Archer aims for top-10

When she steps onto the competition floor Apr. 24 in Windsor, Mariposa Gymnastics Club member Ali Archer will be retracing a path she has taken numerous times before. While only 16, this will mark her fifth appearance at the Ontario Gymnastics Federation Championships. “It never gets boring because there are different kids every year and it’s a different level, so it’s always exciting,” said the ODCVI Grade 10 student. Her goal is simple. “At a competition (in St. Catharines) we just had, the same girls were there that I am going to be competing against in Windsor. At that event, I finished 11th, which was a big disappointment for me. I definitely want to finish in the top 10,” she said. At the recent Ontario Cup qualifying event, held at Base Borden, Archer finished third overall in the 14 and Over, Level 6 Division. At that event, Archer posted second-place finishes in the vault and balance beam, third on the uneven bars, while also posting a fifth-place finish in the floor program. While now accustomed to facing the best in the province, Archer said performing at such a high level takes a toll mentally and physically. “I get still get pretty nervous before I perform and I still shake a lot. But it is better in that I know what is going on in front of me and nothing I will be experiencing will be new,” said Archer. She is hoping efforts to improve her floor routine will provide dividends at the Ontario finals. As a member of Mariposa for 13 years, Archer has been one of the guiding lights in the club, and one of the senior gymnasts the younger girls look up to. She feels comfortable being a role model. “For someone to be in the club as long as I have, it’s only natural for the younger ones to look up to someone who has been here so long,” said Archer.


Jones headlines comedy fest

Orillia’s comedy festival is broadening its horizons as it aims to tickle the funny bones of audiences young and old. Running April 15 to 18, the third annual festival promises a range of talent that runs the gamut from local columnist Jim Foster to nationally renowned comedic superstar Cathy Jones. “We have expanded the festival this year to target a wider variety of age groups,” said Donna Hewitt, chair of the festival committee. “In 2009, we have something for everyone.” Jones will bring her best-known characters to the Orillia Opera House for an April 18 performance. The Gemini-winning actor and writer is a founding member of the East Coast comedy troupe CODCO, and a regular on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a long-running television news spoof. “We wanted to bring someone in who was well known, who is recognizable,” said Kathryn Stephenson, marketing manager for the city’s culture and heritage department. “She is very, very funny.” Performing Wednesday through Friday at the Leacock Museum is local humour columnist Jim Foster and friends Harvey Atkin, Nicholas Pashley, Paul Quarrington, and Dan Needles. Foster and Co. host a “happy hour” from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with tickets priced at $12. The Orillia Opera House welcomes Run With Kittens on the Friday evening. Armed with a repertoire “ranging from darkly witty Dylan-esque tunes to stompers worthy of Motorhead,” the Kittens perform a gut-busting ode to the Sunshine City in “The Orillia Song.” Tickets are $15 or $10 for students. Saturday brings Colonel Quackhorn’s Extraordinary Medicine Show to the opera house for performances at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets are $6. “We are trying to appeal to all different age groups,” Stephenson added. “(Colonel Quackhorn) is really funny.” Cathy Jones takes to the stage on the Saturday evening at 8 p.m., with tickets priced at $40, or $30 for seniors and students. Organizers are again hoping to lure visitors to the city during the so-called “shoulder” season, when tourism tends to be at a lull. Tickets for all shows can be purchased through the opera house box office or online at www.operahouse.orillia.on.ca.


