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Two Locals Reveal Why They Love Living in Strathroy-Caradoc
Episode 324th October 2023 • Growing Strathroy-Caradoc • Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc
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In this episode, we explore what's behind Strathroy-Caradoc's residential growth by talking to two locals with very different experiences of the community. One is a long-time local who grew up here. The other is a newcomer who just arrived last year. Despite their differences, they often have similar things to say. Oh, and these guests aren't just residents. They're also employees of the Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc, which gives them extra insight into the community. By the end of this episode, there'll be sharing intel that even the locals might not know.

Strathroy-Caradoc is a growing and vibrant municipality centrally located in southwestern Ontario, Canada, between Toronto and Detroit. We are a dynamic combination of urban and rural areas which provide opportunities for a range of business and industry.

Learn more about the Strathroy business community via the Downtown Strathroy BIA and the Strathroy & District Chamber of Commerce.

About the Growing Strathroy-Caradoc podcast

Strathroy-Caradoc is a place where people and businesses grow deep roots. With a population of 24,000 people. It would be easy to assume that Strathroy-Caradoc is a sleepy part of Southwest Ontario, but new residents and businesses—from independent shops to multinational power players—are flocking here. Listen to the Growing Strathroy-Caradoc podcast to find out why.

If you’re an investor, learn about our value proposition, key sectors, and available properties at investstrathroy-caradoc.ca.

The podcast is hosted by Michelle Samson and produced by Storied Places Media. Learn more about our podcast production services for economic development organizations at storiedplaces.ca.

Transcripts

Heather:

we have such a diverse cultural population here It's just

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a very welcoming welcoming community.

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Michelle: Welcome to the growing

Strathroy-Caradoc podcast.

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I'm your host, Michelle Samson.

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And I'd like you to join me as

we explore Strathroy, Kara doc.

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And what makes it a place where

people and businesses grow deep roots.

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For this third episode, we explore

what's behind the communities.

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Residential growth.

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And we're making a simple case.

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People are moving here because

it's a great place to live.

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That's the overarching

message from today's guests.

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A couple of residents with very

different experiences of the community.

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One is a long time local who grew up here.

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The other is a newcomer

who just arrived last year.

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And these guests, aren't just residents.

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They're also employees of the municipality

of Strattera care doc, which gives

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them extra insight into the community.

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By the end of this episode,

there'll be sharing Intel that

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even the locals might not know.

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Let's start with the longtime local.

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Jessy: I'm Jesse Vander Vart, and I

am a communications assistant for the

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municipality of Stratford Care Doc.

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Michelle: Jesse was born in Brampton,

but when he was five, his father

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was laid off from his job there.

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That's when his father saw an opportunity

to give his kids the kind of childhood

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that he had growing up in Ingersoll.

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Finding the perfect house with a big

backyard and Strathroy seal the deal.

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Jessy: he loved being

raised in a small town.

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he was born in 1960, so he had that

kind of childhood where he rode his bike

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and went fishing, or went and played

hockey on the pond that, you know,

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sort of standard Canadian upbringing.

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and he, I don't think he saw that

opportunity for us in Brampton.

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I.

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so I think for his children, he

wanted us to grow up with that kind of

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tight-knit small community upbringing.

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Michelle: yeah, there's just something

about a small town childhood.

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So that was your father's

vision for the family.

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But what was it like for you

actually growing up in Strathroy?

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Jessy: I think people tend to romanticize

their childhood in a great way.

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I can't imagine having a better childhood.

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it was, and still is, I think

a incredibly safe community.

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and one where you tend to know a

lot of people, So I went to school

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just across the street from where I

live, and all my friends lived local.

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So I mean evenings, weekends, over

the summer we were always playing at

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the park, at the school road hockey

games tag in people's backyards.

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It felt like a kind of place where

you could kind of pick up and walk

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around town with your friends and your

parents really didn't have to worry.

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Michelle: Our other guests didn't

grow up in strata care doc.

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She arrived last year after accepting

a job offer from the municipality.

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Heather: Well,

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my name is Heather Lalonde

and I'm privileged to be the

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Development Commissioner for the

municipality of Strathroy Cradock.

