From the outside, Oro-Medonte's community halls are fairly utilitarian structures.
They’re relatively plain, unadorned buildings with no fancy architectural details. They’re scattered across the township — serving hamlets and villages with names like Rugby, Jarratt and Edgar. Some have been around for more than 100 years. Others are relatively new at half that age.
They’re simple, solid and reliable, but the way the folks who use them like.
“They are small intimate venues with a unique charm and personality you won’t find in modern-day facilities,” said Shawn Binns, director of operations and community services for Oro-Medonte Township.
The township has seven community halls, in Carley, Eady, Edgar, Hawkestone, Jarratt, Oro Station and Rugby. Five of them are managed by the township with the leadership of community volunteers. The other two — Oro Station and Rugby — are privately owned halls that are also managed by volunteers.
The halls were designed for small- to medium-sized gatherings, with capacity limits of about 100 people each.
Most of the halls have consistent weekly and monthly users, with Carley and Eady currently on a long-term rental to a not-for-profit private school.
According to the township’s parks and recreation master plan, presented to council a month ago by Binns, the majority of Oro-Medonte's residents live within a 15-minute drive of a community hall and more than 30 per cent of its residents think community halls enhance the appeal of the township. More than 20 per cent visit at least one community hall over the course of a year.
Dave Johnston, a musician based in Oro-Medonte, is hoping an upcoming event will bolster those statistics and help stave off the closure of the community hall in Hawkestone.
“We’re trying to keep our community hall,” Johnston said during an interview at his home overlooking Lake Simcoe near Oro-Medonte Line 7 South. “At one point, it was on life support and (the township was) going to try and turn it into office space for the township as overflow.”
The plan didn’t work out and the idea was abandoned.
Johnston says the only way to ensure the hall wasn’t closed was to use it.
On Nov. 4, Johnston and his fellow organizers will be presenting a showcase of local talent at the Hawkestone hall beginning at 7:30 p.m. All of the performers are members of what’s known as the Barrie and District Association of Singer/Songwriters (BADAS/S).
Scheduled to perform at next Saturday's event are Dave Hadfield, Hawkins Johnston, Sean McGaughey, The Moon Raccoon, Cassandra Rutherford, Cyndy Ryder, Ed Winacott and Alyssa Wright. Admission is $10 cash at the door.
“This is a pretty eclectic group of performers,” Johnston said. “None of them sound anything like any of the others and it’s a great chance for local fans to support local talent.”
Events like these, Binns said, are exactly the sort of thing the township wants to see in its community halls — local talent entertaining local citizens.
“We have some pretty amazing talent all across the township and intimate events like this really showcase top notch and emerging artists in venues that showcase tradition and heritage,” he said. “This kind of use certainly aligns with recommendations for both halls and supporting arts and culture.”
For more information about the Nov. 4 concert, contact BadassConcert@gmail.com.
For more information or to rent one of the township's halls, click here.
Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com