Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
It was a leap of faith that landed Melissa and Matt Duggan exactly where they needed to be. The high cost of living led them to make the move from Alberta to Lunenburg County. Melissa described walking around Lunenburg with her toddler thinking, ‘there doesn’t seem to be any young families around.’ She worried and even wondered if they could make a life here. “Within six months that opinion changed. We met amazing young families and fell in love with this community.” Melissa found her place by putting herself out there – going to mom and baby groups, and simply talking to other moms at the park.
At first they struggled to find a place to rent, so Melissa contacted someone whose house had been on the market for a while and asked if they’d consider renting it to the young family. They did and eventually the Duggans bought that very same house. “We absolutely love where we live. We love the street. We love our neighbours,” Melissa said of their home. There was only one thing missing in their community, so Melissa and a group of other young parents got together and decided to build it.
“We wanted to create a splash pad in the town, something that wasn’t just for tourists, a place accessible to everyone, a place to bring families together.” Planning and fundraising is well underway, and soon Melissa hopes to see kids splashing away in a safe and fun park overlooking Lunenburg’s iconic harbour. Melissa has recruited others to the community from out West as well, including her mother. “I’m so passionate about where we live and I want to see it grow,” she shared. “It’s part of my personality to take on a number of different roles.” Not only is she an entrepreneur who owns Mighty Oak Essentials, a chemical free way to take care of herself and her family, but she also works with Mighty Wee Websites.
Melissa has decided to enter politics and put herself out there as a candidate in our next municipal election. “I love the idea of working as part of a team to make this entire community better. We have what it takes.”
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
This story picks up where the last one left off. If you recall reading our first magazine, NOW Lunenburg County got its start in 2014 after a group of dedicated community members came together to discuss how they would address some of the issues affecting our province highlighted in the One Nova Scotia Now or Never report. NOW Lunenburg County hosted a series of community engagements talking about the issues that faced those living in Lunenburg County. From that work we landed on population growth as our key issue. We believe that growing our population will bring more kids to our schools, more customers for our businesses, and more folks paying taxes.
In 2016 they hired me, Tina Hennigar, as Population Growth Coordinator. So, together with members of the community, I set off on a cross Canada tour to tell Canadians about our community and share how they can create a life they love in Lunenburg County. I learned a lot. I learned that there are a lot of perceptions about Nova Scotia that aren’t true. I learned that our province is beautiful, but so too are the other 7 provinces I visited. I learned that the Prairies are flat, and the lakes are large. I learned that really good internet is a magnet for young people. But mostly I wished that I had many of the people in Lunenburg County tucked away in my 1976 Boler trailer so that the many Canadians that I spoke to at festivals, coffee shops and at kitchen tables would have heard directly from the people who live here instead of having to hear our story from me. That is how our first magazine was born. It was a way to share the stories of people in Lunenburg County. The magazine isn’t full of stories of businesses or infrastructure, but of the people who have created a life they love here, and in turn make our community so special.
We couldn’t have guessed the reaction our first magazine would have. People asked me to send them copies all around the world. It’s been handed out at conferences and family reunions. It was given to tourists and dignitaries alike. Magazines filled our suitcases and accompanied us to local festivals and international recruitment events, as we traveled to a Destination Canada conference in France and Belgium. And we turned to the people of Lunenburg County for help. We challenged them to think of cousins, nieces and nephews, old college roommates and people who they stumbled across who were visiting, and anyone else who they might like to have as a neighbour, and we asked them to invite people to move to Lunenburg County Nova Scotia. And as I knew they would, they delivered.
We learned that the power of the invitation is what we need to embrace. An invitation allows people to consider doing things they’d otherwise not have done. It makes people feel included and welcome. While extending an invitation to someone you don’t know may make you feel vulnerable, it also takes courage to accept that invitation to go to a place that’s not familiar. Can you imagine the courage it takes to move to a new community?
