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Caledonia - Along the Grand River
Big Creek Boat Farm

John and Luella Albin thought the Grand River Navigation era was one that could be repeated in some way. They believed they could see the potential held by the sleeping Grand.

On June 21, 1978, with the smash of a bottle of champagne, they launched the Grand River Belle. It took the help of about a dozen men and a crowd of friends and neighbours to get their replica of the navigation days vessel into the quiet waters. This launch was the beginning of more to come. To this day Caledonians look to the Albinís venture as one of the areaís most successful entrepreneurial businesses.

The Grand River Belle doesnít travel much faster than those river boats of the century before. The best of them were reputed to take an hour to travel ten miles, sometimes more if they were going against the current. The Grand River Belle leisurely sets the same speed while the captain informally relays interesting history to passengers who are dining while they cruise. The year 1983 saw more than 100,000 people cruising the Grand and interest continues to grow. The Albinís dream has come a long way since the first launch in 1978.

By 1984 the Grand River Belle had acquired "offspring" when the Grand River Queen and Grand River Princess began cruising the waters of the Grand. Visitors by the busloads were arriving from across the United States as well as from Southern Ontario. The Big Creek Boat Farm was re-establishing navigation along the Grand.

This success led to creating "The Loft" in a converted century old barn standing on their property. With dinner theatre in a rustic atmosphere, gift shops on one side and a bakery on the other, new life was appearing as fun for the visitors and employment opportunities for local people. Young people aspiring to theatre careers staged the productions and waited on the tables. Until 1986, a special Christmas show attracted thousands over its three week production.

Today Big Creek Boat Farm with a staff of thirty people is a major attraction at Caledonia. The Six Nations Reserve plays a major role in its appeal as well. A bus tour of the Six Nations Reserve can be taken from Big Creek Boat Farm and the Lady Onondaga is an added feature to the cruise line. A craft shop on the Six Nations Reserve, across the Grand River from Chiefswood Park, is a stop-over for passengers wanting to pick up souvenirs from the area. The Grand River still attracts attention and contributes to the livelihood of its towns and villages.

Big Creek Boat Farm entertainers, captains, and owners, John and Luella Albin (centre front)
Big Creek Boat Farm entertainers, captains, and owners, John and Luella Albin (centre front)

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