Photo by Ugyen Wangmo

The third annual Purple Onion Festival (POF), an all-volunteer initiative hosted by Transition Town Peterborough (TTP), was celebrated on September 22 at Millennium Park. It brought together more than 2,500 people, according to the Co-Event Manager Fred Irwin.

The theme of the festival was climate change, so people not only had fun, but were also able to reflect on how the changing climate, along with resource depletion, is affecting food security.
The Kawartha Loons and the Kawartha Loon Exchange was also officially launched during the festival as the exclusive currency of POF.

The POF kicked off with the Climate Change Rally (CCR) at the Water Street entry of the Millennium Park at 11 a.m. to “draw the attention of our politicians at every level to the urgent need to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a media release.

Close to 400 people were present at the CCR, all wearing purple to support the cause. The rally was sponsored by For Our Grandchildren, and also featured several local musicians and speakers including entertainment for children.

The festival also saw purple-clad people sing the climate change song, which was taught by local musician, Washboard Hank, the rally’s choirmaster.

Photo by Robert Hood

During a talk at the rally, executive Director of Camp Kawartha, Jacob Rodenburg, reminded everyone that they live in a community, and that the community is more than just the buildings, streets, and people you know.

“Our community also consists of the parks, the river, the flowers, the trees, the water, the soil, the air – the living and non-living systems that support life on this planet. We are here today to affirm life – to affirm that our communities, both human and non-human, have the right exist and to thrive,” Rodenburg said.

“So let’s start now by living a bit more gently, a bit more mindfully, and teaching others to do the same. As we gather here today, let’s think about what we are here for, as much as what we are against. We are for caring communities that value and honour living systems, and we are against those who say the Earth only exists to provide us with resources to serve our needs. There is room on this planet for all of us if we choose to live differently and to live well. I really believe that with your help, your passion, your energy and your heart, we can and we will!”

At the end of the rally, a photo was taken at noon to be sent to the Guinness Book of Records for the largest group of people wearing purple.

The POF then carried on in the park until 5pm with continuous entertainment, local farm booths, workshops, and local food served by the area’s finest chefs, making it the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. More importantly, it was an event that allowed people to join the local food revolution, connect with the community, and help strengthen food security while having fun.

According to Fred Irwin, the festival this year was different and special because of the CCR, the official launch of Kawartha Loons, and the market researchers who were studying all aspects of the festival – everything from the crowd to the vendors.

They also had Reggie’s Hot Grill and Dolce Vita as two new addition to the festival’s caterers. Further, they had a custom-made P.O.F chair by Taylor’s Recycled Plastic Products, Inc., which was auctioned off for donations towards the TTP.

A volunteer at POF, Brenin Nobleman, decided to be a part of the festival because she knew it was for a good cause and that local food sustainability really mattered. She commented that this year’s turn-out was better than years past because people have become increasingly aware about the importance of both saving the Earth, and keeping the community active and involved.

According to Nobleman, making Kawartha Loons the exclusive currency of the festival was an innovative idea and worked well with the “local” theme.

Irene Jamieson came to the festival in total support of buying local and believes that it also encourages more work in the community.

“We have to be aware that climate change is happening, and that in the future, our food will become more expensive.”

She also commented that buying food locally means you don’t have to pay the shipping charges. She believes that you’re also ensured that there aren’t any chemicals and pesticides used which are coming from places you don’t know.

“I like the idea of keeping it in the family.”

However, those who attended the festival weren’t in total agreement. Jasmine Cabanaw, said that even though she liked the idea of having a local currency, it was not practical.

“Since there will be only a [small group of people] using [the currency], properly tracking it would be time-consuming. The amount of time and effort is not worth the reward.”
She did support the festival though by saying that the most environmentally-friendly thing you can do is buy food locally.

A volunteer for TTP, Cheryl Lyon, explained the significance of local currency as part of the festival. According to her, it was a way to introduce economic localization, and would benefit the community because using local currency translates to keeping local wealth within the community. It is achieved through a special process called the local multiplier effect.

Similarly, Brooke Taylor from Taylor Plastics, the company that made the POF chair which went up for auction, said that he decided to receive half of his paycheque in Kawartha Loons and that he buys all his food from within the community.

“When you buy local, it stays in the community, and it keeps the neighbours working right here,” Taylor remarked. He also added that he noticed support for local food increasing every year, as more people become aware of the fact that change has to be made.

The annual POF was hosted by Transition Town Peterborough, sponsored by the City of Peterborough, Downtown Business Improvement Association, For Our Grandchildren, KWIC, Community Greenzine Magazine, Peterborough Community Credit Union, The Kawartha Loon Exchange, Trent OXFAM, the WIRE, Taylor Recycled Plastic Products, and Rocky Ridge Drinking Water.