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Vendors offering taste of local fare on ferries


CARIBOU – Helen Buchan wheels her carrying case up the ramp onto the Holiday Island, around a motorcycle and a truck, then proceeds to get onto the elevator that carries her to the upper deck of the ferry.

Frances Buchan of Mrs. MacGregor’s Shortbreads is one of several local vendors offering samples onboard Northumberland Ferries this summer as part of a new program called Seaside Experiences. Carol Dunn – The News

When she reaches her destination – a small corner in the cafeteria side of the boat – she has only a few minutes to get set up before passengers begin arriving.

She unpacks her case – hanging a sign, laying out a tartan cloth and plates, and then takes out what the ferry riders will come for – her shortbread.

Buchan owns Mrs. MacGregor’s Shortbreads in Pictou, and on Thursdays this summer will be handing out samples of her baking on four Northumberland Ferries mid-day crossings between Caribou and Wood Islands, P.E.I.

“I think it’s lovely for passengers – for those who want something to experience,” she said.

The shortbread sampling is part of a new program being offered by the ferry service this summer. Seaside Experiences will showcase the best of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. music, entertainment, food, wine and craft beer on select sailings in July and August.

The hope is to encourage more people to take the ferry by giving them the opportunity to enjoy unique regional experiences and soak up some local culture and music during their trip, said Jeff Gaudet, director of marketing and customer experience for Northumberland and Bay Ferries.

“We want people to have a great experience on the ferries and support local businesses as well. It’s just a good thing,” he said.

“We’re extremely excited to bring these experiences to our guests, and to showcase what makes travelling through the Maritimes so great – be it for summer vacations, weekend getaways or business trips.”

The program launched on July 1 and Buchan now has two days of crossings under her belt. “It gives us great exposure. We’re always looking for different ways to get our name out there,” she said.

“We have a captive audience for an hour. We’re proud of what we do and for those who travel over – it brings attention to Pictou and gives another couple of reasons why people should stop in there,” she said.

Braeshore’s Alain Bosse, known as the Kilted Chef, organized the culinary experiences on the Nova Scotia side, which include Pictou Lodge, Uncle Leo’s Brewery from Lyons Brook, Jost Vineyards and Big Cove Jams and Jellies.

Along with selling their products, some of the vendors will do cooking demonstrations and share a recipe with ferry passengers.

Bosse is one of four featured chefs who will also make appearances during the summer, and will be on board for three holiday weekends. The best-selling author and food editor for Saltscapes Magazine is known for his entertaining presentations on the flexible use of Atlantic Canadian products such as lobsters, mussels, apples and blueberries.

“As the Kilted Chef, it’s a benefit to me, and it gives a chance for small operators to continue to grow, and that’s wonderful.”

He said between 200 and 500 people travel on each ferry crossing, so local businesses can potentially reach thousands of people in just one day. “It’s the opportunity to capitalize on a brand new market.”

Rebecca Whiffen agrees. “I think it’s a great thing to bolster Pictou County business for people coming across – tourists and people from P.E.I.,” said the co-owner of Uncle Leo’s Brewery.

“It’s nice to give a taste of what’s waiting on the other side and all the opportunities they can have when they get here.”

Other events will include wine tastings, lobster lunches, P.E.I. mussels, live music, “Blueberry Madness,” and more. The Music on Deck program also returns this year, and live music can be heard at the Caribou terminal on select Fridays throughout the summer.

To find out more, visit seasideexperiences.com

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