Bringing home the bacon

“Happiness is makin’ bacon.” That’s more than just a slogan at Holly Park Meat Packers near Cookstown. The company, tucked away on the 9th Conc. just west of town, is celebrating a rather significant recognition for one of its products. At a banquet held on Saturday, Feb. 21, Holly Park’s Phoenix End to End bacon captured a silver award at the Ontario Independent Meat Producers (OIMP) annual conference. More than 100 premium meat or poultry products were submitted for a chance to be crowned in one of 12 categories. The top three entries from each category were selected based on the judges’ combined scores. They included ham, country style bacon, cold cuts, deli roasts, fresh sausage and home meal replacement. Food industry professionals and media evaluated the entries. “The Ontario Finest Meat Competition is intended to promote the innovative, high quality products that Ontario’s meat processors have to offer,” said Laurie Nicol, executive director of the OIMP. “We hope this competition educates consumers and retailers on the quality and variety of Ontario meat and poultry products.” The OIMP is a voluntary, non-profit organization representing 180 processors from across the province. The Ontario meat and poultry industry contributes more than $6.5 billion a year to the economy and represents 20 per cent of the food manufacturing industry. Lilly Vacca, Holly Park’s bacon production manager, said, “This year, the competition was a little different. Homegrown Ontario was incorporated into competition. Any product submitted had to be homegrown. We’re really proud about that.” Homegrown Ontario is a labelling system for veal, lamb, and pork that were raised, finished and processed in Ontario. The program was introduced in 2007. Entries in the bacon category were judged on seven attributes: • visual appeal • consumer appeal • uniqueness • appearance • flavour • texture • aroma Winning the silver award “was great,” Vacca says. “It was very exciting and a huge sense of achievement.” For team member Karen Dipoce, “I think it’s fantastic. I’ve been here seven years and it’s terrific to be recognized for your work.” In a typical year, 140,000, 10 lb. boxes of Phoenix bacon are shipped from the plant. And “That’s just side bacon,” Vacca says. “They mostly go to the food services industry, then to wholesalers, then to restaurants.” In business for 30 years, Holly Park started out in a 2,000 square foot abattoir supplying mostly veal. Today, two operations, the one near Cookstown, the other in Caledon, process beef, veal, lamb and bacon. The Cookstown plant recently underwent a 28,000 square foot expansion and employs up to 60 staff. The company also processes halal, kosher, natural and organic products and offers custom processing. Holly Park’s owner and founder, Tony Facciolo, is the OIMP president. “Membership in Ontario Independent Meat Processors has grown recently,” Vacca adds. “We have been registering in the product competition for many years and each year, we have improved our process with help from the comments on that evaluation.”


Driver error ruled out in Hwy. 400 crash

Police have ruled out driver error in a multi-vehicle crash on Hwy. 400 last week that sent an Alliston man to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Thursday morning a northbound transport truck crashed through the centre guardrail on Hwy. 400 just north of Hwy. 88. The truck collided with a southbound Ford Explorer, driven by a 40-year-old Alliston man. The man was airlifted to a Toronto hospital where he was in critical condition. OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford said there was no update on his condition. His identity is not being released. Woodford said investigators have ruled out driver error, but they still aren’t sure what caused the crash. He said the truck driver would not be charged. “It could have been one of those things that he hit a patch of ice and flew across the highway,” Woodford said.


Plane forced to land at Billy Bishop Airport

A student pilot who experienced complete engine failure was forced to land his plane at the Billy Bishop Regional Airport just east of Owen Sound on Tuesday, March 31. It was a tough way to learn, but he sure did a good job. The incident occurred at 12:30 p.m. The airplane, a single engine Beechcraft Bonanza, was part of the fleet utilized by the Seneca College flight program based at the Buttonville Airport in Markham. (North of Toronto). It was piloted by a 21 year-old male student accompanied by a 21 year-old male passenger. They had left Wiarton Airport on route to Midland, ON. While flying over Owen Sound they experience total engine failure at 9,500 ft. The passenger issued a Mayday call, which was received by air traffic controllers in Toronto as they looked for a place to land. The pilot decided to glide the plane toward the Billy Bishop Regional Airport, situated on Highway 26 just east of Owen Sound, in the Municipality of Meaford.  After gliding for several kilometres and descending, the powerless plane was landed at the airport without incident. There were no injuries or damage to the aircraft. Grey County OPP officers were able to report the miraculous outcome back to the Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, who had asked for police to observe the aircraft.


Tips from public lead to 24 charges

Police made 14 arrests and laid 24 charges in February as a direct result of tips called in by the public to Crime Stoppers of Simcoe-Dufferin-Muskoka. “When the community and the police work together, results can be obtained,” the organization stated in a press release. A total of 186 calls last month helped police clear 12 cases involving weapons, narcotics, stolen property and other offences. People with information about criminal activity can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Since its inception in 1987, Crime Stoppers has received more than 42,000 calls, leading to 3,300 arrests, almost $9.9 million in stolen property recovered and $43 million in drugs seized.


Woman shoves attacker from moving car

A 36-year-old woman staved off an attack by pushing a man out of her moving car on Highway 400 Sunday afternoon, according to police. The 55-year-old man, who was treated for minor injuries at Royal Victoria Hospital, was charged with assault and threatening. The woman knew her attacker, the OPP say. Officers responded to the attack while it was in progress on Highway 400 near Innisfil Beach Road. Anyone with information should contact Const. Richardson of the OPP Barrie Highway Safety Division at (705) 726-3930.


