For many book lovers, it sounds like a dream: a favourite author reading to you from their new book as you recline on a grassy slope, gazing up at a bright late summer sky with the sound of a nearby creek gurgling by. This dream becomes reality among the historic stone buildings and on green fields in the tiny village of Eden Mills
(near Guelph), which each year hosts a renowned Writers’ Festival. With authors from around the world (although with a powerful Canadian contingent), the festival is a celebration of literature, countryside, and community – both a village community and a borderless community of story lovers. So next week, pack up your lawn chair, hat, and umbrella, and head to the 25th anniversary of the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival
The crowds roll into the village Sunday morning, as convoys of vehicles park in a field just outside of town. Visitors spill out, each carrying a beach towel, folding chair, and a book or two. They make their way down the country road – or take a waiting bus – to get to the usually sleepy main street of Eden Mills. However, today, booths of vendors line the street, selling crafts, edibles, and, of course, books. Guests head to one of several simultaneous locations for readings – the historic stone church or community hall and several outdoor sites in backyards and public space throughout the village. They stake out a spot, shoulder-to-shoulder in pews as warm light streams in side windows or on a bit of green space under a shady tree. Visitors close their eyes as well-known and up-and-coming authors from Canada and abroad share excerpts from their new books – from poetry to non-fiction accounts of Canadiana to fiction sure to be on next year’s literature award circuit.
The Festival actually opens on Saturday afternoon with famed environmental foodie Michael Pollan and Sarah Elton on “Food for Thought” at the University of Guelph. However, the traditional Festival in the village is an all-day Sunday event, with speakers such as CFL great Chuck Ealey, Book Prize shortlisted author Emma Donoghue, and Three Day Road author Joseph Boyden. The Festival is for all ages, with children’s book and young adult fiction authors reading at the event as well.
Eden Mills – one of the best "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" communities
in Ontario – is also a relaxing, historic community to visit any time of the year. With just 350 residents, Eden Mills has developed remarkable community spirit to maintain their 1916 Community Hall, annually dredge their millpond, and continue upkeep of their quaint, stone United Church. The quiet streets are perfect for an afternoon stroll as you admire the lush gardens and historic homes (several with solar panels in keeping with the community’s energy reduction commitments).
Besides this festival, the other reason Eden Mills may ring a bell is its commitment to becoming North America’s first carbon neutral community. As part of this environmental ethic, the festival offers free water – but you bring your own refillable bottle – and vendors sell picnic goodies that avoid the Styrofoam or plastic through the use of reusable supplies.
There are two evening events on September 12 and 13 and an afternoon event on Saturday in addition to the Sunday events in the village. There is an ATM on site as books and vendor products are purchased with cash. Advanced tickets are recommended and can be purchased at ticketpro.ca or The Bookshelf store in Guelph.