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Michelle: tell us a little bit about

where you've lived and worked in the past?

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Heather: Uh, My husband and I relocated

here from Long Sioux Ontario, which

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is a little settlement of about 2000

people just west of Cornwall, Ontario.

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Um, so to put that in context,

about a seven hour drive.

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I was born in Peterborough, Ontario,

and I was the economic development

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officer for the City of Peterborough

before becoming the Chief Executive

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Officer for the Economic Developers

Council of Ontario after working for the

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Economic Developers Council of Ontario

for many years, I missed having the

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ability to make impact at a local level.

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rural economic development has

always been near and dear to me,

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so this was the perfect opportunity

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Michelle: Heather considered opportunities

elsewhere in rural Ontario, but Strathroy

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Caridad had a couple assets that

made it especially attractive to her.

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Heather: We have family in the area.

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You know, life lessons really

teach you what is important and,

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and to me, family is important.

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So when this opportunity presented

itself, I it was a huge leap of faith,

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but I felt that the time was right.

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and, Through my former position, I

was privy to hearing about all of the

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economic activity that was occurring

in the Strathroy care doc area.

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And I wanted to be part of that movement.

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that was also attractive to me.

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Michelle: As Heather mentioned at the

top, the position that she was hired

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for was development commissioner.

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Here's what that means.

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Heather: My role within the

community is primarily collaboration

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or connecting the dots.

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So I work with individual businesses,

stakeholders, . Groups and investors.

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In addition to those primary duties,

I work on special projects including

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running an inter-community transit line.

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and the establishment of

a skilled trade school.

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And now we're a little bit

into the tourism sector as well.

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Every day is different here.

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Uh, and that's why I love

economic development.

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Michelle: how much time had you

spent here before taking the job,

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Heather: Uh, I had spent very

little time in Strathroy car Doc.

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I had driven by it many

times going to visit family.

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Um, did a lot of online research,

uh, a couple of drive-throughs.

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and, uh, driven through the

a charming little downtown.

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All that I saw was opportunity,

Every economic developer's dream.

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we're a rural community, yet we're

close to some major communities.

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We're close to the border.

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Uh, we have a lovely river

that runs through, town.

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We have a, a very connected, group of

trails for those that like to hike.

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there's lots of events that

are really family oriented.

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there's a new arts and culture

center being, um, redeveloped in the

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downtown, so that's very exciting.

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Uh, we have everything here.

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We don't have to leave here.

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We don't want to.

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Michelle: Strathroy care.

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Doc may be the kind of place

that you don't need to leave.

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But Jesse, like so many small town

kids wanted to explore the world beyond

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his hometown, which is to say that

he hasn't always lived in Strathroy.

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Kara doc.

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He did venture a little

further a field for a time.

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Jessy: I moved to Cardiff, which is the

capital of Wales in the United Kingdom.

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a big change for me because at that

point I was 27 and I'd never really lived

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outside of, besides living in Brampton.

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I, I'd lived in Stratford my whole life.

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I moved there for teachers college

and I was there for just under a year.

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It's about 11 months.

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Um, Definitely very difficult.

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I'd say for the first six months.

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I ended loving it, but, if you lived

one place your whole life, you start

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to see that as the center of the earth.

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And then when you go someplace else,

even a place with a shared language, the

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cultural differences kind of open your

eyes to the fact that where you live.

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For me, or Strathmore Paradoc isn't

necessarily the center of the earth.

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And it was cool to see the way that other

people live and just the differences

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Michelle: Cardiff is the

biggest city in Wales about the

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same size as London, Ontario.

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Jesse says somethings were familiar,

like the fact that it was welcoming

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multicultural and had a small town feel.

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But there were certainly things

about Cardiff and Wales in general.

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But let Jesse know that he

wasn't in Strathroy anymore.

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Jessy: the differences were in things

like I'm a big, hockey fan, so

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I'm trying to make the least fan.

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And to go to school or go to work

and not be able to talk to people

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about your regular sports team.

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And, and they were all

into rugby and football.

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The food was a little bit different.

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It was definitely like, uh,

British style food, uh, pub food,

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meat pies, that type of thing.

