A lot of places make the claim of being the sweetest place on earth, but not too many have the proof to back it up. Fortunately, the good people of Beeton have a long history of proving their sweetness – even though it can get a little sticky.
Beeton is home to the Honey and Garden Festival, an annual event that attracts thousands onto its main street to enjoy family oriented activities and great food. This year, the festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 26. And while the festival has many modern attractions, it is one that pays homage to the community’s historical ties to sweetness that takes centre stage. The old town was once known far and wide for its apiculture and prodigious production of honey.
Back in the 1870s, local Clarksville storekeeper David Allanson Jones became so adept in his beekeeping that he became known across Europe and North America as the Bee King of the 19th century. As the town’s reputation of producing quality honey grew, Clarksville got renamed “Bee Town” and eventually shorten to Beeton, the name that survives today and now is part of the growing Town of New Tecumseth.
“Beeton’s history is certainly tied to the production of honey,” explained Penny Coleman, president of this year’s festival. “D.A. Jones made sure of that. He traveled the world to learn about honey and he was the first to import bees into Ontario.”
And import them he did from locations such as Cyprus, Palestine and Borneo – no mean feat considering the circumstances of travel during that time.
As Jones refined his skills of beekeeping, his business became an industry. His product sold abundantly, both here and abroad, and eventually others came to Beeton to learn the trade. As Coleman points out, what better way to honour the history of Beeton than to have a honey festival and that is what began in 1973 and has continued ever since.
For the past fear years the “garden” theme has been added to the event, but it fits in nicely, adding some modern touches to the historical theme of the event. This year, almost 200 vendors will take part selling a variety of garden-themed goods as well as antiques, crafts, clothes and food. The marketplace features local artisans who offer quality crafted goods and not the kind you find at urban flea markets. Further, a classic car and truck show will also be a part as will live entertainment and areas designs specifically for children.
“The festival keeps on growing every year and people who have been in awhile will be surprised to see all of the activity,” said Coleman. “And it’s geared to be cost efficient as aside from the purchasing of goods, the activities are free of charge.”
And of course, there is the honey. Area bee beekeepers are invited to take part each year to sell their goods and to also educate the public on the process of honey production and the importance of bees for our ecosystem.
Photo: The population of Beeton swells each year for the Honey and Garden Festival.