Think Summer has cornered the market on Victoria’s calendar? Not a chance with the way the harvest season shapes up on the south island.
Victoria is blessed with an abundance of fertile farmlands a short drive from downtown. The fruits of these lands can be found in local restaurants and farmers’ markets, but many also have their own farm markets, farm-gate sales or attractions.
In the Blenkinsop Valley, Galey Farms plants a new corn maze each year, complemented by a western town, train ride, petting farm and more. Come mid-October, those features take on a decidedly spooky twist.
Enjoy the short ferry ride from Sidney for the 12th annual?Salt Spring Island Apple Festival, Sunday, October 3, from 9am to 5pm. Start at Fulford Hall and take in a day-full of activities dedicated to one of the island’s tastiest crops. And appropriate for this year’s theme, Kids and Apples – A Magical Combination, activities are free for children 12 and younger.
The intricate work of Victoria pumpkin carver returns to the Victoria Truth Centre, near downtown, from 5 to 10pm October 28 to 31. Featuring an amazing array of carvings, ranging from spooky scenes to entertainment icons from yesterday and today, the illuminated works of art are a seasonal highlight for many. Free parking is available at the nearby Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
While Victoria is renowned for its spring, fall really makes a striking statement. Don’t miss the magnificent Butchart Gardens, especially the bright hues of the Japanese garden. In town, the gardens at Government House are splendid with fall’s changing colours, set against the backdrop of one of the city’s most elegant neighbourhoods. Nearby, Abkhazi Garden greets the season beautifully with its towering oaks, shrubs, perennials and brightly coloured Japanese maples. Fancy the tropics? Visit the oasis at Victoria Butterfly Gardens!
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
The businesses of Oak Bay Avenue extend the summer season with the Oak Bay Village Night Market, September 15 from 4 to 8pm. Following an official opening by the Town Crier, artists and artisans will present jewellery, pottery, turned wood, toys, fresh produce and food against a backdrop of music and entertainment.
Local farmers’ markets are generally a hive of activity through Thanksgiving in mid-October. Highlights include the destination Moss Street Market near downtown and the Peninsula Country Market near Sidney. Both markets feature the freshest of local produce and products, plus entertainment, treats, kids’ activities and more. Exploring downtown? Get a taste of local farms at the Island Chefs’ Collaborative Bastion Square Market, Thursdays and Fridays through late September.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
On Labour Day weekend, September 4 to 6, the Saanich Fair is one of Victoria’s favourite farewells to summer and a must for many locals and visitors alike. The 143rd annual fair fills the Saanich Fairgrounds with traditional animal and agricultural displays, games, entertainment, delicious food and a fun-filled midway.
In the West Shore, the Luxton Fair comes to town September 17 to 19, with blacksmithing and antique farm equipment displays, First Nations arts, historical displays, midway and more. Don’t miss the Luxton Tough Truck Challenge 2010, beginning at 11am Saturday and Sunday.
Insider’s tip: If the kids plan to take in more than a few rides on the fairs’ midways, consider a wristband that allows them to ride all day for a set price.
At the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society’s Heritage Acres, also on the Peninsula, reap the harvest at the family-friendly Fall Threshing event, September 18 and 19. Don’t miss the butter-dipped corn-on-the-cob!
Southern Vancouver Island is enjoying its growing reputation as a wine-lovers’ destination. Celebrating that status is the sixth Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival, September 18 and 19. An assortment of events showcases the area’s best wines and ciders, unique farm-fresh delights, live entertainment, green Earth seminars and more. Purple “wine route” roadside signs make it easy to find participating properties.
All the festival locations will offer at least one complimentary activity or tasting. “A tradition of the festival is to be as free as possible to encourage visitors to indulge in the full variety of bounties the festival has to offer, ” explains Kellie Turner. In addition to exciting free opportunities, visitors can also choose to purchase tickets to premier events, including winemaker’s dinners.
Outside the festival, enjoy a self-guided tour of Victoria and Cowichan-area wineries or let Executive Wine Tours do the driving and explore the region’s award-winning vintners in luxury.
— Jennifer Blyth