What to do After Dark in The County 🔦
During the day, there is absolutely no shortage of incredible adventures to be had here in Prince Edward County. In fact, you can spend days here, even weeks, and never run out of exciting things to see or do. But The County doesn’t just turn off the lights when the sun goes down – quite the contrary. We simply switch gears and entertain with music, theatre, movies, comedy and – of course – our dark, inky skies.
Here are some of the many events, performances and experiences that are on offer in the evenings in The County.
by Susan Smythe-Bishop
As the sun sets, the curtain rises for Festival Players of Prince Edward County, the region’s professional theatre company. This year marks the first under the artistic direction of Graham Abbey, an acclaimed actor, director and producer with more than 20 seasons of Stratford under his belt.
Diverse programming may include uniquely original Shakespearean productions, award-winning Canadian playwrights such as Daniel MacIvor and Michael Healy and musical productions. Festival Players have brought the likes of award-winning Broadway actor, director and composer Bruce Dow and former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page with the Art of Time Ensemble to The County. If you are serious about theatre, then this is seriously for you!
Shatterbox is a relatively new theatre group founded by two local women, Samantha Branderhorst and Georgia Papanicolaou, who were searching for ways to push their own theatrical boundaries while at the same time building a love of theater in the younger generations, offering unexpected programming usually featuring new or emerging talent. Their debut production, Constellations, earned raves and they’re currently casting for new shows.
The Marysburgh Mummers Community Theatre Group is dedicated to building community, friendship, and skill through theatre. Formed in 1985, they often pick popular productions and their casts are entirely local. Part of the appeal is their event space: the Mount Tabor Playhouse is a converted church that guarantees an intimate setting, even for patrons with balcony seating.
If music is your jam, there are ample opportunities to experience a number of world-class musicians here, some that unite with exceptional local talent.
One of the most iconic entertainment venues in The County, The Hayloft Dancehall has been a favourite of locals for years. A few years ago, the fine folks at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto purchased the property and continue to program it with well-loved artists. Returning favourites such as Hot Wax Meltdown make regular appearances and other cool bands like 54-40 and Skydiggers, unique artists such as Keifer Sutherland, and even Choir!Choir!Choir! have graced their stage along with a number of fantastic local artists. Ticket prices include a ride on a shuttle to get you to the show and back again.
If you love classic blues and jazz, it’s worth checking out Stache on Main – so named for owner Karl Schmed’s impressive mustache! The Stache is an intimate piano lounge that schedules a steady stream of talented artists from Thursday-Saturday each week. Schmed and his wife, Gloria, opened the space as a gallery with their youngest daughter Kyla, but quickly realized that what Wellington needed was some nightlife! The space is often decorated with Schmed’s prints and occasionally plays host to their Juno-nominated daughter Shakura S’aida, who performed with Patti Labelle and Rita McNeil before venturing out on her own.
The County is home to a number of incredibly talented artists, and every Tuesday, the Drake Devonshire presents an opportunity for this brilliant local bunch to really strut their stuff as part of Memphis Tuesdays open mic night. Whether it’s music, performance or spoken word, seriously – we have seen some incredible talent here! If you are daring enough to get up to perform yourself, beer and a burger are on the house! If you just want to sit back and bear witness to some really exceptional homegrown talent while sipping beer and enjoying a fantastic burger, I highly recommend this as you just never know who might show up!
Here is a fun example of something that happened to us last year. We saw Torquil Campbell (one of the co-leads of the indie band Stars) perform in his brilliant theatrical production True Crime. Torquil later performed as part of Drake Devonshire’s Memphis Tuesdays, which happened to be taking place virtually across the street from the theatre. AND if that wasn’t awesome enough, Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo also happened to be at the Drake that evening and spontaneously performed a couple of songs. I couldn’t believe my eyes OR my ears!
Every Friday and Saturday night, the Agrarian Speakeasy features live music from local faves including the likes of Robert Keys, Jeremy Kelly, Jeremie Albino and others from afar including Black Suit Devil and Kingston’s Julia Finnegan. Featuring craft brews on tap, great ciders and delicious snacks – this is a great place to spend your weekend nights!