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So those were the small

things where, where you kind

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of missed home a little bit.

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Michelle: how did your impression of

Strathroy change, while you were there?

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Jessy: there?

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I've always loved Strathroy.

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I've always been kinda like a booster

of strathroy and map bridges and

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the community in general, but I

think that grew while I was away.

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I mean, I think you always kind of take

something for granted until it's gone

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so coming back I was kind of elated.

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I really enjoyed my time away, but

I was pretty happy to come back.

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Uh, to catch up with old friends, to

eat at restaurants that you've been

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eating at, you know, your whole life.

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but I think it helps me

to maybe appreciate the

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community a little bit more.

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Michelle: was there any question

that you would come back

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specifically with Strathroy?

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Or were you, did you consider places?

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Jessy: I actually had considered staying

in Wales for a little bit longer, just

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'cause some job opportunities had come up.

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But because I was missing home so

much at that point, I did want to

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come home first and kind of see.

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And as soon as I got back, I

think I knew that that was the

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right decision was to come home.

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I've always wanted to Continue

to stay rooted in this community.

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the only reason that I could ever

see myself leaving would be for

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work opportunities, maybe elsewhere.

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but there's just something that

you can't beat about living if

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you liked where you grew up.

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And I loved growing up here, so I

couldn't see myself really living

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anywhere but here or somewhere, you know,

within half an hour's drive of here.

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Michelle: So, how did Jesse go from

teacher's college to communications

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assistant for the municipality?

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He admits that teachers' college

just about killed him and the demand

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on his time and stress levels.

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Wasn't going to improve once

he entered the profession.

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He decided to pivot.

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Jessy: When I came back to Strathroy,

shortly after a job opened up, the

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position was Digital Service Squad member.

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and that was through,

uh, digital Main Street.

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That's how I started here.

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and in that job I was getting to help

local business owners and I was helping

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them kind of grow their online presence.

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So that was working with websites,

uh, social media strategies, doing

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some graphic design work with them.

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and I really liked that job because

I got to kind of commute all around

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the community and work with people.

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And even now, so I've moved, uh, roles.

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I.

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Communications here now, but when I go

out to the market or when I'm driving

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around, I still see a lot of business

owners that I got to connect with

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Michelle: The opportunity gave

Jesse a chance to meet lots of

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new people and learn about their

perspectives on his community.

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That in turn affected his perspective.

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Jessy: I think the community is

incredibly, an incredibly welcoming place.

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I think I always knew that,

but I've been fortunate to see

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it a little bit more recently.

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I guess it's unfortunate, but with

the conflict with Russia and Ukraine,

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we've had quite a bit of, um, people

come from Ukraine and, and actually

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end up in the community and quite

a few of them have actually opened

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businesses since they've been here.

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we just had an opening of a business

in, uh, downtown Strathroy and it's

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a Ukrainian pierogi business they

mostly do pierogis, but they do borsch.

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They do, cabbage rolls,

crepes and Ukrainian bread.

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and I mean, there were so many

people there, it was actually

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spilling out onto the street.

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so seeing that kind of outpour

outpouring of support and just how

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much the community welcomes people,

I think like I said, I think I always

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knew it, but I'm fortunate now to

see it a little bit more, firsthand.

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Michelle: might be so good at

welcoming newcomers because the

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community has had a lot of practice.

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Significant numbers of Portuguese,

Dutch and Hungarian immigrants

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arrived during the world wars.

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They became thoroughly woven into

the fabric of this community.

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Jessy: growing up in, in my grade

school anyways, it almost felt like

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it was split equally between, uh,

Dutch and Portuguese populations.

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and there's definitely like a

flavor of that in the community.

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So in the downtown core here of Stratford,

there's the Dutch shop, and then

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we've got Portuguese bakeries as well.

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It was kind of nice 'cause just

last year actually, I took a trip to

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Portugal and it felt so familiar to me.

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Um, a lot of the foods I'd seen before

at least had heard talked about.

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yeah, it was kind of neat.

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It almost feels like you've adopted a

second culture yourself, um, through

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growing up and being at friends' houses

and, you know, trying different things

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and learning a little bit of the language.

