While everyone else is talking about the winter blues, folks in Barrie and the surrounding area know that the next two weeks is one of the best times of the year.
The Barrielicious Festival starts today and runs until Sunday, Feb. 4 and showcases some of the best local eateries not just in Barrie, but Simcoe County. The Festival as been happening for the past 11 years and Director Ryan Traversy not only created the event but has been at the helm since day one.
While Traversy admits it started off as a mainly Barrie event, it has grown so much in such a little time that it just made sense to expand and include many smaller establishments around the region.
“To be honest we should have called it Simcoelicious when we started,” said Traversy. “We actually did have a couple places outside of Barrie when we began but now we have a lot of restaurants joining that range from Horseshoe Valley to Alliston. People were coming to Barrie to get in on the deals and went back to their towns and spread the word to their local establishments; word of mouth helped us a lot.”
Designed to bring business to downtown Barrie during the cold winter months, Barrielicious was envisioned while Traversy was waiting tables at a local eatery that at the time was not very busy. He had driven by a larger chain restaurant that had a line up out the door; his Ryerson Hospitality Management studying kicked in and he knew he had to act.
“I told my business partner Randy Feltis that if the bigger places were that busy then we were doing something wrong,” said Traversy. “Being in Toronto previously I remembered there was an event called Winterlicious that had reduced prices in the participating establishments. The idea was just to get people out and enjoying what was available locally despite the harsh weather that would normally keep them indoors. It was a success there and I just knew it could be here as well.”
The huge success that Barrielicious is now is not what the event started out as but it didn’t take long for people to catch on to the city’s newest festival. When Barrielicious began in 2008, it had 16 restaurants participating; that number grew every year and this year is the highest it has ever been with 57 restaurants involved.
“I remember having to beg places to get involved and explain over and over why giving so much for such a good price would be a good thing in the long run,” said Traversy. “Now restaurants are calling me and wanting to have their logos on the website, poster and every where we advertise. The really cool thing is it isn’t just the business owners that have made this so special, the people in the city have made this into a massively anticipated event. There are folks who really look forward to it and I’ve heard of some who hit different establishments each time so as to try something everywhere. I knew we would create something that people would enjoy, I didn’t think it would get this big and so loved.”
The event has establishments put out special menus with fixed prices that can suit everyone’s needs and budgets. Prices can range from $15 to $30 with a wide range of multicultural foods and cooked up by not just established chefs but new and aspiring ones as well who are more than happy to meet customers and discuss all things food.
“That’s what started bringing people out was the lower cost,” said Traversy. “I know that some folks think that a lower cost means less food, but clearly after 11 years that’s not the case. There are things from quick take-away places that are on the lower end of the price scale and then near the $30 range you can get a three-course dinner that would sometimes cost you double that. It has totally rejuvenated the food scene in Simcoe County not just during the winter months but also in the summer as we do a summer festival as well the week after Promenade Days. I love it and despite being a busy time, I’m so happy for our local businesses that are seeing great numbers and support.”
For more information on which restaurants are participating, check out the Barrielicious website at www.barrielicious.com