Has the price at the pumps got you rethinking road trip plans? Why not save a little by looking at all the Valley has to offer throughout the summer? With the lifting of public health measures, there has never been a better time to rediscover the exceptional diversity and accessibility of events and attractions available right here.
Travel restrictions and regulations during the pandemic meant we were forced to look closer to home for activities that allowed for distancing, while meeting a need for fresh air and an escape from isolation boredom. As the pandemic wore on, we resorted to experimenting with takeout to support local restaurants; we reconnected with nature and childhood memories of picking berries and apples; and in many cases, we made new discoveries about the towns and municipalities in which we live. With a return to near-normal this summer, it is important not to forget those businesses that were there for us then. The area is replete with hidden hamlets and eclectic intersections that are home to cafés, pubs, breweries, vineyards, and restaurants, as well as boutiques and corner stores that are well worth a trek down the back roads.
Local tourism means supporting our Valley economy. The area is growing, diversifying, and developing at great speed, with new exciting businesses springing up all over the countryside. There are several tools to help locals discover the wealth of possibilities nearby; for example, the Circuit du Paysan network continues to feature numerous local businesses and has developed a feature on its website that allows visitors to plan out a route based on their interests and nearby activities. The Union des Producteurs Agricoles continues to update the local farms and agri-businesses included on its interactive map, which is available by downloading the Mangeons Local plus que jamais application. The Valley now includes a host of farms with roadside stands selling everything from fruits and vegetables to meats and eggs.
Those looking less for a bite to eat and more for adventure will also find unique attractions in the region. The Lake Saint-François National Wildlife Area is recognized under the RAMSAR Convention as a protected area of shoreline marsh that is a marvel for birdwatchers, kayakers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Cyclists will enjoy the challenge of pedaling over Covey Hill, where several local businesses offer bike stops and parking options. The Chateauguay River and the clear waters of Lake Saint-François are perfect for paddling, whether by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.
Culturally, the Valley is steeped in history. The Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Archaeological Site and Interpretation Centre in Saint-Anicet is now open to the general public for its 22nd season; it continues to offer the most authentic immersive experience into 15th century Iroquoian society, complete with longhouses, traditional garden, and Kionhekwa exhibit. History buffs will also want to mark June 18 on their calendars as the opening date for the Battle of the Chateauguay National Historic Site in Très-Saint-Sacrement for the season. There are many hidden ruins and testaments to earlier times just waiting to be found. Bring a camera and take some photos of the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent’s giant butterflies in each municipality as you explore.
We often forget just how lucky we are to live in a region with such abundance. Did I forget to mention that our agricultural fairs in Ormstown, Huntingdon, and Havelock are back after a two-year hiatus, along with several festivals and large events? It’s definitely worth “thinking local” this season, as there is simply no better place to be than in the Valley during summer.