I’ve seen that courage in the eyes of some of the folks who have moved here. It was my promise to myself that, while moving and settling in a new community would not be easy, in my role as NOW’s Population Growth Coordinator, I’d be there to help make it easier. If a newcomer needed a hockey team or dance classes, if they were unsure of daycare or how find something, I would point them in the right direction. In many cases, to help them I needed help myself, and again, I looked to our community. When I needed help finding folks an apartment or house rentals or even a hobby farm, I turned to our community. In one instance someone needed duck fat to cook the French food of their homeland. Another newcomer just wanted to talk to someone else from South Africa. These issues I could not solve for them on my own, but I knew of someone who could, or once again, I knew I could ask our community.
We created this second magazine because, well, there were hundreds of stories that came to light after the first one. And from this edition, no doubt, there will be hundreds more. This magazine, like the last, is full of stories of people creating a life they love here, reminding those of us who live here how special this place is and inviting newcomers to join us.
This magazine is but one small piece of NOW Lunenburg County’s work. NOW Lunenburg County is working hard to promote our community to doctors too; we host them, show them the community, and encourage them to stay and test drive what it’s like to live here.
NOWLC-Net Co-op Ltd was born of NOW Lunenburg County’s work and is diligently researching, planning and getting ready to pilot a fibre to the home internet solution for this region. We are committed to working with our community to create a self reliant, future proof reliable and affordable internet option.
Are we perfect? No. Do we have work to do? We sure do. But there are a lot of very smart, talented people living in this community who are committed to creating solutions to take us far into the future. And we’re inviting you to join us.
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
Photo by Béatrice Schuler-Mojon
When asked what brought Nicole and Bernd Krebes to Lunenburg County in 2002 from Germany, Bernd answers with a one word answer: adventure.
For years, the BernArt maze in Maitland that can be seen between exits 11 and 12 on the 103 highway was a vision in Bernd’s head - a dream really. Bernd is a ceramic tile installer, but more than that, he’s an artist.
“The idea wasn’t to create a space for kids, but for a fun, happy place for everyone,” Bernd said. The idea came long ago, 20 years ago, when Bernd was in Europe. “It turned out even better than what I had in my mind. Every once in a while, I’d take the plan out and add to it,” he shared with his signature smile. They’re happy to be here.
The maze is the product of many artists from all around the world who Nicole and Bernd invited to come and contribute. “We were open to all ideas with the exception of politics and violence. They paid to get here, that was it,” Bernd said of the artists. Bernd and Nicole supplied free accommodation and supplies.
People didn’t understand at first what was happening with the maze, but once people walk through it, Bernd and Nicole said people understand. It’s a little hard to describe, it’s out of the ordinary.
There are plans to expand the project into the woods, creating more of a labyrinth than a maze. It will be enclosed so children won’t get lost in the woods. “Since there is a tick problem in the woods, we’re going to adopt guinea hens and hope they help take care of some of them,” Nicole said. When asked what’s missing from Lunenburg County, Bernd is quick to point out that the only thing they are missing is German chocolate. “We get German sausage from the Farmers Market, and now we have really good bread from the bakery. Aside from that there is nothing missing.” Bernd pointed out that Nova Scotia is easily accessible to Europe when they want to go back home. But when they do, they can’t wait to return to Lunenburg County. “We love seeing our family, but this is our home now.”
Story by DANIELLE GRIFFIN
In 2017, moteliers Marc Daoust and Joseph Gogas bought the Lighthouse Motel & Cottages, just outside of Bridgewater and have transformed it into a modern retreat. After an inspiring road trip through Nova Scotia, the pair decided to leave behind the bustle of their corporate jobs in Toronto, in favour of something new.
Within the bourgeoning tourist industry on the South Shore, Marc and Joseph noticed a missing niche in the accommodations market. Thus, the vision for their motel restoration project was born.
Though motels have been notoriously dubbed ‘shabby’ in recent decades, they are now undergoing a renaissance. It’s a creative spin on an old idea: capturing the nostalgia of the drive-up motel, while transforming it into something fresh,
polished, and stylish. While large hotel chains (with their homogenous layouts and decor) were popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, modern travelers are now gravitating toward a more unique, elevated experience.
In speaking about the renovations to the Lighthouse Motel, Marc says that they “sought to embrace the retro revival of the mid-century modern structure while upscaling the interior to have the modern-day comforts of a boutique lodging establishment.”
