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Hello Spring . . . Surprise Us With Things For Kids To Do!
Feature Story By Matthew St. Amand
The first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has come and gone. The region is currently in the “Red Control” level and vaccines against the coronavirus are being rolled out with the scope and urgency of a military operation.
In a year filled with oddities and anomalies, another comes down the pipeline — “March Break” in April. Biz X magazine reached out to some area businesses to learn what activities are available to kids and families during the “Spring Break” to keep them entertained, but can also be done on your own schedule this spring and summer.
As the weather improves, people will head outdoors. One good thing about cabin-fever is that it makes cutting the lawn and washing the car seem like stimulating pursuits after a winter cooped up in the house.
As those diversions lose their lustre, however, one of the many outdoor activities that is fun at any age is riding a bicycle, which is where we will now kick start our PARENTING BIZ feature story.
Bike Windsor Essex — Let’s Get Physical
First things first: Safety. Be visible on the road by wearing high visibility clothing — a reflective orange or yellow safety vest, which can be worn over clothing, is often the easiest solution. Ensure there are lights on your bike (white in the front, red in the back). And always wear your helmet!
As a personal anecdote, (the writer of this article) purchased a bicycle at the beginning of the pandemic, thinking cycling would be a low impact activity to improve my mental health. Before long, my routes around the county grew more elaborate.
One thing that greatly enhanced my cycling experience was downloading a free cycling app onto my cell phone, which tracked kilometres travelled, estimated calories burned on each ride, kept track of the amount of time spent on the road, and even showed a map of the route I had just completed.
By the end of 2020, over the course of 197 rides, I cycled more than 11,200 kilometres in Essex County.
Before you hit the road, it’s best to consult the experts, such as Bike Windsor Essex (BWE) — one of the few outfits that has bikes for sale. Since the start of the pandemic, any type of exercise and/or leisure equipment (bicycles included) have become scarce.
“When you come here, all bikes have been checked by a mechanic,” explains BWE Executive Director, Lori Newton. “The bikes are cleaned, the chains have been lubed, and many of our bikes have new tires.”
BWE has adult bikes for as little as $90, with many in the $130 to $140 range. For kids (at the time of this writing), they have 50 to 60 refurbished bikes in like-new shape that cost from $20 to $60. You can shop on the BWE website for bikes and accessories at anytime and see what is in stock.
“Bike Windsor Essex is the region’s only not-for-profit bike shop, focused on DIY [Do-It-Yourself],” Newton says. “Unfortunately, while Windsor Essex is under ‘Red Control’ restrictions, all our programming is cancelled, but our DIY Bike Kitchen is resuming operation by appointment on Sunday afternoons.”
Maintenance is an important part of cycling. The Bike Kitchen is where people go to learn how to maintain their bikes. Used parts (another scarcity) can be purchased there for $6/part.
When health restrictions are lifted, BWE offers invaluable programming to keep cyclists safe.
“Many people who come here do not have a driver’s licence,” Newton indicates, “and they have no idea where they belong on the road when riding.”
BWE offers free classes, such as “Ride with Confidence”, which involves two hours of classroom instruction, and two hours on the road. Another class is “How to Ride on Urban Streets”, which teaches riders where they belong on the road, using various hand signals to communicate their intentions to traffic behind them, as well as traffic etiquette.
“There is also ‘Crash Avoidance’,” Newton continues, “and ‘How to Fall’. That’s particularly important for kids when they go from pedal brakes to hand brakes.”
Evermore Princess Parties — Receive The Royal Treatment
If there is anyone in Windsor Essex who can “make some magic”, it’s Breannah Deschaine, Owner/Operator of Evermore Princess Parties. Deschaine, it seems, was born to make people happy.
“The first event I ever participated in was for W.E. Care for Kids,” she recalls. “That was about eight years ago, when I was still in high school. After that, it became my goal to make magic for those who need it most. I played the mermaid princess.”
