak at the eventual best picture winner — but also its first sampling of Sam Mendes. American Beauty served as the established stage director’s feature film debut and became an overnight sensation.

CrashCrash (2004)
Crash premiered at the 2004 fest, where Lionsgate picked it up. It would wait until 2005 for its release and managed one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history, beating fellow Toronto player from 2005, Brokeback Mountain.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s tense thriller ended up the headliner of a banner year in 2007 for TIFF. Not only did the festival screen the eventual best picture winner, it had four out of five best picture nominees in its lineup, with only Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood absent from Toronto.

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire (2008)
Set in India, from a British director, it took home top American honours but made its world premiere in Canada. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire captured the hearts of audiences right off the bat, winning the People’s Choice award at the festival.

The Hurt Locker (2008)
The world premiere took place in Venice, but Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker kickstarted its Oscar run in Toronto where it had its North American premiere and was picked up by Summit Entertainment in 2008. A year later, the film was rewarded with six Academy awards.

the King's SpeechThe King’s Speech (2010)
The King’s Speech was the fourth film to win the People’s Choice award — and then go on to win best picture. Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, and Slumdog Millionaire are the others.

Argo (2012)
Argo is the latest to capitalize on Toronto’s good luck — though none of it seemed to rub off on Ben Affleck, who was snubbed for best director.

From September 5-15, 2013, the Toronto International Film Festival will shine its way into venues and theatres across Toronto. And if TMZ knows anything about scouting out famous people, the airport seems to be the best place. Located practically beside Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is Sandman Signature Hotel Toronto Airport – the perfect place to stay to travel to and from the airport while celebrity watching. Well that’s convenient.

SIG Toronto Exterior 1

Rider Nation – Saskatchewan’s True Love and Identity

Saskatchewan fieldsWritten by June De La Paz – guest blogger

Whenever anyone finds out that I grew up in Saskatchewan, they inevitably ask if I lived on a farm. They imagine that I drove a combine in overalls with a wheat straw dangling from my lips. That, or if I know their cousin/uncle/friend, so-and-so because Saskatchewan is a tiny, small, flat place where everyone knows everyone.

Truth be told, I had a pretty idyllic upbringing. I grew up in an area where many people didn’t lock their doors during the day. I rode my bike everywhere, including downtown and to the river. I took the bus or walked to school from the age of 9. During the hot, sweltering summers, my parents didn’t even look for me until sometime around dinner, and without mountains, the sun seemed to take forever to set. Then, there were the winters. The bright morning sun belied how bitterly cold it was outside. It didn’t matter how many sweaters or thermal underwear you had on, the cold bore its way through all of those layers to remind you how tough those Saskatchewan winters truly were.

Living in Saskatchewan was a right of passage. The spikes in the weather alone were enough to challenge the hardiest souls and still are. We didn’t have the tropical or Chinook winds to warm us. We didn’t have the bounty of the ocean or border large US cities or have mega malls to spend our money.

What we do have is the most loyal, butt-kickingest and craziest fans you will ever meet. And the rowdiest in Canada (ranked by MSN Sports). Fans wear watermelons. On. Their. Heads.

Roughrider Fans1Even though the Roughriders play in the smallest market in the CFL and are the second smallest major league in North America, they have led in away games attendance every year in the last 10 years. During away games in Alberta, Rider Nation makes up about ½ of the fans in attendance. Because it doesn’t matter where you live – once you have rider pride, it is for life.

Roughrider merchandise sales rank third in Canada for all major league sports, which includes hockey. What makes this more surprising is that the team has only won 3 Grey Cups in the last 100 years. Belonging to Rider Nation isn’t just about winning. Rider pride is about being tough, giving it your all and supporting your team through the good and the bad. Whether we win or lose, or move to another city, once a Rider fan, always a Rider fan.

You’ll never be able to fully understand what surviving a Saskatchewan summer or winter is like unless you experience it. This is an unspoken bond that unites us. Like many who left in search of greener pastures during an economic downturn, I no longer live in Saskatchewan. However, when I do meet someone from Saskatchewan, there is an immediate ease between us – a mutual understanding and downright respect, because it is earned. That is Rider pride and that is the heart of Rider nation.