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Michelle: Heather has seen Strathroy

paradox, welcoming nature on a broad

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scale, too, not to mention the fact

that she experienced it herself.

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Heather: It's a really interesting

community because it's steeped in

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agriculture and with agriculture

comes, uh, the opportunity to bring

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in, temporary board workers every year.

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So the face of the community

has really changed because a lot

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of them have decided to stay.

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And, uh, we have such a diverse

cultural population here now.

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It, it really brings out the charm of,

of the inclusiveness that you experience

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when you come here as a new resident.

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You know, and I can speak from

experience because I'm a new resident.

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It's just a very welcoming

welcoming community.

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Without a doubt, I think the

community's best assets are its people.

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Michelle: The warm welcome.

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Also extended to her husband.

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Who didn't have any family ties or

a nearby social network to rely on.

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He wouldn't be able to make

friends at work either because

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he retired just before moving.

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Heather: frankly I was a little

worried about him because I

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thought, what is he gonna do?

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He's in a brand new community.

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, I'm going to work for the first

time to an office because I

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always worked in my home office.

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Um, what's he gonna do?

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Well, You know, I've found

my business network, he's

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found his, our social network.

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He's joined the golf, club.

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He has his little leagues.

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he has discovered all the

gems of the community.

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He's the one that's found the

wonderful conservation areas and

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the trails and, the great little

Portuguese bakery and, all those

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great little treasures we have here.

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So he loves it here.

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You know, I, I had no need to worry.

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The neighbors looked after him.

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Um, you know, we moved here in

February and have a little

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program here called Snow Angels.

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So if you're not able to uh, shovel

your laneway, you can register and

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neighbors will come and help you.

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So there's a little crew in our

neighborhood that goes around and, and,

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they shovel all the laneways together.

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So,

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You know, it's just, one of

those heartwarming communities

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where it's easy to make friends.

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Michelle: Heather's husband got an

early start on finding the great local

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assets, but Heather has now explored

and integrated enough to have her own

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favorite things about Strathroy care doc.

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Heather: One of the things that strikes

me is the architecture here in town.

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We have, uh, a plethora of yellow brick,

Victorian style homes that, lend to

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the character, uh, of the community.

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And, and of course the downtown.

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Um, you know, we have wonderful

bakeries, some nice eateries.

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Really lovely retail.

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it's very charming and,

you know, I'm a golfer.

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My husband's a golfer.

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We live down the road from the

golf course, but we have two

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golf courses in Strathroy, which

is a really small community.

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Um, And, uh, we're so close to

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London, we're so close to the

border, we could cross, into

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the US within 40 minutes.

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So we really liked the location.

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Michelle: in previous conversations

you'd mentioned the market.

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Do you want to talk a

little bit about that?

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Heather: I would love to

talk about the market.

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Uh, we have a couple of night markets

during the year, but every Saturday

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morning, We close off the downtown streets

and, uh, which comprise of two streets

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Uh, but we have a farmer's market and,

uh, that's where everybody goes to meet.

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It's almost a gathering spot Lots of

vendors in our downtown shops open up.

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Um, so it's a, it's a lovely time to

just be able to stroll down the street

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and, and support your local farmer.

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Michelle: Great.

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have you been to the night markets yet?

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Heather: I've been to both of them so far.

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they are really well attended.

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you know, we have entertainment and

again, vendors, lots of people go downtown

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for dinner and run into each other.

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And, you know, last Saturday

night there was a dance.

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Dance floor in the middle

of, of an intersection.

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So that was fun

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Michelle: The night markets are there

among Jesse's favorite local events

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too, and echoes Heather sentiment

about them being a meeting place.

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Jessy: They offer wristbands so that you

can, like, they license the street so

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that people can have a drink and kind of

walk around and see the different vendors.

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it's a really cool way to get

to know the community as well.

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So if you go to more of these events,

you kind of see some familiar faces

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and kind of make some connections.

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Michelle: If the night market is

starting to sound like an adult event,

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you're getting the wrong impression.

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They're great for kids too.

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Heather: Was talking to one of the shop

owners and she told me that her six year

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old said that it was his best night ever.

