St. Jacobs & the Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
To-day, the rural areas around St. Jacobs are populated with many Old Order Mennonite farmers who retain the religion, customs and lifestyle of their 19th century forefathers.
"The Mennonite people in the surrounding area can trace their heritage directly to the Swiss - South German regions of Europe of the 1520's. Like their Dutch - North German counterparts, these Anabaptists, as they were called, were committed to a life of Christian disciplineship in the context of a brotherhood, which stressed the 'priesthood of every believer'. The Swiss - South German Mennonites sought religious freedom in the United States - especially, at first, Pennsylvania - as early as the late 1600's and early 1700's. Around 1800 many continued their quest and moved north from Pennsylvania to "Upper Canada", to what later came to be known as Waterloo County, Ontario. Here, in the 1880's, these who have come to be known as "Old Order" separated themselves from other Mennonites of the county." ("People Apart: portrait of a Mennonite world in Waterloo County, Ontario" by David L. Hunsberger, et al. 1977, St. Jacobs, Ont.).
St. Jacobs is surrounded by a patchwork of fields and farms. As you wander on our highways and byways watch for "slow-moving vehicle" signs, because you will be sharing the roads with Old Order Mennonite horse-drawn buggies and wagons. Hand-written signs advertising a variety of things for sale from maple syrup, potatoes, brown eggs to quilts and crafts will be seen at the end of farm lanes. Roadside stands with produce and flowers will be unattended, people trust customers to leave money in the plastic containers provided, to pay for the things they buy.
St. Jacobs in figures
St. Jacobs has a population of 1,400 people.
St. Jacobs is the place of the first commercial creamery in Ontario.
There live about 4,000 Old Order Mennonite people within this agricultural area of Ontario.
St. Jacobs markets feature more than 600 vendors.
Many visitors to St. Jacobs arrive through Toronto.
Lester B. Pearson International Airport has been Toronto's main international airport since 1939 when it was first known as Malton Airport. There is an airport improvement fee at Pearson. However, it will be included in the price of airline tickets. Free inter-terminal shuttle buses are available at curbside on the departures level of all three terminals. The buses run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are wheelchair accessible.
For more information call (416) 776-300
From Toronto, take Highway 401 West. Take Highway #8 west to Kitchener, then Highway #86 to Waterloo. Continue on Highway #86 as it becomes Regional Road #85. Turn left at the traffic lights onto Regional Road # 17 and follow the signs to the Village.
Toronto - St. Jacobs 100 km (62 mi)
Niagara Falls - St. Jacobs 130 km (81 mi)
Waterloo - St. Jacobs 3 km (1.9 mi)
Kitchener - St.Jacobs 10 km (6 mi)
St. Jacobs can lay claim to a remarkable number of firsts. The village is the site of the first commercial creamery in Ontario. It was the first police village to have hydro-electricity and the first community to have a flour mill shipping to the United Kingdom. Visitors can learn more about Village history with a self-guided historical walking tour brochure, available at the Visitor Centre. ("VISITOR" vol. 25, no. 1, fall/winter 2002)
The St. Jacobs Farmers Market and Flea Market open Thursday and Saturdays (as well as Tuesday during the Summer) and the Waterloo County Farmers Market, open Saturdays, are located just 2 km south of St. Jacobs. The Markets complement the strong agricultural activity of the area and provide a unique and lively place to shop, indoors and out! At either market you'll find fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, baking of every description, crafts galore, plus local "delicacies" like summer sausage, apple fritters and pure maple syrup. Here you'll find home-grown produce brought from local Mennonite farms by horse and buggy. At St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, fair weather brings with it kiddie rides, a giant quality flea market, a small animal farm, and an opportunity to catch a ride on a horsedrawn trolley. Both markets operate year-round and are well worth the visit!
Walk, bike, boat or hike...The Conestogo and Grand Rivers wind through the area offering canoeing and fishing opportunities. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy several picturesque trails including the new Trans Canada Trail, which follows existing trails such as the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs, the Health Valley Trail, and the Kissing Bridge Trailway from Wallenstein to West Montrose. Several 18-hole golf courses, and a mini-golf course offer both a challenging game and family fun in picturesque settings.
St. Jacobs Farmers' Market & Flea Market
Fairs, Festivals and Events
Concerts and community theatre are performed by local and visiting entertainers through the year in St. Jacobs, at both the Church Theatre and the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre. So popular is maple syrup that the story is told year-round at the Maple Syrup Museum in St. Jacobs! The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival held annually in the town of Elmira, 5 Km North of St. Jacobs, is home to the famous local Maple Syrup of this area. Explore the Sugar Bush, taste Maple Syrup, enjoy pancakes as you take part in the Festival at the end of March or beginning of April. As well, the local fairground in Elmira is home to the popular country fair held annually in August. The annual Waterloo County & Area Quilt Show is held the third week of May in both St. Jacobs and the surrounding communities. Canada's largest Quilt Festival features accredited events throughout the area. Highlights include the Ontario Juried Quilt Show, and there are exhibits at museums and galleries, teas, fashion shows, school block challenge, authors, workshops, lectures and the Annual Ontario Mennonite Relief Sale & Auction.
