Crystal Palace a bee hive of activity

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It was all about the bees Saturday at the inaugural Ontario Honey Festival held at Crystal Palace in Picton.

Vendors from across the Quinte region offered everything from 100 per cent beeswax handles, handcrafted soaps and lotions, books, chocolate, art, jewellery, and of course, honey – wildflower, varietal, liquid, creamed, chunk, comb and flavoured.

Local organizer Natalie Ann Comeau, of the Prince Edward County Honey Company in Milford, said the inaugural one-day event drew hundreds of visitors.

“It was far busier than we ever could have anticipated,” she said. “With the rain and being Thanksgiving weekend we didn’t really know what to expect, but we were thrilled with the turnout. We had people drive two-and-a-half hours just to come to the festival and I thought that was pretty amazing.”

Comeau said 30 vendors set up in Crystal Palace, half as beekeepers and half showing off different honey and beeswax-based products.

“I think because the plight of bees has very much been in the news lately people are really interested and that was one of the things that attracted them here,” she said. “If you’re only familiar with the honey you get in big grocery stores and then you try the honey from a local producer, you would be quite amazed in the difference between the two.”

Comeau admits to stealing a page from Maple in the County and using that idea to host the first Ontario Honey Festival.

“Well, you look at the one they do — host Maple in the County in the spring and instead of competing with each other, they all support one another and make the area known for their products,” she said. “They might all be made with basically the same thing, but they’re all different and it is so beneficial for the maple producers to support one another, I just thought it was the logical thing to do for local honey producers.”

Comeau’s company keeps bees at six different sites around Prince Edward County and she said that helps keep the end product different.

Saturday also featured workshops all day, ranging from beekeeping to Quinte Bee Rescue.

“They were instructing people what to do if they found a big hive of bees in their house or other places,” Comeau explained. “It used to be that if you found a hive of bees somewhere in your house you would call an exterminator, but with the plight of the bees that has changed and they were telling people all about the various ways to protect the bees.”

Comeau said there will likely be a second Ontario Honey Festival.

“A lot of people approached me on Saturday to ask if I had a date or had booked for next year,” she said. “This year was definitely a bee hive of activity, so I’m pretty sure we will hold it again next year.”

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