While there is an overarching theme of tasteful, coastal Canadiana at the Lighthouse Motel, each room and cottage is unique. Marc and Joseph have carefully curated each room to create an inviting, contemporary getaway. As their website highlights, lodging options include 11 drive-up style motel units, a restored boathouse with 3 cottage studios and a large 2 bedroom riverfront cottage that can sleep up to six.
Marc and Joseph have also made methodical improvements to the outdoor space at the motel to showcase the beauty of their riverfront property. Within steps of each room, guests have access to cozy nooks appointed with barbecue grills, picnic tables, a large communal fire pit and Adirondack chairs out on a floating dock. The motel is charmingly located on a four acre property nestled along the LaHave River.
Anyone looking for modern accommodations that incorporate a truly authentic experience should look no further than the Lighthouse Motel & Cottages. It provides the perfect jumping off point for exploring Lunenburg County and some of the province’s most beautiful beaches; although guests might decide to just put their feet up and go nowhere at all.
Story by GRACE FEENEY
Montreal is a foodie’s city, which was one of the reasons I decided to study at McGill, and one of the reasons I’m excited to go back to school in September. I live above an Irish pub on the same street as an international liquor store, and within walking distance of dozens of restaurants. But I chose to come home to Lunenburg in the summer, where I work as a server at Rime Restaurant, a locally focused upscale restaurant and wine bar.
Growing up in Lunenburg County let me take fresh seafood – really fresh seafood – for granted. Mussels, scallops, lobster, and haddock are sold hours after they’re taken out of the water. Being able to participate in the first experience that someone else has of something I’ve never given due gratitude is humbling and empowering, whether it’s shellfish or the views of the harbour it came from.
Both the people I get to serve and the people I get to work with give me insight into how unique life on the South Shore is, especially in the service industry. I meet people from all over the world who can be globetrotters or away from home for the very first time, and they are all excited to be in Lunenburg. I can tell them about the Bluenose, the Boscawen Inn, or brand-new initiatives by local businesses to protect the environment and bring new people to the area. It’s easy to be proud to be from here.
The high season is short but full. The town is generally busy between June and September, so I am able to work during a good portion of the best part of the year before returning to school. This helps me pay for my education and living expenses in Montreal so that I don’t need to work while I study. And I can still enjoy the summer at home because the job is fun and rewarding. I’m also able to return to work briefly while in town over my Christmas break, which is an interesting change from the high-volume summer work that often pays well. For the food and the people, Lunenburg County is not difficult to look forward to coming back to every year. The respect and affection locals have for the town is clear and infectious, which I see in those who return by saying that they visited decades ago and always knew they had to come again. Some of the characteristics they remember are exactly the same, some are similar, and some have been completely transformed. This allows a community sense of comfortable familiarity without becoming boring or predictable, easily adopted by all different kinds of people.
I think these values justify my favourite characterization of the South Shore: where the salt of the air meets the salt of the earth.
Contributed story and photos
It all began in 1984 with a small group of dedicated vendors at the old Lunenburg train station on Dufferin St. Today, our Lunenburg Farmers’ Market is the largest and only year-round Farmers’ Market on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Inspired by the success of the Bridgewater Farmers’ Market at the time, the Lunenburg Board of Trade approached the organizing vendors to try a weekday Farmers’ Market in Lunenburg. Fifteen local vendors accepted the challenge.
On Thursday, July 25, 1984 the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market officially opened, and has run every Thursday morning since then.
In its 35-year history the market has tried different locations moving from the old train station to the Lunenburg Day Care parking lot, and finally calling the Lunenburg Community Centre and Lunenburg Arena its year-round home. The number of vendors has more than tripled in size, but you can still find a couple of the founding vendors at the market every week.
Although there have been many changes and many new faces, the routine and the experience remain the same. Market days start early for our vendors, who have already been working hard to prepare their products. They load them in their vehicles, head to market, greet each other as they set up their spaces for the soon to arrive customers, and grab a coffee.
