LITTLE CURRENT—Creating an environment that fosters greater health and wellness is near and dear to the heart of Wiikwemkoong band member Courtney MacDonald; that is why the Sudbury-based event planning manager chose Manitoulin as the site for her Health and Wellness Expo—well, that and its central location.
“I am technically from Wiikwemkoong, although I grew up in Espanola,” said Ms. MacDonald. “I find Manitoulin incredibly infused with spiritual energy, and that is one of the main reasons I chose to organize it there—that and it is very central to communities across the North. I find that when you cross that bridge, you are on Island time, everything slows down and you become more relaxed.”
That sense of moving into another dimension of time and space is a common experience for many of those visiting Manitoulin Island, whether coming for the first time or as a regular visitor or summer resident.
Ms. MacDonald is the sole organizer of the Manitoulin Island Health and Wellness Expo, and aside from another small event in Sudbury and some charity events, this event takes up the bulk of her time. “A lot of people think it’s a team,” she laughs. “But this is basically all Empowered Events, and that’s me.”
To get a sense of what that means, last year there were around 30 vendors taking part in the inaugural Manitoulin Island Health and Wellness Expo and somewhere north of 300 visitors. This year those numbers doubled. “We had a total of 60 different vendors spread over the two days of the event and we had 200 more people,” she said. “We just finished looking at the surveys from the event and the feedback is very positive. Everybody really enjoyed it.”
The key sign of success for any Expo or conference is the number of people booking for next year before they have packed up from the current one. “Yes, I have people already booking their tables for next year, several are booking two tables.”
One of the interesting things about the Health and Wellness Expo is that there was a great deal of variety among the vendors, nor were they strictly limited to health and wellness offerings per se. “I feel that, when they go through, anybody could find something for them,” said Ms. MacDonald. “I don’t place many limits. In most of the events in which I get involved there is a strong holistic component.”
The Expo is also not strictly limited to vendors either. There was a wide range of speakers and workshops going on in the downstairs Grandfather Room at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre that were available across the course of the two-day event.
On Saturday, Naturopath Nancy Rose of Ultimate Mindset Solutions started out the proceedings with ‘Manage Your Emotions Like a Pro.’
“One of my favourites was ‘Raise the Bar’ with Matt and Jesse,” said Ms. MacDonald. That workshop outlined the philosophy behind the podcast of the same name and how the duo from M’Chigeeng came up with the concept and how they went on to develop it into a full-blown regular health and wellness oriented online feature.
Other workshops included topics such as ‘What is a Naturopathic Doctor’ presented by Dr. Cayla Bronicheski. ‘Zen for Men’ by Arturo Garcia, a combo presentation on holistic nutrition and movement and mindset, and ‘Terrarium Building with Rachel Neally and Syrkal O.’
‘Buti Yoga with Serena,’ started off the Sunday sessions, followed by free meditation colouring workshops, ‘Learn about Nature’ with Madii Kasem and ‘Kundallini Yoga Meditation’ with Cindy Stewart.
There will be some changes in format next year, noted Ms. MacDonald. “I am planning on bringing in a main keynote speaker and having a panel discussion event,” she said. “I find it is difficult to limit people in speaking time and there are some people I would like to bring in who would be more comfortable not being the single person in the spotlight.”
But a lot of the format works just fine and the folks attending found the ability to meet and network with a wide range of practitioners. “It was absolutely incredible, the energy that was there throughout the weekend,” said Ms. MacDonald.
The other event she organizes, the Sudbury Fitness Fest, will be taking place the third week in June.