Owen Sound (Canada 2006 Census population 21,753; UA population 22,649; CA population 32,259), the county seat of Grey County, is a city in south-western Ontario, Canada. Owen Sound is located at the mouth of the Sydenham River on an inlet of Georgian Bay also named Owen Sound.
Owen Sound is one of many cities in Ontario that are well known for receiving large amounts of snowfall because of a phenomenon known as lake effect snow.
Owen Sound Transit provides local bus service and specialized transportation for those unable to use the regular transit buses.
The city's downtown is located in a deep valley in the Niagara Escarpment.
This area of the upper Great Lakes was first formally surveyed in 1815 by William Fitzwilliam Owen and Lieutenant Henry W. Bayfield. The inlet was named "Owen's Sound" in honour of Admiral Sir Edward William Campbell Rich Owen, the explorer Owen's older brother.
The city of Owen Sound was originally known as Sydenham when it was first settled in 1841 by Charles Rankin. Prior to that the area had been inhabited by the Ojibway people. The city gained its current name in 1851 and was incorporated in 1857. For much of its history, Owen Sound was a major port city, known as the "Chicago of the North". Its location on Georgian Bay gave it access to the upper Great Lakes, and major rail lines moved cargo south from there. Port duties have declined dramatically since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway allowed shipping directly to the lower lakes and dramatically lowered costs compared to transshipment via Owen Sound. Being both the gateway to cottage country, and in the heart of Ontario's beef, apple and corn region, farming and tourism are still integral parts of the local economy.
At one time, Owen Sound's roaring seaport made it a rowdy town that was known to sailors as "Little Liverpool". Louis' Steakhouse, a popular upscale restaurant just outside of town, was opened by the Gavaris family in the 1880s and the historic building has changed hands several times since. It was originally a brothel where the madam would stand from its castle-like tower and watch the port for a ship to come in, and she would ready her prostitutes to excite the sailors. This reputation for vice and villainy, and the problems that came with it, caused the city to ban all drinking establishments for several decades. The city was "dry" until 1972.
One of the city's most famous sons was World War I flying ace and Victoria Cross winner William Avery "Billy" Bishop, Canada's leading pilot in the war and a veteran of Vimy Ridge. Bishop is also one of the few to have tangled with the Red Baron and survived, forcing the German pilot to retreat in a damaged aircraft. The Billy Bishop Regional Airport in the nearby Municipality of Meaford was named after him. His modest gravesite can be visited in the city's Greenwood Cemetery by those willing to take the time to locate the stone. His boyhood home is now a museum dedicated to his life and to Canada's aviation history. The town was also the home of NHL Hall-of-Fame goaltender Harry Lumley and the artist Tom Thomson (buried in the nearby village of Leith). Surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune, an avowed communist and pioneer of public medicine who gained notoriety in his innovative medical work with the Chinese army during the Second Sino-Japanese War is an alumnus of the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Legendary hockey broadcaster Bill Hewitt was once sports director of the local AM radio station, CFOS. Tommy Holmes, another Victoria Cross winner, was also from Owen Sound, and the city's armoury bears his name.
Owen Sound is home of SummerFolk Festival, a popular folk festival that takes place annually in August. Summerfolk attracts over 4,000 people annually to the shores of Georgian Bay, specifically Kelso Beach Park located on the West shore of Owen Sound. The festival has run continuously since 1977 and is nationally renowned for its music and craft excellence. Many performers who have played there have gone on to great commercial success, such as Leahy, Valdy, The Rankins and Natalie MacMaster. Other more commercial Canadian talent has also graced the stages of summerfolk over the years with the likes of Gowan, Rik Emmett, Blue Rodeo and Bruce Cockburn. One of Summerfolk's most famous and revered performers was Stan Rogers. The Main stage features a memorial to Stan and is dedicated to his memory.
In 2005 Owen Sound became the National Communities in Bloom champion in the cities of 20,001-50,000 category in Canada for its beauty, natural landscape, and strong sense of community.
The City of Owen Sound was a 2004 Cultural Capital of Canada and is home to a number of cultural events and facilities. It is home to the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival, held every August, and the Festival of Northern Lights, a large Christmas lights festival with many displays along the Sydenham River, downtown, and in Harrison Park, held from November until January every Winter, as well as A Novel Marathon, a special event fundraiser for the Adult Literacy Program of the Owen Sound and North Grey Public Library.
In 2007 Owen Sound celebrated its 150th year since incorporation, with special events throughout the year highlighted by the 10-day Homecoming 2007 celebrations July 27 to August 5.
Theatrically, the city's 400-seat Roxy Theatre is used for the city's professional live theatre performances, as well as some concerts. In the summer of 2007 the Roxy plays host for the first time to the long-running Georgian Theatre Festival.
The city is also home to a good number of museums and cultural attractions, including:
Some of the largest rainbow trout in the world have been caught in the sound, and annual fishing derbies draw large participation from all over North America.
Southwest of the city are two popular Ontario ski resorts, Talisman and Beaver Valley. The city and area also have numerous snowmobile trails.
Elite Hockey League team The Cardiff Devils are currently playing one of Owen Sounds most respected ice hockey talents, Jason Silverthorn, who is highly regarded and one of the top goal scorers of the current 2007/2008 season.