Other festivals and events in the area include: the Stratford Festival of Canada with three theatres, is only 30 minutes to the West, in the city of Stratford; the Elora Festival in July; Fergus Scottish Festival in August; Wellesley Apple Butter Festival in September; Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest in October; Elmira Charity Quilt Auction in November; Christkindl Market, Kitchener, in December; Wonders of Winter in Waterloo Park in December/January; RIM Park the multi-use recreation complex in Waterloo is host to a wide range of sport events throughout the year; and many more too numerous to mention here.
The Schoolhouse Theatre
Location: 11 Albert Street, St. Jacobs.
As the name suggests The Schoolhouse Theatre is located in a renovated schoolhouse from 1867. With only 120 seats and marvelous acoustics, the theatre offers an intimate, cabaret-style approach to professional theatre. The Schoolhouse Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For more information call (519) 638-5555 or toll-free 1-888 449-4463
Stratford Festival of Canada
Location: Stratford at various locations.
Stratford Festival began small in 1953 and now attracts international attention. There are three theatres with venues from May to October each year: Festival Theatre, The Avon Theatre and Tom Patterson Theatre. Stratford features contemporary and modern drama and music, as well as operas. Ask for the festival booklet that gives all details on performances, dates and prices. Reserve early as most shows are sold out quickly!
For more information call toll-free 1-800 567-1600
Enjoy the beauty and serenity of our countryside as you explore local attractions close to St. Jacobs: the "Kissing Bridge" in West Montrose - built in 1881, it's the last remaining covered bridge in Ontario; the towns of Fergus (settled by the Scots), and Elora which is home of the beautiful Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Or, if you just need to relax, consider a drive through the scenic countryside that gives the area its strong rural flavour. Include St. Jacobs and countryside in your Fall Colour Tour!
The city of Waterloo, just 3 km to the south of St. Jacobs, is home to Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo. Waterloo's trails, greenspaces, and parks are great places to enjoy any time of year. You will observe significant wetlands, rare plants, migratory breeding birds and a vast amount of wildlife. Waterloo Park also features such historic landmarks as Waterloo's first schoolhouse, an original farmhouse, a replica structure of the Abraham Erb Grist Mill, a domestic animal display and Victorian Gardens. (Visitor, vol. 25, no. 1, Fall/Winter 2002)
The city of Kitchener, just 10 km to the south of St. Jacobs, is a city firmly rooted in its German heritage. It's home to Conestoga College, and also home to an historic Farmers Market. Heritage comes alive at four marvellous museums and historic galleries. Joseph Schneider Haus is pioneer home of a founder of Kitchener. Doon Heritage Crossroads is an historic village with frequent special (seasonal) events. (Visitor, ibid)
Winter activities are enjoyed in the area...skate on the Mill Race in St. Jacobs; enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride through the countryside; snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing are all available close by! Then, enjoy a hot apple cider by the crackling fireplace!
Woodside National Historic Site
Location: Kitchener at the corner of Wellington Street and Spring Valley Road.
Woodside National Historic Site contains the 100-year-old mansion, where Canadaís 10th and longest serving Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King lived during boyhood. Decorated in the upper-class style of the 1890s it displays the life of Mackenzie King.
For more information call (519) 571-5684 or toll-free 1-800 839-8221
Location: In Kitchener, 49 Frederick St, at the corners of Frederick & Duke Streets.
Join in to a 130 year old tradition of Kitchener Market! Year round, every Saturday between 6 am & 2 pm, and Wednesdays, June through September between 8 am & 2 pm you can witness the excitement and activity of this true producerís market. No matter what you are after, you will find it here: Home-baked breads and pastries, meats of all kinds, local specialities such as schnitzel, pigtails, koch kase and international delicatessen as diverse as Kitchenerís multicultural population.
For more information call (519) 741-2287
Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery
Location: In downtown Kitchener on the edge of beautiful Victoria Park.
The Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery marks Kitchenerís oldest Mennonite homestead, Joseph Schneider, a Pennsylvania-German Mennonite built this local landmark ca. 1820. Today, the house is restored and furnished to period and a living museum showcasing the areaís pioneer heritage.
For more information call (519)742-7752
Accommodations in the area
Baumann Haus Bed and Breakfast
25 Spring Street, P.O. Box 6
St. Jacobs, Ontario
Les Diplomates B&B (Executive Guest House)
100 Blythwood Rd.
This Travel Guide was kindley made available by Claire Bowman of Baumann Haus Bed and Breakfast in St. Jacobs.
Acknowledgments: Visitor Guide and St. Jacobs Country.
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