Georgian residence in works

An Orillia developer is under way with plans to build a 200-bed residence that will serve students attending the local campus of Georgian College. Located next to the campus, on lands west of the property line, the $12 million project is a joint venture involving Charter Construction and Mark Rich Homes. “We understand that a student residence needs to be facilitated in the worst way, as students are struggling to find good accommodations,” Angelo Orsi told Orillia Today. Orsi was aiming to have the residence open by September of 2009, but said the project hinges on the province allowing a sewer line to cross a nearby property occupied by OPP General Headquarters. “We anticipate to have (Ontario Realty Corporation) approval by March, which then gets us going on the site servicing this summer,” he added. “It is critical that we get approvals this spring so that we can secure the 2010 school season.” A second phase, proposed for 2011, would make available another 100 to 200 beds, coupled with a supporting neighbourhood commercial development, he added. Approval of an environmental assessment for the all-important sewer line is already in place, “however, it needs to be reviewed through the (province’s) own EA,” Orsi added. Georgian College has “been interested in having residences for well over 10 years,” Cathy Campbell, director of campus services, said in an interview this week.   “It is a common question when we recruit students for open houses and information days,” Campbell said. “It will play a significant role in attracting students to programs at the Orillia campus. We are very excited about it.” Students who would have commuted from neighbouring communities are more likely to live on campus with the addition of a residence, she added. “It brings a different element of student life to the campus and to the community,” she added. Orsi agreed. “We are confident that having a residence right next door to Georgian is a great fit for students, and growing the enrollment at Georgian College,” he added. Many of the college’s students hail from neighbouring towns and cities, with some choosing to commute rather than rent locally. Those who rent within Orillia can choose from a variety of accommodations, including single rooms with kitchen privileges, shared housing and apartments. In existence at its current location since 1979, the Orillia campus has about 1,700 full-time students.


Ag safety week starts March 12

Canadian Agricultural Safety Week starts March 12, with local activities taking place later this month and in April. The campaign’s emphasis this year is the importance of using personal protective equipment. "Ontario’s agricultural industry is diverse, vibrant and vital to our economy, environment and quality of life," Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Betty Jean Crews said in a statement. "Farm safety is not a nicety, it is a necessity. We must continue to work to protect the health and safety of farmers, their families and farm workers." The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, in partnership with Farm Credit Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, will present the safety campaign. Organizers of the campaign say that on average 115 people are killed and at least 1,500 are hospitalized due to farm-related mishaps in Canada each year. Campaign officials say the most frequent causes of farm-related injuries are the unsafe use of equipment and material handling practices, followed by fatigue. The official launch of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is at 7 p.m. on March 12 at the St. Jacob’s Community Centre, where a farm safety rally will be held. Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture president Dave Riddell said the local association will be running farm safety advertisements in publications and on radio in the coming weeks. Riddell said the York Region Federation of Agriculture will present a St. John Ambulance session dubbed First Aid on the Farm, March 24 and 25. The event is open to all Ontario Federation of Agriculture members in Durham, Peel, Simcoe and York. The session is at the St. John Ambulance York Region branch at 13025 Yonge St., at King Sideroad. The cost is $145 for two days. There will be lectures and hands-on practice. Participants will receive a Standard First Aid certificate upon completion and a St. John Ambulance First Aid on the Farm booklet. To register, call 1-800-268-1677. He said the Simcoe County federation will present its Keep Kids Safe Workshop on Sat., April 4. The workshop is at Richards Farm Equipment, 823 County Road 93, in Crown Hill, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The workshop is open to children age five to 15. Riddell said the line-up for the day hasn’t been nailed down but there may be sessions on fire safety, electrical safety, all-terrain vehicle safety, animal safety and tractor safety. He said that St. John Ambulance might also present a first aid session at the workshop. The federation is asking that participants register for the workshop by March 31 by calling the federation office at 726-9300, ext. 1224. The cost is $2 for each participant. The local federation tries to run a farm safety workshop each year for youth, during or near farm safety week, Riddell said.


Superjail volunteer caught smuggling pot

A volunteer at the Central North Correctional Centre may get an up-close look at the inside of a cell for smuggling drugs into the facility. Staff members at the prison, commonly referred to as the superjail, seized almost 50 grams of marijuana from two inmates on March 23. Southern Georgian Bay OPP detectives subsequently learned a 67-year-old prison volunteer had supplied the drugs, worth approximately $4,980. The volunteer and the two inmates, ages 34 and 42, have all been charged with possession of marijuana, trafficking, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. All three are scheduled to appear in Midland court.