Kentville’s Pumpkin People return with a mystical twist
It isn’t autumn in Kentville without a visit to the Pumpkin People, and this year’s theme is “Fables, Folklore, and Fantasy!”
Local artist Gerry Little has been busier than ever, putting together the characters and props that will breathe life into plain old pumpkins.
All throughout the Town of Kentville, you’ll see scenes depicting classic fables like “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Lion and the Mouse” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” mixed in with exciting scenes from “Robin Hood” and “Treasure Island.”
If you're not too familiar with folklore, don’t worry — Pumpkin People coordinators will be creating large signs with copies of the stories and fables so everyone knows what’s depicted in each scene.
Lindsay Young, community economic development coordinator with the Town of Kentville, says there will be eight major Pumpkin People displays around Kentville and about 300 individual Pumpkin People — all decorated and dressed by Little. Community members and businesses also create their own Pumpkin People, so there will be even more displays around town to explore.
New to peeping the Pumpkin People? Skip the Kentville exit and take the next one (Exit 14) instead.
“It sounds counterintuitive to drive past Kentville, but this route gives you a straight shot down Park Street and Main Street,” explains Young. You’ll see every major display without having to back-track or run into one-way streets.”
The Pumpkin People will be on display throughout the Town of Kentville from Oct. 3 through Oct. 30.
Fall into art and culture in Kentville
It’s usually pretty easy to tell what season we’re in just by taking a stroll through Tides Contemporary Art Gallery in Kentville.
“Fall in Kentville is a pretty special time, and the gallery always seems to reflect that,” says Bob Hainstock, gallery coordinator. “I don’t think it’s a conscious decision, but our artists’ palettes seem to warm up or cool down depending on the seasons, so we’re seeing warmer colours now — yellows, ochres.”
Tides Contemporary Art Gallery (36 Cornwallis St.) is a cooperative gallery run by 12 enthusiastic local artists — a mix of photographers, painters, print-makers and sculptors.
The gallery opened a year ago in the space formerly occupied by Hardware Gallery, and it was created by the Kentville Art Gallery Society (KAGS) — of which Hainstock is the chair.
KAGS members work on various projects around town, including murals, art education and festivals, and Hainstock says they’d like to launch a creative centre on the second floor for hosting classes and workshops. They’re about to unveil a new project that will put art supplies in the hands of emerging artists and young artists.
“The pandemic is going to hurt a lot of small businesses, but surprisingly, we’ve continued to do very well. I think we’re going to weather the uncertainty of the next year or so,” says Hainstock. “It’s very difficult to start a new business — and in arts and culture, it’s particularly difficult sometimes — but we’ve enjoyed a warm reception and so much encouragement from the community.”
On the last Thursday of every month, artists take down all their old work and put up new pieces for a fresh show. Hainstock says this is nice for their guests, who enjoy appreciating new work each month.
“Our artists take turns sitting the gallery (along with a number of community volunteers), and we’ve got the most gabby gallery sitters you could want,” chuckles Hainstock. “Our visitors not only get a warm welcome, but they get information and a chat that’s typical of the Valley.”
Tides Contemporary Art Gallery has a guest artist wall that’s evenly divided to display the work of a non-local established artist and an emerging artist — which change each month, too. There’s also a small gift shop where folks can purchase fine craft offerings from local artisans.
“It’s beautiful, quiet and inviting,” adds Lindsay Young, community economic development coordinator with the Town of Kentville. “It doesn’t matter if you know a lot about art or not — you can just walk on in and take a look. It’s a very welcoming place.”
Hainstock says their location on Cornwallis Street in Kentville’s Town Square is just right, tucked amidst a delightful mix of shops, restaurants and businesses.
“Just like art is a bit of a discovery, we feel comfortable being part of a town where you can roll around, look at some art, pop into a coffee shop and browse in a boutique or two,” says Hainstock. “It’s a one-destination type of downtown, and it’s a great fit for us.”
STEP BACK IN TIME
Just a five-minute walk south stands the newly-opened Kentville Heritage Centre (66 Cornwallis St.). The small brick building was once a VIA Rail train station with the Dominion Atlantic Railway tracks running in front of it, but it’s been transformed into a cozy space filled with old pictures that tell stories of Kentville through the years.
If you’re interested in learning more about the days when steam engines and passenger service ran throughout the Valley, there are videos to watch in the DAR (Dominion Atlantic Railway) room, filmed on the last VIA Rail train from Yarmouth to Halifax in 1990. You can also view a short Kentville Fire Department video that was filmed back in the ’50s.
This fall, the Kentville Heritage Centre’s main exhibit tells the story of the former Kings County Academy. There’s a room dedicated to its history, with yearbooks dating from 1932 to the mid ’90s on display and plenty of memorabilia from the school days of the past. If you're a graduate of the old KCA, there are many school memories to be relieved at the Kentville Heritage Centre.
Town of Kentville Councillor Lynn Pulsifer is one of the volunteer members of the Kentville Historical Society — a non-profit organization that was incorporated in 2017. Without its loyal volunteers, the Kentville Heritage Centre couldn’t run.
“The Centre loves visitors, so drop in and discover Kentville’s history,” says Pulsifer. “We’re currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Thanksgiving weekend.”
