Project Name: Heritage Destination Development – Blyth
Blyth has historically been a community of innovators and hard workers. For its size, the village consistently punches above its weight with live theatre, an impressive rural destination at Cowbell Brewing Company and a notable history in leather tanning and dyeing. Blyth could, if it musters the resources and alliances it needs, leverage its quaint main street, primary assets and emerging attractions such as The Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC) and the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail (G2G) to develop immersive, purposeful and curated experiences – all within a unique rural setting.
The village is best known for the Blyth Festival, a professional theatre company that has been celebrating rural culture and stories since 1975. By specializing in the production and promotion of Canadian plays and playwrights, it has given voice to Canadian artists for almost half a century.
While the foundation for Blyth’s provincial popularity lies with Blyth Festival, over the past few years recent and impressive additions like the CCRC, Cowbell and the G2G Rail Trail are becoming game-changers in this destination’s evolution. Coupled with community willingness and growing consensus – facilitated and enabled by RTO4 – Blyth warrants serious attention.
Of note is the private investment in the destination by Cowbell Brewing Company. Opened in the summer of 2017, their operations include a state-of-the-art 50-hectolitre closed-loop brewhouse with indoor and outdoor seating for more than 216 guests, private dining and meeting spaces, and an outdoor entertainment venue for live music, culture and athletic events.
The support from private industry, the County of Huron, Municipality of North Huron and RTO4 has presented the exciting opportunity to galvanize the local network of stakeholders around its core DNA and USP, and empower them to play an active role in shaping their collective tourism future.
This groundwork was completed in 2017/18 through a destination development community engagement process called DestinationBLYTH. This was a structured process to align and leverage various evolving opportunities. The process began with the formation by the local community of a destination network. The group discussed and developed consensus on the direction the village is taking, identified Blyth’s unique qualities, and looked at ways to collaborate on projects that can improve elements of the visitor experience, communication and community design. The process led to a community-generated plan that is their blueprint for the future.
Blyth was identified as one of three key assets in Huron County, along with G2G and Bayfield. Huron County is a considerable funding partner in the Blyth project, matching up to five per cent of total costs on most destination development work. The 2018/19 focus is improving the visitor experience through storytelling, animation and hygiene projects.
Objective #1– Execute collaborative destination development work such as storytelling, animation and hygiene
projects that enhance and improve the visitor experience.
- Through a criteria-based model, select and implement collaborative projects with the destination network (potential partners include retailers, restaurants, B&B owners, festivals or attractions) that animate the destination, amplify storytelling and/or improve its hygiene.
- Conduct an economic impact study in partnership with the Blyth Festival
For more details on this project, please visit the 2019/2020 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 32-33.