Customers are greeted by smiling faces, smells of brewed coffee, treats, beautiful local produce, freshly baked breads, cheeses, meats, eggs, fish, flowers, wines, spirits, and more. They chat to the vendors about what is new, what is coming,
what is the best way to prepare or enjoy their product. Many customers load up for the week and then head off to work or grab a seat to enjoy some time with a friend and munch on their favourite treat. It is the experience of shopping and connecting that makes our Farmers’ Market a destination. Our Lunenburg Farmers’ Market prides itself on representing the best that our province has to offer, focusing on Lunenburg and Queens Co. Over 60 vendors bring their products to our market from May – September, with 30 attending year-round.
Our Farmers’ Market has helped launch new businesses, grow new
young farmers, increase access to fresh local food year-round, and become a weekly community tradition for Lunenburg and our surrounding communities. We are also a proud founding member of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Cooperative. The roots of our success go back to those original 15 vendors, their commitment and the community connections that they made. Every Thursday, our vendors and our market as a whole continue to bring our commitment to beautiful, quality, locally grown and produced products, and provide a place for our community to connect. We look forward to welcoming you to our Farmers’ Market next Thursday morning.
For information on our Farmers’ Market, our vendors, and to sign up for our weekly newsletter please visit our website, www.lunenburgfarmersmarketns.ca
Story and photo by DAVID SORCHER
If you have ever driven by Hebb’s Cross along Highway 103 during mealtimes you have no doubt noticed a full parking lot at The Blarney Stone. The popular dining spot has been in Sean MacLeod’s family since 1986. Sean had worked off and on in the family business as a teenager, but when his father was ready to retire, he saw the opportunity to make a change in his life and really put his business degree to work. So in 2009 he took over operation of the restaurant full-time. Aside from his university years in Halifax Sean has been a lifelong resident of the South Shore.
“The city is fun when you’re younger, but I like the life down here. I like the beaches and slower pace of things and, of course, so many friends and family.”
For Sean it is also a great place to raise a family. He and his wife, Sarah, have two children, Claire, 11, and Owen, 8. “There’s just so many things for the kids to do”, he says, “We always keep summers open for family camping. We especially like Kejimkujik National Park. But even growing up here, there are just so many beaches on the South Shore we have not yet discovered.”
Sean sees a good mix of local regulars at his place as well as the seasonal residents and tourists that arrive every summer. Many seasonal visitors are also repeat customers, as indicated by the many “glad to be back” remarks noted in his guestbook.
Growing up in Lunenburg County, Sean is well aware of the changes the area has seen over the past few decades. “Back in the day the fishery used to be the only reason to come ashore here. Today, of course, tourism drives the market, but now people are seeking out new options and building new businesses that help bring diversity to the local economy.
People might say there are no jobs, but if you look you can find them, or you can create your own.” As someone who witnessed the end of generational fishing families as a child, Sean sees a renaissance taking place in the area led by people who realize that you don’t have to live in the centre of a town or a city to make a successful go of it. “It’s a whole rebirth. Better Internet would help, of course. That is a huge obstacle for people trying to work from home. There may not be a quick fix, but it is being worked on.” Sean couldn’t list a number one reason for living here. “There’s so many little things that are hard to list because being from here you tend to take them for granted. “ But he does note that it is about striking that balance between work and lifestyle, being able to find the work opportunities while still enjoying the wonderful recreation that the area affords.
Story and photo by DAVID SORCHER
We met with Ronnie Hatt as he was working to complete a summer cottage on Ponhook Lake for a German client. He is getting more and more work from people who are either moving here permanently or looking to own a cottage they can rent out when they aren’t vacationing here themselves. “One of the big things is that the money is here”, he says. “People are coming from away seeking a lifestyle change.”
Ronnie is no stranger to South Shore living. He was born and raised here and his family has deep roots in the area. Still, he moved to Halifax in 1999 to ply his trade there as a carpenter. He married Nicole Knickle-Hatt in 2003 and they remained in Halifax for a few more years, but when their first-born was on the way they, knew it was time to return to Lunenburg County. “We wanted to be closer to the family for the kids and live in a less hectic environment”, he says. They moved to Bridgewater and now have three children, ages 5, 9 and 11. It just seemed a common sense move for a couple planning a family that they live closer to relatives and better recreational opportunities.