Following high school, Deschaine entered the Music Theatre Program at St. Clair College. The day after she graduated, she applied for her business licence and launched Evermore Princess Parties. That was June 1, 2017.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deschaine has transitioned from in-person visits to virtual interaction with kids, conducted via Evermore’s Facebook page. These include a Virtual Crafts Class, Virtual Tea Time, and a Virtual Slumber Party.
“We’ve missed the kids so much that we started doing it through a screen,” Deschaine states. “In the ‘Red Control’ level, it’s safe to do small visits, so we offer a ‘Socially Distanced Sidewalk Visit’, where we come on the lawn, driveway or sidewalk, put music on, read stories and drop-off goodie bags. We still offer all of the virtual services.”
During “Spring Break,” Evermore has four activities planned on: Facebook.com/EvermoreParties.
On April 12 at 6 p.m. the Mermaid Princess reads a bedtime story. This is a free event. The following evening is another free event at 7 p.m. when the Quirky Princess and the Mountain Prince host a game night.
On April 13, the Long Haired Princess hosts a “Paint With A Princess” session (fee applies).
On April 15, there are several time slots open for a “Sidewalk Story Time Visit” with the Book-Loving Beauty — a socially distanced event (fee applies).
It’s worth noting, as well that Evermore is passionate about helping in the community.
“We have something called the ‘Olivia Project’,” Deschaine explains. “It’s named in honour of a little girl who passed away. We do free visits to terminally ill children. It is all part of our mission: making magic for those who need it most.”
Julie’s Paint Party — See The Big Picture
Julie Robinson, Owner/Operator of Julie’s Paint Party might well be “The Most Interesting Person” in Windsor Essex.
Musician, mom, adventurer, children’s book author, partier, and painter, she pulls together this cornucopia of skills and experience, and hosts paint parties that the world just can’t seem to get enough of.
“I’m going into my fifth year of hosting paint parties,” Robinson informs Biz X. “I spent many years trying to be an artist. I played guitar, bass, drums, and vocals for the band AfroSuitBike and co-wrote a children’s book with my husband, titled ‘Project Monster’s Alphabet Adventure’.”
Then, five years ago, a friend who knew of Robinson’s artistic talents asked if she would host a paint party for the family. Ever accommodating, Robinson said “Sure!”
“It was great,” she recalls. “I’m a musician, a performer, an artist, and I love working with people. The paint party tapped into all those things. It took many years, but I am so glad I finally found the combination. When the party was over, I realized this is what I want to do!”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson was out in public, hosting paint parties in homes and in different bars. Then the global pandemic entered all our lives. That’s when Robinson took the paint parties online.
She points out that “One of the first virtual paint parties I did was on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 on Facebook. Almost 400 people signed up. I was so nervous!”
Since then, the virtual paint parties have only grown. If they started off geared to kids, today they appeal to absolutely everyone. Since the parties are online, people from around the world regularly tune in.
“People are interested, but they’re also nervous, at first,” Robinson says. “Nobody thinks they have artistic talent. So many people tell me, ‘I can’t even draw a stick person’, and yet they come away creating art, having fun, and very often surprising themselves.”
How does it work? Just visit Robinson’s website and click the “Book A Paint Party”.
The process involves five easy steps and at the present time, all paint parties are virtual and participants provide their own supplies. The parties last from 60 to 90 minutes.
“Supplies don’t have to be fancy,” indicates Robinson. “I get most of what I need at the dollar store. Any kind of paint will do. Any kind of surface is fine. You don’t have to work on canvas.”
The paint party involves Robinson displaying an image, often a photograph of an animal or landscape. In March, Robinson focused on Mandalorian (“Star Wars”) painting and water colour techniques.
“I’ll do cartoon characters for kids,” she says. “It’s really all over the map.”
From there, Robinson provides instruction. Think: high-energy Bob Ross.
She also has a free Facebook group where people post their pictures.