Falling for Gentlemen of the Road: Simcoe Stopover

As Jess reported on Monday, this weekend’s Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in Simcoe was truly an unforgettable experience for us Toronto nuts and our fellow festival goers. The brain child of folk rock band Mumford and Sons, this two-day event, was about a whole lot more than music. While the 12 participating bands certainly took plenty of the event’s spotlight, much of the undeniable charm came from the execution, the purpose and the setting of this under the radar, down to earth summer festival.

When we first purchased our tickets in the middle of Toronto’s greatest blizzard back in February, we were certain it would be a memorable weekend, but there was so much more yet to learn…

1. Who knew? The Town of Simcoe is nowhere near the much more well known Lake Simcoe. You’d think they would be in close proximity, but we soon learned we were very wrong to assume such things. Simcoe, population 15,000, is actually just under 2 hours West of Toronto, and the largest community located in Norfolk County.

Upon arrival and throughout our stay in the small town, we learned that “There Ain’t No Folk…like Norfolk” – literally. The people of Simcoe were more than inviting, continually asking if we were enjoying ourselves, and welcoming us into their restaurants, bars, stores, streets, fairgrounds and even…front lawns, with open arms. (Shoutout to one Simcoe couple – Al and Marilyn – who allowed us to park two vehicles in their yard for the weekend, they wouldn’t accept money in exchange for their generosity, but we finally forced them to accept a gift of wine from us.)

2. The “Mumford and Sons Effect” (as CBC likes to call it) does not only speak to the band’s success and popularity, it has to do with the band’s real purpose behind this tour. At the start of it all, the band intended to bring small towns a little – and as it turns out quite BIG – economic boost. By selecting towns that wouldn’t normally be visited by such high caliber bands, the festival brought thousands from surrounding cities and towns to the quaint streets of Norfolk.

It didn’t stop there, though. The band gave local stores permission to use its name as well as the festival’s, to create custom merchandise. All money procured from these sales remained with the local suppliers, as long as they agreed to donate 10% of the sales to a local charity. Cue the applause.


3. We had no idea what to expect when it came to the on-site camping tickets we purchased in conjunction with our concert stubs. What we found out right off the bat was that, camping within a few feet of each other, makes for instant friendship. As you can see below, the camping grounds were strategically organized to accommodate the high volume of people, and the execution was flawless.

We could hear the bands play from the comfort of our sleeping bags, but more importantly, we were just a short walk away from the main event. The people inhabiting each surrounding tent were as enthusiastic about the experience as we were. The general sentiment was that of pure thrill, joie de vivre and 100% carefree. It may have been that clean Simcoe air, or the proximity our living arrangements found us in, but it was obvious that each and every person was at their best, in their element, living it up and taking advantage of such a rare event. 1146675_10200295904554082_435345712_n

4. If that wasn’t enough already, it dawned on us quite quickly that even the visual component of the festival itself was different than any other. In place of beer advertisements and radio station banners, the Gentlemen of the Road grounds and Simoce itself were clad with flags, mustaches and those vintage, almost quintessentially “folk”, signs that only read Simcoe or Gentlemen of the Road. In a word, it was tasteful. It wasn’t overbearing or obnoxious, it almost seemed completely respectful of the town’s heritage, while still allowing us ample photo opps.

Many of Simcoe’s small streets were closed off for the weekend, and in the middle of certain crosswalks, passersby would find abandoned pianos adorned with those colourful flags, sitting and waiting to be played. It was those little things that made our weekend so memorable, and perhaps…one big thing, too. Mumford and Sons, a band that has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine and won a handful of Grammy’s, cared enough to bring all of these tiny details to a little town that never expected such attention.  In a nutshell, let’s hope Canada is once again on the 2014 Gentlemen of the Road Stopover tour …we’ll see you there!



