For no other reason than we had enough fossil fuel in the tank, we pointed the beige minivan towards St. Jacob's this morning for a little family road trip. I hadn't been there in something like 10 years, but I didn't expect much to have changed since the local Mennonites are all about tradition.
Our first stop was the Farmer's Market just outside of the village. It was massive - definitely putting anything around London to shame. There was a huge outdoor spread of vendors selling what you'd expect - lots of local produce, baked goods, and pseudo-carny snacks.
Then there were the entrepeneurs selling the unexpected. In one case, it was an assortment of retro Nintendo gear (with a wee bit of XBox to ensure the geek-net was cast wide).
Adjacent to the sea of outdoor stalls, a slightly smaller building filled with every variety of vendors selling every kind of Germanic cheese and meat that one could imagine. All that was missing was polka music - and the inevitable heart disease that comes from that kind of diet.
The final stop before heading into the village-proper was the dreaded 'outlet mall'. It was the usual collection of clothing and footwear shops that induces the eyes of male species to roll backwards into their sockets.
The one bright light, however, was a Lego store that contained a pretty sizable collection of Star Wars kits. A perennial favourite of The Boy and I is the 10,000-piece Millenium Falcon that could be had for a cool $700. Our guffaws were noticed by a nearby young couple who joined the gaiety after explaining they were hard-core Star Wars fans but could never imagine shelling out that kind of coin. Afterwards, I noted to The Boy that the female half of the geek couple was smokin' hot, which further proves that geeks are the most attractive people on the planet.
Next on the agenda: into the village where we would peruse Olde Tyme Shoppes. The place was packed on a Saturday morning, and the air was filled with sounds of singing. To our surprise, a local Mennonite church choir had arranged it's 50+ voices on a street corner to belt out some serious gospel. It was great music, but I grew squeamish at the sight of paparazzi tourists with telephoto lenses a mere foot or two from the music - trying to capture something they found exotic. It just seemed to be in bad taste, somehow.
Our first official village stop was to grab a bite to eat in a sit-down restaurant that seemed to be a magnet for some seniors' bus trips. The rule to follow: seniors know where the good buffets are, so follow them. Out on the highway you must rely on truckers for culinary clues, of course.
After scarfing down some saurkraut and sausages, we started making the rounds. Much of the wares were not of my taste: fussy little doodads produced by local artisans and lots of potpourri. But there were a few gems in there, too. As St. Jacob's is the historical ground-zero for the Home Hardware empire, there was actually a museum dedicated to their history. In reality, it was just a collection of old hardware without much context, but we liked it just the same.
Down at the old Mill building, a local model-railway club had a damn fine setup. I counted at least 3 trains rolling through a model recreation of St. Jacob's from earlier days. On the floor below we found a maple syrup museum which was interesting enough - if not a peculiar choice. And no visit to the village is complete without a trip to the old blacksmith shop where you can watch folks manufacture honest-to-goodness corn brooms. We even bought one!
Last on the agenda was a stop by a on old railway caboose now serving as a walkthrough ice cream parlour. I opted for frozen yoghurt to balance out the saurkraut. And with that, it was back to the minivan, which we pointed along backroads that took us through Stratford and, eventually, home.
That's not too bad a day. And now I kind of wonder if Mennonites are big into Star Wars Lego.