RiderPride (3)June De La Paz is a freelance Marketer, specializing in the technology sector with the breadth of her experience in start-ups. She is currently working on launching her own line of natural skin care products for kids and adults. She grew up in Saskatchewan where her parents still reside.  She currently lives with her husband (who grew up in SK too), three extraordinary daughters in beautiful BC, and they all stay at Sandmans whenever they travel around Canada. They all belong to Rider Nation and have Rider Pride.

Edmonton Folk Festival is a Model Green Event

edmonton-folk-festivalBeginning in 1980 with one staff and 300 volunteers, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has grown and matured to become one of the leading folk festivals in the world. This year’s festival features Loreena McKennitt, Bruce Cockburn, The Avett Brothers, Rosanne Cash, Feist, and many more.

It is also a model green event. Since the 1980s, its team of volunteers have included an environmental crew, and every year, the festival finds ways of tweaking its ways of reducing waste.The environmental crew now includes 12- to 15-year-old “Enviropower” volunteers, who pick up trash each morning on Gallagher Hill, where the festival is held. There is a volunteer kitchen enviro crew, a beer garden enviro crew, a crew that picks up trash in the neighbourhood streets surrounding the site, and a volunteer-run secure bike area to encourage cycling to the festival. Some cash registers run on solar power, compact fluorescent lightbulbs are used wherever possible, and volunteers who don’t bring their own reusable water bottle and coffee cup simply go thirsty.

One of the festival’s most effective green initiatives is the reusable plate program, which has been in place for a few years and was an idea the Folk Fest stole from the Vancouver folk music festival, says volunteer coordinator Vicki Fannon. Folk Fest purchased thousands of Melmac plates and “sells” them to the concession stands for $2 a plate. Customers pay an extra $2 for the plate when they purchase food. They then return the plate to a plate booth once they’re done, and receive a $2 refund. The plates are washed on site, and the cycle continues.

The 2013 Folk Fest marks the fourth year of a partnership with Cleanit Greenit, an Edmonton composting company, to reduce food waste. The festival stipulates that all concessions use only biodegradable packaging — this means corn-based cutlery, glasses, and straws — and Cleanit Greenit turns all of this organic waste into compost. As a result, almost nothing gets thrown out, and what does gets sorted by Edmonton’s cutting-edge Waste Management Centre.

Information in the Folk Fest program booklet and on the giant screens set up on the hill educate people on the plate program and recycling and compost stations, but for the moment, “compost supervisors” remain stationed next to bins to ensure everything ends up where it should.

Unusual Summer Activities in Canada

The sun is shining. Shorts have come out of the closet. Summer must be here! But what should you do on your weekends and during your vacation? We’ve compiled a list of exciting adventures, that are off the beaten path, for you to embark on no matter which Sandman location you are at.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

sea lion

*Photo courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium

Feed the sea lions

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vancouver Aquarium. Learn all about the sea lions and sea otters from staff, prepare some of their favourite treats, and get up close to the animals while working alongside their trainers.

Seek a sea serpent

Did you know that Canada has its own version of the Loch Ness monster? There have been plenty of sightings of Ogopogo, a snakelike creature said to be anywhere from six to 20 metres long, in Okanagan Lake in the B.C. Interior. Sightings have been reported throughout the length of the lake but the monster appears to favour an area just south of Kelowna in waters near Peachland. Try your luck.

kayakingPaddle into the setting sun

Victoria is almost completely surrounded by water and its location on Vancouver Island’s southern tip creates several great paddling locations. To the southwest is the Juan de Fuca Strait, which opens to the Pacific Ocean and is home to boat-access only Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park. To the southeast, Haro Strait leads to dozens of small islands and islets. Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the adjacent Gorge Waterway allow kayakers to begin saltwater adventures directly from downtown.