  1. Brad says:

    Check out all the images in the local good news paper at the Snap Haldimand Nofolk page, and click on like on the main page while your there and look check out my own photography page as well. https://www.facebook.com/snaphn/photos

  2. Colleen says:

    Oh Kaylee, your review brought tears to my eyes. You captured not only the quality of this Stopover from the Mumford & Sons’ benevolent purpose, to bless small communities with a quality musical event, but also the essence of our small town Simcoe and rural Norfolk County. The cordiality, the friendliness, and the unassuming hospitality that awaits those willing to travel here to experience it. The pictures you included speak so loudly of the general feeling and the atmosphere of camaraderie that permeated this Stopover and the town itself. There was just so much excitement building, as store windows were decorated and Mumford coloured signage was displayed. And through the capable hands of our Fairgrounds Manager and staff in coordination with the Live Nations Personnel our fairgrounds, used to midways and crowds, horse shows and nightly grandstand concerts transformed into the impressive site you displayed above; comfortably hosting 35,000 festival goers who wore smiling faces behind their Mumford ‘mustaches on a stick’. Locally an appetite to recreate another event of this calibre has been created within us, although matching the magical level of this Gentlemen of the Road Stopover will never be possible again.
    So please keep your ear to the ground for further rumblings of another musical event that may occur at our fairgrounds, and please come back. You’ve found our pulse here in Norfolk…and you already have a place to park I’m sure, even without a wine chaser! :)
    And also Kaylee, thank you for pointing out to our Toronto brothers & sisters that Simcoe is indeed southwest of your fair city and not north near Lake Simcoe in Simcoe County. We’re that ‘other Simcoe’ place, where Mumford & Sons chose to roost for two magical nights in 2013, celebrating our town, the birth place of Rick Danko of ‘The Band’ fame (a major influence to the GOTR Stopover Tour musically).
    Again, thank you for a wonderfully expressive and descriptive review! Hopefully we’ll see you at the next Stopover in Canada in 2014 too!

  3. Carry Quigley says:

    Amen to that. Best weekend of the summer by far! Xo

  4. Bill Meems says:

    From the perspective of a local, it was an amazing weekend, and such a great event for this community! I’m happy to see that our hospitality was rewarded by the kindness and friendship of so many campers and concert goers. I was one of the photographers in the pits just prior to Mumford & Sons start on stage, and with 35,000 people behind me cheering, the positive energy was nothing like anything I’ve experienced before. The end to the Mumford & Sons performance being a cover of The Band’s “The Weight” was an awesome tribute to the late Rick Danko (Norfolk County native), and to Norfolk County. Such a great time!! If anyone is interested in taking a look at some of the photographic memories I took from Saturday’s performances, you can see the at http://www.facebook.com/bthreephotography


  5. ame says:

    great review, happy you enjoy Norfolk county. There ain’t no folk like Norfolk!

  6. Wilson says:

    Such a great review. I couldn’t have worded the atmosphere, people, or energy better myself. We were four people from the stage both days and the as tight as it was everyone was laxed, and in great spirits. Just thinking about it brings me chills.


  7. Susan says:

    Thanks for your great article and photos! I was at the Simcoe GOTR stopover too! What an enjoyable weekend!

  8. NR and CR from 'SSauga says:

    I found your post in the deep cold of winter which brought back such wonderful memories of warm summer nights that weekend in Simcoe. Unbelievable once in a lifetime experience, if only we could go back for one more taste of that Simcoe summer! To the town of Simcoe…your people are incredible and it was a privilege to experience your hospitality!

    • CP says:

      NR & CR, your kind words about our town & that awesome event just warmed my heart! It was such a wonderful weekend!! On behalf of Simcoe, we were inundated with such wonderful people from Ontario, the rest of the country & fans of the GOTR from around the globe. It was an exceptional time for our small town & one that will be forever in our collective memory here. This experience has left such a wonderful taste in our town that we’re contemplating how to host another. It may not be as memorable as this GOTR again, but keep watching, you may be able to have a taste of Ontario’s south coast again!


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