Still the beating heart of the Picton community, the stunning and historically significant Regent Theatre hosts concerts, speaking engagements, plays, comedy shows and screenings. There is almost always something interesting or entertaining happening at The Regent Theatre, so be sure to visit their site to go over their schedule carefully. The theatre beams in special performances, offers art and documentary films on alternating Mondays and has a monthly free screening for families, courtesy of Whattam’s Funeral Home.
The County Canteen is SUCH a fun and spirited place managed by a feisty and energetic Aussie by the name of Natalie Wollenberg who has an eternally upbeat attitude – and, I might add that her spirit is extremely infectious. Serving up great food and fun every night, they are a huge supporter of the local produce and beverage industries and they always go the extra mile to make sure there is something fun on tap whether it’s karaoke, trivia nights or live music.
Not only does The Acoustic Grill serve up one of The County’s best hamburgers, they’ve also been drawing exceptional artists and enthusiastic audiences to their restaurant/venue for years. While the food is solid and there is always a great vibe, the place really comes alive in the evenings when both the burgers and the music rock the house!
For as long as I can remember, The Barley Room Gastro Pub at the Waring House resort has always been a warm and welcoming pub. Standing proudly in the heart of The County right at the roundabout between Picton and Bloomfield on Sandy Hook Road, you just can’t miss it. A classic atmosphere serving up traditional pub food as well as bistro-style fare, in true pub fashion they host a number of fun during the colder months, including dart nights on Mondays and Trivial Pursuit night on Tuesdays. The first and third Wednesday of each month features a traditional down east open mic night – referred to as a “Kitchen Party” – hosted by local folk favourites The Frère Brothers.
Looking for a laugh? Comedy is alive and funny AF in The County.
I LOVE improv. I also love sketch comedy and classic standup too. Who DOESN’T love that intoxicating feeling of a gut-wrenching, tear-inducing laugh?! Comedy Country is doing incredible work in helping to spread a lot of laughter and cheer throughout The County by bringing in some hilarious talent from across Canada.
Organized by Paul Snepsts, a Gemini award-winning actor and the executive director of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, who lives in Picton (he also hosts The Sneptic Tank on 99.3 County FM), experiencing this art form here in The County is a hilarious treat. Award-winning artists/troupes from the past have included Tall Boyz II Men, Success 5000, The Lusty Mannequins, Steve Patterson, Soul Decision, Women Fully Clothed and much more.
Comedy Country is also cultivating a very funny and talented local group of artists known as The County’s official “artisanal” comedy troupe, Taste That! They’re performing the first Friday of the month at the back of Gus’s Family Restaurant, and have regular events throughout the year, always playing off some local news, gossip or personalities.
Comedy Country also periodically offers comedy classes from visiting artists and if you have never tried that, you should. A few years ago – I took Second City’s first level of improv training program because I wanted to be more comfortable in public speaking and it was a total game-changer. You can also take classes with the intention of getting up on the stage as well! It really is a gift to have this opportunity presented here in The County.
When the sun goes down in The Country, it certainly doesn’t mean kids are ready to hit the hay! In fact, in the summer months, one of the most fun things you can do after dark is load the family into the car and head to the iconic Mustang Drive-In, one of a few remaining drive-ins in Ontario. It is awesome fun for the entire family, with an amazingly retro snack bar, and plays the hottest first-run Hollywood blockbusters.
It can get gloriously dark around here. Without the glare of big city lights, all it takes is a simple glance upwards to be overcome by the astonishing power of thousands of glittering stars shining brilliantly from above. There are some nights when the moon shines so brightly that it completely bathes the landscape in a magical bluish haze.
And then, there are those nights where more than anything else, all you want to do is just sit with a glass of wine (from one of the local wineries of course!) and just stare at the sky because it is ever changing and it is always beautiful. Sometimes, simply taking in one of good ol’ Mother Nature’s shows can the perfect way to close the day.
No matter how you choose to spend your evenings here, chances are pretty good that you will leave here with lasting memories of wonderfully unique, inspiring and perhaps somewhat magical experiences of your own.