Cranberries bring off-season economic boost to Bala
The summer has officially come to an end, and for many small Muskoka communities, that historically meant the start of the off-season.
Since the pandemic began, many people have been forced to work from home, and because of this, they have moved to Muskoka full time.
The expanded population has given a needed boost to many area businesses, which has allowed them to stay open year-round.
"The people we bought it from closed all winter, but we're going to change that, and we're going to stay open for the season, so it's going to be a new challenge for us," said James Mee, the owner of Ice Dreams Soda Shop in Bala.
Mee and his family-run business was solely an ice cream and candy shop. Still, recently they purchased a local fudge company and are transforming the Coca-Cola-themed shop into a restaurant.
Although it's not just the full-time cottagers providing economic stability during the offseason.
Next month the Bala Cranberry Festival returns after being cancelled in 2020– bringing a fresh flock of tourists to the area.
"It brings a ton of people up," said Randy Brown, the owner of Cottage Cravings.
Brown said that cranberry enthusiasts and curious tourists begin to make their way to town this weekend, and the crowds will remain throughout the month.
The festival is scheduled to take place from October 18th to the 20th.
"Harvest is always when the magic happens," Wendy Hogarth, the owner of Muskoka Lakes farm and winery."
Hogarth and her husband own a cranberry farm just outside of downtown Bala and offer tours of the harvest process throughout the year, which has added another economic driver to a community that was once reliant on one season.
"We are grateful first of all for what we're able to do but also that it has a positive impact on the community around us," said Hogarth.