When pop art, silos, puppies, and deep fried treats come together, you have an unforgettable day trip from Ottawa.
What do you get when you combine the rural Ontario countryside, farmland, and grain silos, with massive, street-art inspired murals soaked in social commentary and diverse inspiration? Why, Popsilos, of course! This truly unique art project, unlike anything else in Canada, proves the old adage that opposites attract. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Here's what Popsilo's inaugural day looked like.
The Ontario county of Prescott-Russell knows all about opposites attracting. Part French, part English, it looks rural but it's right between Ottawa and Montreal and absorbs their urban vibe. And it makes sense that such a unique art project would be launched here, as Prescott-Russell knows all about doing things just a bit differently. Not content to rest on its laurels as a quiet farming community, its constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to brewing, making wine, and reinventing the food scene.
Five farm silos in four communities across Prescott-Russell have been given the ultimate makeover for the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, with respected Canadian artists presenting themes ranging from celebrating youth to honoring ecological diversity.
These aren't your ordinary public art offerings. The process of painting the silos was unlike anything the artists had ever experienced, from the challenges of working in a 'cherry picker' lift while swaying in high winds to needing to clamor up and down frequently in order to get on the ground and gain perspective on their progress. The silos have been a true labor of love from the first sketches to the final brushstroke.
Prescott-Russell is well known for cycling and driving excursions, making it the perfect destination to host Popsilos, but artwork, scenery, and farming aren't the area's only attractions. There's friendly locals too! To prove this point, I'm proud to present the pups of Prescott-Russell. These VERY GOOD boys and girls did an excellent job of showcasing the region's hospitality.
(If anyone knows the name of the anonymous dogs or if there's a correction to be made to the spelling of the other dogs' names, please let us know!)
If our last puppy was indeed disgruntled for missing out on cheese snacks, it's very understandable (even if it was the sensible choice). You would be grumpy too if you were denied Prescott-Russell's most famous food. This region is all about cheese. And not just any cheese but St Albert's cheese curds. Cheese curds are delicious so many ways: on their own as a snack, crowning the top of poutine, and especially when they're battered, deep fried, and served up with a savory marinara sauce.
Popcurds are the latest incarnation of the cheese curd and, if I do say so myself, it may just be the most delicious way to eat them. This proud local invention builds off the famous quality of the St Albert curd and makes it deliciously food-truck friendly. If you've ever had warm, gooey mozzarella sticks, imagine something 100 times better and you can start to get a handle on Popcurds.
Naturally, since Popcurds are made with 100% Canadian milk, they are not a snack food but rather a means for fighting calcium deficiencies and osteoporosis. Indulge away!
Of course, no exhausting day of touring farm communities, admiring art, and petting dogs is complete without a little refreshment and Prescott-Russell answered the call admirably. One of the silo sites, Vankleek Winery, offers up samples of organic wine, made from cold-hearty grapes like the Frontenac. Their tasting room is the perfect place to indulge and admire the raven silo at the same time.
Their neighbour and Popsilo champion, Beau's All Natural Brewing Co, also opens their doors for visitors and provides tours of their facilities as one of the first breweries in the area. Beau's has no silo themselves to show off but they have been instrumental in supporting the project, as well as the local farms throughout the region and a stop at their facility is a great way to pick up some tasty souvenirs. While I am not much of a beer drinker myself, I couldn't help by notice my fellow explorers were VERY happy to try Beau's famous brews, and Ryan loves their Lugtread offering.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't include Three Dog Winery. While not local to Prescott-Russell (they're a few hours away in Prince Edward County), I was still excited to sample their wine while at St Albert's. Given all the beautiful dogs I was meeting, it seemed only fitting to give it a try!
While my visit to the Popsilos happened on the project's inaugural day, it's a circuit I'm going to recommend for years to come. It's a lovely day trip from Ottawa or Montreal and the region perfectly summarizes all that's great about Canada; languages, creativity, innovation - and, of course, deep fried cheese curds and adorable puppies. What can be more patriotic than that?
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