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Taking a digital peek behind closed doors

Doors Open events are a popular feature in many communities, offering residents access to a variety of buildings and locations not always open to the public. As with so many activities of late, the peek behind closed doors will have to be digital this year.

Doors Open Waterloo Region has adopted an online format as an alternative to the usual in-person visits. Typically slated for the third Saturday of September, the event, now in its 17th year, has changed with the times – instead of a single day, the viewing will be spread over a month, August 22 to September 19.

Local organizers turned to True North Communications, run by Kelly Spencer and her business partner Scott McNair, to take the event virtual.

“Of course, in person events are not available this year. So, the Region of Waterloo pivoted very quickly and determined at the outset of the pandemic that we would attempt to create a digital event instead for 2020,” Spencer explained.

A series of 16 videos will be released two at a time over the month. The high-quality videos range from five to 10 minutes and are shot in a documentary style.

“The idea behind Doors Open is to give people the opportunity to see interesting local sites. Whether it’s [a] heritage site or interesting local businesses or just other sites that have interesting stories, it’s the opportunity for people to get into these places where they perhaps wouldn’t normally have access,” she said.

This year’s video series has a high level of focus on non-routinely accessible locations throughout the region. To start, one of the first videos to launch is at Parkview Cemetery in Waterloo.

“Obviously, a crematorium is not a place you would ever be able to take people in under regular circumstances. And in this case we were able to go into the crematorium, and, you actually see the operations and get a real understanding of the process of storing the deceased and actually cremating them.”

Another location that remains mostly inaccessible to area residents is the Shand Dam. Although located near Fergus, “we went to that dam because it actually plays a really critical role in the wellbeing of Kitchener-Waterloo[’s] …, water supply. And it was actually the first dam that was constructed in this area by the Grand River Conservation Authority,” said Spencer.

Two of this year’s locations are in Woolwich Township. Eby Manor Limited (Golden Guernsey) is known for their special milk that comes from the herd of about 60 Guernsey cattle on site near Conestogo. The other is Martin’s Family Fruit Farms near St. Jacobs.

Peter Katona, director of sales and marketing for the fruit farm, says the company is very keen on being included in this year’s digital programming.

“We have been involved with Doors Open …[for] a number of years. This year, we hope to put more emphasis on our apple-growing operations as opposed to our store. You might know our store is closed while it gets a bit of a refresh and we’ll be reopening in the fall, so the digital Doors Open wasn’t going to be a good fit for our retail operation. However, because we’re going to be hosting them here during the apple harvest, we hope to actually provide a glimpse of Martin’s that not everybody in the public will get to see – we will be hosting their film crews in to observe harvest and the production of the apples when we receive the apples and package them and wash them and so on so forth,” he said.

“The apple production process is actually quite interesting and fascinating, but mostly because of food safety rules were not set up to handle the public. So, I think the public will really appreciate an opportunity to view a side of Martin’s that they haven’t had the chance to see yet.” 

All of the videos will be available to stream on the region’s YouTube channel as well as on Rogers TV.

“It really is an opportunity to look behind the scenes at some of these very fascinating sites all throughout Waterloo Region. I think viewers will be surprised at how in depth we can go in these video episodes, and hopefully it still accomplishes a lot of the good work that’s been done in the past, in the traditional Doors Open format,” said Spencer.


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