“You don’t have to leave early in the morning for the beach or fight the traffic to get there. We are less than a half hour to the ocean or a lake. And if you want to go to the city it’s just an hour and a half away.” We also spoke about the strong sense of community to be found here, citing the recent battle to save the Petite Rivière Elementary School by locals determined to assure good, accessible education for their children. “People stand by their communities around here. They are going to fight every day to save that school.”
Ronnie founded Ronnic Complete Builders when he moved back in 2008 and began re-establishing himself as a tradesman in Lunenburg County. Interestingly enough, much of his work is still being contracted out from people he worked for in Halifax. Now they are building more homes and cottages for people on
the South Shore. “This level of work did not really exist out here a decade ago”,
Ronnie is a Certified Red Seal Journeyman Carpenter, a particular point of pride for him. He points out that there are so many uncertified handymen doing carpentry that you can never be sure of the quality of work you will receive. Carpentry is one of the few trades that don’t require certification, but Ronnie pushes all his employees to go for an apprenticeship. Currently he would like to find at least two more qualified employees to join his crew.
“Right now I am turning down work because I just don’t have enough reliable manpower to fill all the requests.” Ultimately Ronnie would love to see the trades make a strong return to the region. By offering apprenticeships to qualified candidates he may be able to help someone make the same transition to the Lunenburg lifestyle.
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
For nearly two dozen members of one family who have livedin various places around the world, Lunenburg is the meeting place, the home that draws them back together.
The Comstocks are a close family. Their Facebook friends have seen their annual family photos expand from six smiling siblings – Melanie, Peter, Chloe, Calee, Blisse and Luke to include their partners and then their children. At the centre of every photo, and of every family gathering, is the matriarch, their mother and Mammie, Susan.
All six siblings are well travelled and have lived elsewhere at one time or another, but they always manage to come home. “We had an idyllic childhood, and we all loved it here, and thought, ‘great place, but we won’t ever live here.’” Calee laughed at the irony that four of the six siblings now live in Lunenburg County. “Our parents wanted us to go and see the world. I think secretly they wanted us to come home, but didn’t think we would, and here we are. We all left and then trickled back in.” Two siblings, Peter and Chloe, live in Amsterdam, and while they live far away from the rest of the family, they work together in the same company. The siblings and in-laws all work in different fields, everything from computer gaming, engineering, practicing law, working at Michelin to being a stay at home caregiver.
The Comstocks are committed to making sure that they’re all together at least once a year. But at every gathering there is a void. The family is now missing the other centre – Chris, their dad, Opa to the grandkids and husband to Susan. “We’d just bought our house to be close to our family, and I thought, ‘how could he die’,” Calee recalled. “But we were all here, home with him all at the same time. It was terrible, but still, pretty special.”
Calee reflected how, as kids coming down the stairs, how normal it was to see her dad standing on his head in a yoga pose. “He was one of a kind. He was a hippie, doing yoga before it was a thing.” Calee recalled fondly. Melanie bought the family home and renovated the top floor into a beautiful loft apartment where Susan now lives. “We still call it Mom’s, even though Melanie now owns it. It will probably always be called Mom’s. It’s the epicentre,” Calee laughed. Susan loves having everyone around her. She loves to travel, and she’s involved in the community, and frequently attends Seniors College classes at the Mahone Bay Centre. “Our Mom is a total badass,” she said recalling that her mother was instrumental in bringing La Leche League, an international breastfeeding support group, as well as the Skatepark, to Lunenburg. “She’s feisty. She always supported us in all the crazy things we were doing.”
Calee is now her sister Blisse’s neighbour, separated only by a gate. “We call her kids our cuddle-ins instead of cousins,” Calee laughed. “There is magic to this place. We see our kids swim in a lake in the morning and at a beach in the afternoon. We high-five the post office workers, count the jellyfish. How idyllic is this little life that we’ve created? We live in someone else’s bucketlist.” Calee declared.