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because, you know, they, we have a

children's area and crafts for them,

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and it, it's just, it's really nice.

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Uh, and that's why we're trying to create

one around the holiday season as well.

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We also have Hometown Festival, starts off

on a Friday night with this huge car show.

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There's . About 300 classic cars

that show up so that, again,

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they shut down the streets and

there's a big carnival and vendor.

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So I love it because of it's really

important when you're trying to attract,

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families to a community that there's

something for the children to do.

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You know, we, we have a camp program

here in the summer that people come

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from all over to participate in it.

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The numbers are astounding for, um, . The

size of community and the different,

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we have a museum camp, we have a

art camp, we have a basketball camp.

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You know there's camps for every interest.

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Michelle: She is not exaggerating

about the camps, just about

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every sport is on the list.

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If your little ones are a little bit

more artsy like myself there's a camp

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for visual arts theater becoming a mini

museum curator Or if they're the hands-on

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type, maybe they'll like a camp to

learn how to be a carpenter or a chef.

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The offerings for adults

and seniors are broad too.

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Adult volleyball and basketball,

seniors, Jan berries, Euchre, swimming,

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lessons, pickleball, and skating.

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Just to name a few.

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But Jessie says the options aren't

limited to camps and rec programs.

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Jessy: The event offerings

I think are really great.

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They're kind of a low cost

option, or most of the time, free,

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um, for people to engage with.

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So, um, this summer we're doing

three outdoor movie nights.

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One in Strathroy, one in Mount

Bridges, and one in Melbourne.

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Uh, we do an Easter event at the

Fairgrounds Recreation Complex,

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and that, involves free skating,

uh, free Easter egg hunt.

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An Easter bunny comes out, uh, winter

Fest, which will take place in Stratford,

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actually at the fairgrounds as well.

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And that follows up.

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After our, annual Christmas parade,

which takes place Downtown Strathroy.

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Michelle: Strathroy, Kara dog

has a great calendar of community

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events and organized recreation.

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But it also has a great stock

of independent recreation

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opportunities for all ages.

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The make use of the great outdoors.

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Here's Jesse again.

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Jessy: I personally really enjoy some

of the local trails that we have.

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prior to working for the

municipality, I actually worked for

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the local Conservation authority.

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so the Stratford conservation area,

it's got a great set of trails.

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Clark, Wright conservation

area just outside of, of Strat,

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where here kind of going towards

Melbourne Mount Bridges area.

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they do an incredible job so that I know

within the past year or two, they've

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upgraded a lot of the trail systems.

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They've added, uh, like a chip and

dust trail and they've also added,

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um, I believe they're a four foot wide

boardwalk through a lot of the trails.

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so for me personally, that's

a big thing that I like to do.

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It's my kind of main form of recreation

is getting out and walking my dog.

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Uh, I went for a walk last night

through this truffer conservation.

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I got an ice cream at a local place

and took a walk through there.

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and there's also.

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Quite a few parks as well.

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Um, so many parks that I can

actually wrap my head around it.

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So there are quite a few within

Strathroy, a bunch in Mount Bridges.

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Um, and they seem to be sort

of slowly being upgraded.

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There's a park here in Strathroy

Salisbury Park that was just redone

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they've put on the half court basketball.

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They've got like a natural playground.

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and I guess another asset of the

community actually is the, Fair Grants

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:

recreation complex here in Strathroy.

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they've really grown the offerings there.

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so they've put in beach volleyball,

they've got, uh, tennis,

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and they've got pickleball.

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They've put in a full court

outdoor basketball court.

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They've just opened up.

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Now the all wheels park.

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Which is, uh, an accessible, uh,

skate park, be used with any sort

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of, non-motorized, wheeled option.

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So roller blades, skateboards,

wheelchairs, scooters,

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:

those types of things.

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and that just sits right beside

the outdoor, model railroad.

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And then there's also the pool, which

is there as well, the aquatic park.

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Michelle: Throughout my

conversation with Jesse.

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He mentioned restaurants and

food several times, and I got the

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impression that he might be a foodie.

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I was right.

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Here are some of his favorite places and

personal recommendations of where to eat.

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Jessy: For people who come to the

community, their first stop should

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probably be downtown Strathroy.

