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Monday, December 9, 2019
Connecting Our Communities

A chance to take a look around

Dozens of buildings not usually accessible to the public set to welcome visitors Saturday for Doors Open Waterloo Region


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Curious about what goes on inside some of the region’s prominent and historic buildings? Saturday provides you a chance to take a peek behind the closed doors, unlocked for Doors Open Waterloo Region.

This year’s theme is Identity and Innovation, recognizing Canada 150 and also the event’s 15th anniversary. The dual theme represented in more than 50 host venues offers a sample of who the people are that have made this place home and the happenings in the region, says organizers.

“Doors Open is an Ontario-wide series of events that happen in small towns and big cities across the province,” said co-coordinator Karl Kessler, noting there are some 50 communities that participate provincially. “They are all at different times from April to October and the different locations choose different times and dates to run their event, everything from Doors Open Toronto, which is a gigantic event, to Doors Open Owen Sounds for smaller places. We are sort of a large middle-sized Doors Open.”

Happening on the third Saturday of every September for the past 15 years, the event showcases interesting places in the community. More than 300 participating sites have opened their doors to some 100,000 visits over that time.

Kessler says the event focuses on opening the closed doors we pass each day, and encourages people to follow their curiosity of those yet-to-be-discovered buildings.

“It is a pretty common experience to go past unusual buildings or historic buildings or just really big building and wonder ‘what’s going on in there?’ Or wonder ‘what is that place?’” he said. “You get to go in to see a little bit behind the scenes on what goes on there, so it’s a chance for people to kind of go deep inside to these places you go past everyday and wonder about.”

Reflecting the “innovation” theme this year, Google’s Kitchener-Waterloo office (no drop-in visits, pre-registration required), McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Agfa Healthcare and Cora Group building are opening their doors. Additionally, falling into the theme of “identity,” KidsAbility Centre for Child Development, Fashion History Museum and Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower are among the sites open to the public.

“The people who participate in Doors Open at the sites love to show off their buildings,” he said, noting that the event is all about showing a snapshot of what happens at each of the sites and creating a conversation between them and the public.

Each year, the host venues are a combination of both first-time participants and prior year favourites.

“About half of the locations on any given year are new,” he said. “We try to bring back some favourites, places people have liked, and places that wanted to participate again from past years. Then the other half are new, so it would be between 20 and 25 of our sites are first-time sites.”

Findaway Equestrian Services in Baden will be one of some 50 hosts for the 2017 Doors Open Waterloo Region. The event is celebrating its 15th anniversary with this year’s theme of Identity + Innovation. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
A first-time host, Findaway Equestrian Services’ owner Cindy Ballantyne was approached to showcase their 35-stall hunter and jumper equestrian facility. Their 28-acre property was completed in 2011 and includes an indoor arena, outdoor jumping ring and large fenced-in paddocks. Providing lessons, boarding, training and showing, the family-run stable is home to riders from five years of age to those up past 65.

Although she has been in the industry for close to 40 years, Ballantyne said the Doors Open event will be a great opportunity to showcase the new facility.

“We are a fairly new barn – this is our sixth summer here – so I just thought it would be good exposure for the community. We have had one open house since we have moved here but that’s about it,” she explained. “It will be a nice day and hopefully the weather is going to be nice.”

In addition to sites in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, the event usually alternates locales in the townships, this year focusing on Wilmot and North Dumfries.

Because of the region’s large size, Kessler says they work hard to find hosts lumped together in groups.

“We try to cluster them a bit so that you’re not driving all over the Waterloo Region trying to get from site to site. We try to keep it  grouped a little more reasonably,” he explained. “Typically, what people will do, because our event is one day, they will have to pick their favourite four, maybe five sites to get to.”

Last year the event brought in 17,000 visits to the various locations.

In recognition of the 15th anniversary, there will be six free talks related to the event theme by one of Canada’s top architects, an Indigenous expert on treaties and land issues, two historians, a meditation teacher and a theologian.

Most sites will be open for the full period of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but some may vary. The Doors Open Waterloo Region website, www.regionofwaterloo.ca/doorsopen, has a full list of participating venues as well as information about the event.

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