Walking On Broadway

When my daughter Jennifer told me that she and her husband Richard were moving to Orangeville, I did a double take. Why would they want to move from our great city to a small unknown town? Over the last couple of years, I have found out.

It began for me with a childhood memory of Orangeville. When I was about 5, my family used to drive through the town on our way to a family cottage at Wasaga Beach. My dad would yell out “Bananaville!” Or maybe “Peachville!” My brother and I would giggle in the back seat and say, “No silly Dad, It’s Orangeville!” And so on…every time we visited. My husband Peter remembers that, as a young teen, he had a summer job as flagman at his older brother’s construction site – building sewers on Orangeville’s main street. It was not a glamorous job but he felt powerful holding up that little flag and stopping traffic. (And occasionally chatting up any cute female drivers).

Since Jen and Richard moved there, we have visited several times. We took some international guests there in 2013 for the 150th anniversary of the town. The main street, named Broadway, was shut down to cars so hundreds of pedestrians, kids, and dogs could wander on the road, visiting booths, eating street food, and celebrating. We enjoyed walking on Broadway, an attractive street with lots of heritage buildings, including a lovely old theatre built in 1875.

Another time we stopped by the Saturday Farmers’ Market. People were shopping and eating lunch, as they met with neighbours and chatted. Jennifer tells us that during a non-pandemic summer there are festivals almost every weekend: Ribfest, Blues and Jazz Festival, Taste Of Orangeville, and more. In the spring there is a maple syrup festival, with an “adult version” at night. That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? We know that kids make toffee by pouring hot syrup on cold snow. But how does that translate into adult fun? Use your imagination!

Not too long ago, Orangeville gained new fame with an artistic project, initiated in 2002 by an enterprising mayor who decided to “breathe new life into dying trees.” He commissioned local carvers to create characters from dead tree trunks. The project began with 56 sculptures along Broadway and First Street, and in parks.

Recently on a Friday, when we had to leave the house so Lucy could clean, we decided to investigate. We headed to Orangeville and meandered along Broadway. We found some trees that had died, been cut off a few meters above ground, and carved, and other trees that had died completely and a portion of the trunk saved, carved, and mounted on concrete pads. The collection, refereed to as Tree Spirits, is clever and eye-catching.

On our way home, Peter and I laughed about our childhood memories of Orangeville, and speculated on the name. We had not seen a single orange tree in the entire group. Where had the name come from? A quick search of Google gave us the answer:

Orange Lawrence, an ambitious young man, had moved to the tiny hamlet in 1843 and bought a mill. He followed that with a general store, a school, and a post office, where he became post master. Feeling his power grow, he lusted after a life in politics and ran for office in 1861. Sadly, he lost. A few months later he hanged himself from one of those trees! Such a terrible irony, one not mentioned in the Tree Spirits pamphlet.

Orangeville has a great time with Christmas: a decorated park, a parade of lights, and…. Oops sorry – we are barely into spring! This is a topic for another day. Meanwhile, when Stay-At-Home orders are lifted, head up to Broadway and feel your spirits lifted too.


6 thoughts on “Walking On Broadway

  1. Another great post!! You amaze me with all the different things you find to write about. We will definitely have to head to Broadway to see those magnificent tree carvings.


  2. Thanks again Sue, most interesting. In warmer weather it would make a nice outing for us during our isolation. Meeting AM this afternoon at Uta’s and we are going to find out and clear out the plastic containers which are dumped at the side of her house, also to try and tidy up her yard for her as she loves it so much. She doesn’t even know what’s in the containers and Robert throws out nothing. Might be interesting, maybe we will find some hidden treasures!! Hope you have your tulips protected from the wildlife this year😀😀! Keep in touch. Your articles are always fun and interesting. I love them. Luv M. Sent from my iPhone



  3. Love your stories and thank you for the information. You beautifully combine personal stories with information beyond it. It shows the teacher in you. If you had asked me: ” where does the name Orangeville come from” I would have guessed: maybe there was a house or the nature around there, orange in color and thus the name. I did not know that Orange can be a name. Sad story about Orange, but the carvings are amazing.


  4. You have found the style that works for you Sue. This information makes us take a second look around us. Lost Villages in Mississauga by Heritage Mississauga outlined village names – mount Charles (ironic Name as it’s flat ) Pucky Huddle – frozen horse dung. One never knows


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