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I just think it has kind of

a unique pool of businesses.

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We have those Dutch and Portuguese

businesses downtown that kind

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of reflect those populations.

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there's a pretty popular spot downtown

Strathroy called the Bon Me Shop.

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they're incredible.

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But we've also got some cool

businesses that have opened up.

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We've got a craft brewery.

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:

and then there's a business that's

opened up recently called Cookie Bar.

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so they make these massive, I

think they're a pound cookies.

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they're delicious and they also

serve some drinks there as well.

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:

Lotus T in Mount Bridges is really good.

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:

there's a cute jam place in

Melbourne called in a Jam.

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:

all these kinds of places

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:

Michelle: As we've heard Jesse and

Heather are both employees of the

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:

municipality of Strattera, Cara doc.

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Which means that they see their old

slash new community with a different

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:

perspective than the average resident.

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They see the inner workings of the

municipal government and everything

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:

that happens behind the scenes in

making Strathroy care doc a great

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place to live and do business.

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I wondered if they're seeing anything

coming down, the pipeline that you,

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as a current or future resident of the

municipality should be excited about.

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Let's start with development

commissioner, Heather.

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Heather: There are some exciting projects

have a new fire hall on the books.

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We have a new arena on the books.

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We have The Wright Family Art Foundation.

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Um, they're a well-known musical

family in southwestern Ontario with

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deep roots into Western University.

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but they were residents here they,

started a foundation and, uh, the

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group bought, a main street building.

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So they're in the process of . Uh,

doing some community consultation about

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what residents, really want to see

downtown And, uh, then they'll be, doing

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their retrofitting of the building.

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So from a things to do perspective,

that's really exciting.

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Michelle: And now here's an

upcoming project that our longtime

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local Jesse thinks will be an

important addition to the community.

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Jessy: I think the biggest thing that's

probably creating a little bit of

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excitement and will continue to create

excitement as more people learn about it

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:

is, the development of a new community

center slash arena in Mount Bridges.

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the local hockey team in Map Bridge

is the Bulldogs and I know that, that

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team means a lot to the community..

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:

They're celebrating their 50th year.

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most people either grew up playing hockey

there or going for public skates or

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:

figure skating or whatever it might be.

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so I think that's something that's really

gonna excite people and I think it's

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gonna draw on a lot of people as well.

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Michelle: Being on the inside of

Strathroy paradox, municipal offices

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has given Heather and Jessie more

than just insights on the projects.

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It's also given them a chance

to get to know the people

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:

who are making them happen.

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Heather: The first thing that I

noticed, was the cohesiveness of the

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team we have a very, uh, diverse

workforce here that brings in a myriad

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:

of talents, um, and perspectives.

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:

We had a new council, almost

like a 50%, uh, turnover in

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:

this last municipal election.

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So we have some, continuity, but we

have new and fresh ideas as well.

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And, everybody works really well together.

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Jessy: I grew up with a lot of

appreciation for the community.

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That's a big reason why I've, I've

stayed and I've chosen to come back, but

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:

working for the municipality, you see

all of the work that goes into some of

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the offerings Our staff here I would

say a majority are probably from the

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:

area, from Snia London anyways, and.

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All members of staff, they seem to

work tirelessly to make sure that from.

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The time you walk in the

door at a customer service

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:

perspective, they're incredible.

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:

all the work they're doing to ensure

that the programs are running properly.

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just that they're offering the

best services at the, the most

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affordable costs and sort of looking

at the wellbeing of the community.

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I've not met anybody yet who doesn't

want what's best for the community.

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Michelle: If you're a local, I hope you

learned a few things about your community

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or at least we're reminded of the great

things and people right in your backyard.

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If you're not a local, but

this sounds like a community

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:

that you'd like to live in.

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:

Find more information about Strathroy,

Kara doc, via the links in the show notes.

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If this sounds like a community you'd

like to invest in, Heather would

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definitely love to hear from you.

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You can find her coordinates and

more information about the community

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at investstrathroy-caradoc.ca.

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Growing Strathroy, Kara doc

is produced by storied places.

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:

Media.

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:

Thanks for listening.

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