ALBERTA

Embark on a fossil safariDinosaur-Park-Canada

Dino teeth and bones are literally lying around Dinosaur Provincial Park north of Brooks, in the southeast of the province. Explore the badlands or participate in a fully authentic dinosaur dig and be amazed by the abundant fossils, unusual wildlife, and stunning landscapes of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Peer at the petroglyphs

Ancient rock carvings, paintings, and pictographs at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, about 100 km southeast of Lethbridge, vividly depict hunting, vision quests, and scenes of battle. The spectacular Milk River valley contains the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America.

Bask in the spray of North America’s largest manmade waterfall

zipline COP

*Photo courtesy of WinSport

One of Edmonton’s most recognizable landmarks is the High Level Bridge, which carries 109 Street across the river near the Legislature building. It was built in 1913 for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but now is a beautiful drive from downtown to Old Strathcona. Every long weekend during the summer (Canada Day, Heritage Day, and Labour Day), the City turns on the waterfall. At 210 feet (64 metres) high, Edmonton’s Great Divide Waterfall is higher than Niagara Falls, and pumps out 50,000 litres of water a minute.

Go ziplining

Get big air as you soar from the top of Canada Olympic Park’s ski jump tower on North America’s fastest zipline! Riders fly down the unique cable system in a comfortable harness, reaching speeds between 120 and 140 km/h. As Calgary’s highest vantage point, the ski jump tower provides a zipline that is 500 metres long with a vertical drop of more than 100 metres.

SASKATCHEWAN

Take a Mountie crash course

Shaped like a prairie snowdrift, the new RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina celebrates all things Mountie. There’s an interactive forensics display for budding CSIs, an array of transport from dogsleds to planes, and tales of life on the frontier, when the RCMP befriended Sitting Bull, tamed Klondike prospectors, and organized manhunts.

Discover Moose Jaw’s Capone connectioncigars_83654866

Sleepy Moose Jaw earned the moniker “Little Chicago” in the 1920s, when American gangsters rode the rails north to beat the heat of Prohibition. Tour the underground tunnels — complete with animatronics — where Al Capone’s mob ran their bootleg operation.

 Act like a kid for the day

Something for everyone. Wilson’s Entertainment Park meets all your entertainment needs in Saskatoon. Get the feel of a real race car as you speed your way around the track at Velocity Raceway. Practice your golf swing on Wilson’s Driving Range or putt a round on Wilson’s Putting Course. Between the driving range, the putting course, the velocity raceway, and the jump n’slide, Wilson’s Entertainment Park is sure to amuse you for hours.

MANITOBA

skateboardingBust out a-town session

The skateboard park at the Plaza in Winnipeg’s vibrant Forks neighbourhood is distinctly gnarly. Covering an area of more than 44,000 square feet, it boasts a 30,000-square-foot plaza and 8,500-square-foot bowl complex with a 17-foot cradle.

Go snaky

Got a reptile-crazy kid? Tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate in a writhing, wriggling (procreating) mass for several weeks at the snake dens of Narcisse, about two hours north of Winnipeg.

Climb a Massive Outdoor Ropes Course

Any ambitious folks out there want to go to Adrenaline Adventures in Winnipeg? Climb and zipline down a challenging ropes course that features two separate canvas covered towers connected with a 2 story High Teams skywalk challenge course. The design also offers 14 challenging elements, climbing walls with over 1,500 square feet of climbing surface, three zip lines, vertical playground, dynamically belayed high elements, a 10-person high team course, a high whale watch, giant ladder, and a multi-challenge cargo net.

ONTARIO

Sip a cocktail with the lights of Toronto strung out before you

Good bets include the Panorama (on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre); Canoe (atop the TD Tower), and the Roof Lounge on the 18th floor of the Park Hyatt.

Parade with the swans

Heralded by horns and trumpets and led by children and pipers, at 2 p.m. Stratford’s famous swans waddle from their winter quarters to the Avon River, ushering in the arrival of spring. Other special events: concerts and tours of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse.

Walk in the clouds

Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve’s suspended walkway through the canopy of a 200-year-old pine forest feels a bit like an ectomorphic trampoline. Take in breathtaking views and, if you’re really lucky, catch a glimpse of wolves, foxes, and moose.