Find your fresh (air) in Kentville
There’s a crispness in the weather these days, and it’s never been more important to spend time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air.
Lindsay Young, community economic development coordinator with the Town of Kentville, says they’ve been encouraging residents and guests alike to take advantage of the fantastic outdoor activities Kentville has to offer — from hiking paths and mountain bike trails to kids’ sports zones, playgrounds and natural refuges.
“If you’re looking for something fresh and new, Kentville has it,” adds Young.
Grab a warm jacket and a pair of comfortable shoes, because we’re about to dive headfirst into a pile of freshly-raked leaves the most popular outdoor spots to spend time in Kentville this fall ...
The Gorge is part of a 64.5-acre natural woodland, and with challenging trails for mountain biking and scenic trails for walking and hiking. (Be sure to check it out in the winter, too, when The Gorge becomes a fun spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.)
“It’s one of the most wonderful little gems, and it’s really starting to hit its stride,” says Young. “You may not have known it was there before, but we have new signage on Park Street that’s helping more people discover it.”
Young says The Gorge used to be a spot mostly favoured by the locals, but now it’s become a province-wide destination for mountain biking in particular — racking up tags on social media and attracting the attention of travel writers from across Canada.
“When the foliage starts to turn red and orange, you wouldn’t even believe you were still here in town. It feels like another world.”
The Kentville Ducks Unlimited site, known to the locals as “Miner’s Marsh,” is a stunningly beautiful protected wetland habitat just steps from Kentville’s downtown core.
Follow the trails going counterclockwise and explore the local wildlife that draws in avid bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts. Young says many people bring along a blanket and a picnic lunch, and kids love running around looking at the ducks.
“It’s so close to downtown that it’s easy to grab a coffee, water or snacks on your way in, or pop back out if you need something,” adds Young.
You can access Miners Marsh from the Harvest Moon Trail at the intersection of the trail with Leverett Avenue (2 Klondyke St.) and from the parking area behind the Law Courts building on Cornwallis Street (81 Cornwallis St.).
MEMORIAL PARK PLAYGROUND
If you’re bringing kids to Kentville for the day, Young says Memorial Park’s newly renovated playground is a great spot for them to run around and stretch their legs.
The out-of-the-box design includes outdoor musical instruments (bongo drums, chimes and xylophones — and a cool slide that travels underground.
After Hurricane Dorian toppled one of the biggest trees in Kentville’s north end, the homeowner donated it to the town and it was repurposed into a glorious climbing tree.
There’s also a “dipping station” for kids to splash, a creek for wading and places to play basketball, tennis, soccer and baseball.
What used to be a parking lot in the middle of Kentville has been transformed into a public pavilion with picnic tables, umbrellas, benches, lights and even community programming — like weekday lunch hour concerts.
“We’ve installed extra seating so people can grab takeout and relax outside in the fresh air. It’s been really popular so far, and it’s only going to grow from here,” promises Young.
On Sept. 17, Centre Square is hosting Kentville Laughs — a family-friendly movie on a big screen under the stars, starting at 7 p.m. On Sept. 24, it’s Kentville Sings featuring toe-tapping songs played by The Sundries starting at 7 p.m. On Oct. 1, it’s Kentville Scares at 7:30 p.m., where Jerome the Gravekeeper will be joined by Kentville ghosts to share stories of the area’s dark past. All of these events are free and everyone is reminded to respect social distancing.
Dining, shopping spots to check out in Kentville
Looking to grab a drink or meal and enjoy it in Centre Square? Kentville is bursting with restaurants just a few minutes’ walk away ...
- Grab a casual meal at Paddy’s Irish Brewpub & Rosie’s Restaurant (42 Aberdeen St.) or the King’s Arm Pub (390 Main St.)
- Pick up a coffee and a baked goodie at T.A.N. Coffee (431 Main St.) or the Half Acre Café (395 Main St.)
- Stop by FreshO (19-17 River St.) for a freshly-made juice or smoothie along with a Medeterrarian lunch platter
- Check out Maritime Express Cider Co. (325 Main St.) for a cold local cider paired with a hot local meal.
Coming to Kentville for a bit of shopping? You’ll find unique, locally-owned shops with personalized service and one-of-a-kind products ...
- GirlIture (19 Aberdeen St.) sells new, pre-loved and vintage decor as well as a small line of pre-loved furniture. Their custom throw pillows can be found in the vacation homes of Chip and Joanna Gaines.
- Reid Jewellers (395 Main St.) is a family-run business that’s been providing glittering, high-quality gemstones, loose diamonds, heirloom-quality watches and innovative jewellery designs since 1988.
- For more than 100 years, the team at Phinneys (64 Webster St.) has been hand-picking only the finest clothing, making it easy for their customers to make a statement.
- RD Chisholm (25 Webster St.) is known for its incredible assortment of stationary, games and office supplies.
- LIV Fashion Boutique (294 Main St.) has trendy clothing for everyday living featuring independent designers in Sizes 0-3XL.
- Be sure to say hi to “the Sistas” who run Occasions (94 Aberdeen St.). This fun retail shop has jewellery, unique gifts and seasonal home décor.