Nicholas FairplayHub Staff

The Saugeen Stone Festival took place this weekend at the Saugeen Amphitheatre, Saugeen First Nation #29, from Saturday, August 15 to Monday, August 17. The event was a celebration of stone, arts, crafts, the environment and community.

The festival included live music, local artisans, presentations and workshops, children's activities and food vendors. Visitors had the chance to speak with drystone wallers and carvers and look at some of the work that had been accomplished on the site.

The Saugeen Wesley United Church, next to the Amphitheater, which will celebrate its 125th birthday next year also had some events including a bell ringing ceremony and entertainment from musician Ron McManus.

International guest drystone wallers had been invited from the United States and United Kingdom to instruct those who had signed up for the festival's two day dry stone walling introductory course and Nicholas Fairplay, a master carver whose past projects have included work on St. Paul's Cathedral in London and St. John the Divine in New York City, had been invited to instruct a two day introductory workshop for stone carving.

Menno Braam, one of the drystone wall instructors spoke about the Saugeen Amphitheater Rejuvenation Project, of which he is part. Braam says that the program was started to maintain and repair the Amphitheater and is also a training opportunity for Saugeen First Nation.

“As far as all of the stonework goes we're overseeing that but the program was set up to train local First Nation's men in stonework as well as restoring the Amphitheatre.”

“We've got a good group of about nine guys who we're training and getting them certified with the British Drystone Walling Association. The tests are very physically demanding and so the more practice you have, the better chance you have of passing. Some of the guys we've been training are quite natural at it,” explained Braam.

The project started with the Princess Staircase, which was built last Spring. “This was the first stage of what we wanted to restore,” he said.

“We continued along the bottom of the staircase and you'll see all the work we have done then you'll get into the Amphitheater and you'll see all the work that we've still yet to do. It's quite extensive but you can see the potential of what we've done.”

The festival featured a Drystone Oven and also an Iron Age Roundhouse, the building of which was taking place during the festival by the international wallers and the Amphitheater Drystone Crew. The aim is to have the building finished at next year's Saugeen Drystone Festival. The roof will be constructed from wooden timbers that have been harvested from the Amphitheater and will have a living green roof on top. The building will function as a wedding reception hall, community gathering site as well as an educational building.Drystone OvenStaircaseKayleighMenno BraamAmphitheatre