QUEBEC

schwart's smoked meatEat and drink a la Mordecai

Follow in the footsteps of the Bard of Montreal: Mordecai Richler. Down a medium-fat smoked-meat sandwich at Schwartz’s (3895 St-Laurent Boulevard), a chewy-sweet sesame bagel at St-Viateur Bagel (253 St-Viateur W.), veal marrow hors d’oeuvre at French bistro L’Express (3927 St-Denis), and a rib steak at Moishe’s (3961 St-Laurent). Chase with a nice single malt.

Navigate a water labyrinth

Rev up your paddleboat and head off along the 6.5 km of canals that wind through the marshland near Wakefield. You will be equipped with a compass, radio, and field guide (to help you identify resident plants and creatures).

Jardin des Floralies – Île Notre-Dame

Filled with 5,000 or so rose bushes, over 100,000 annuals as well as perennials, and weeping willow trees, the Jardin des Floralies is 25 acres of horticultural history and one of two major Montreal gardens. Originally created by some of the world’s best landscape artists who participated in the 1980 International Floralies fair, the gardens became a permanent city fixture and are now maintained by Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Meet Billy Barker: Quesnel’s most famous and successful miner

billy barker goldWho is Billy Barker, and why does he deserve his own 3-day festival?

Billy BarkerBarker was born in 1817 in March, Cambridgeshire, England. As a child, he worked as a waterman on the waterways of England.

In 1839, he married Jane Lavender and had one daughter named Emma Eliza. Jane died in 1850, and in 1863, Barker married his second wife Elizabeth Collyer. She was extremely extravagant and unfaithful and left him in 1865 after he became broke.

Because railways had begun to replace canal transport, Barker was unsure of what to do with his life. During the 1840s, he decided to go to California, where he would try his luck in the gold rush. He made very little, but when the gold rush ended, he moved up to British Columbia with fellow miners. His party discovered gold in the Williams Creek area, and his fellow crew member Wilhelm Dietz – “Dutch Bill” – was the first to find a good amount of gold in the creek valley area.

Barker decided to search for his gold down river close to Stouts Gulch. Many people said he was crazy for doing this, but, after a short period of time, they pulled out about 60 ounces of gold at about 52 feet below ground. Barker’s claim turned out to be the richest in the area and the settlement of Barkerville was set up around his claim. Throughout the rest of his mining career, he pulled out roughly 37,500 ounces of gold.

Billy Barker smoked as much as 30 cigarettes a day, finding it hard to deal with the stress of having that much gold and the progressive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

He died penniless in a Victoria nursing home on July 11, 1894 with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and/or possible cancer in his jaw. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Ross Bay Cemetery, though there has been contemplation on moving his grave to Barkerville, the town he founded and preserved as a historic town.

Since 1973, Billy Barker Days has been a staple in Quesnel and an event everyone looks forward to. With events that include rodeo, mud bogs, concessions, midway, and stage entertainment, there is sure to be something for everyone. In its 40th year, this event is British Columbia’s largest free family festival. It is true community collaboration.

A Snapshot of the Festival – Thursday, July 18, 2013 – Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quesnel crowd pictureThursday – Seniors’ Day

Friday – Kids’ Day – Children’s Headliners Sharon & Bram – Friday at 3 pm and Saturday at 2 pm.

Saturday – Parade 10 am – There’s a new parade route this year and will not be on the highway.

Sunday – Fireworks – Another great display by Fireworks Spectaculars who have produced excellent shows for the wrap up over the past 5 years. An extra special show is planned to close out the 40th anniversary of Billy Barker Days.

Dance – The Billy Barker Days Society will be sponsoring a dance this year on Saturday, July 20 at the Seniors Centre. Music by Secret Happiness. Ticket price is $25 and are currently on sale.

Costumes – The Costume Rental Shop will be located at the Child Development Centre building, formerly Bloomko Flowers. The shop is open for business.

Souvenirs – The Billy Barker Days booth will be open on Reid Street on Tuesday, July 2, 11 am to 4:30 pm weekdays and 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays up to and including July 16th.