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NEWCOMERS: After 41 years, 'old hippy' finally finds home in Newmarket

Settling in Newmarket is quite literally a dream come true for Swiss storyteller Christian Wehrli

This is first of a regular series, Newcomers, featuring the impressions and experiences of residents who are new to Newmarket. To share your story, send an email to debora@newmarkettoday.ca

Christian Wehrli doesn't just love Newmarket, he LOVES Newmarket and he's happy to tell anyone who listens just how much.

Wehrli, originally from Switzerland, had been to Canada many times over the course of a 41-year career in the music industry. He said he's always loved it and dreamed of settling here one day.

His impression of Newmarket, he said, is that it's as if a small piece of downtown Toronto was cut out and brought over.

In 2016, he arrived in Richmond Hill to begin work on a biography about a friend who founded a downtown Toronto record shop in 1969. During his stay, Wehrli said, he rediscovered his love for Canada.

"That was my idea just to come over and write that book and I fell in love with Canada again and thought 'I want to stay here for the rest of my life,'" the 66-year-old said. "It was a quick decision and I didn't regret it."

Wehrli, who describes himself on his website as "A Swiss storyteller in Canada," said he's always felt right at home in Canada because his open-mindedness and ideals mesh well with those of Canada and Canadians.

"Canadians are mostly friendly, open. As a nation, it's peaceful, a wide open country, it's just so many things to discover. The way of living, this multicultural idea and society, that's kind of me because I'm an old hippy."

While still living in Richmond Hill, Wehrli would bring all his Swiss visitors to Newmarket so they could discover what he loved so much about it.

"The first thing I did was bring them to Newmarket and they all go like 'wow, that's a good place to live' and I say 'I know!'"

In July 2019, Wehrli finally settled in Newmarket and from the minute he arrived, he knew he was home.

"My dream became a reality," he said. "As a big fan of Newmarket for years, I was thrilled to move into this beautiful and exciting town. It's a lovely town. Main Street is absolutely amazing, its small but it's got a lot of excitement."

Wehrli is a sociable, lively person who immediately took full advantage of all that Newmarket had to offer. He especially loved the free concerts at Riverwalk Commons and was thoroughly impressed, he said, the concerts were free for anyone to attend. He went to every one.

"It was always big fun for people to go there and have some drinks and just feel good about it to be with other people who have the same taste."

One of his favourite activities in Newmarket is walking the Tom Taylor Trail near his home. Wehrli said he's been able to meet so many people on his walks  and finds Newmarket to be "a very friendly society."

"It (Newmarket) fulfilled all the expectations I had about Canadians that started 41 years ago."

When the pandemic hit and lockdown came into effect, it was a blow and Wehrli missed the concerts and going to the movie theatre but being the social person he is, Wehrli and his fellow condo residents decided to create a newspaper for themselves so they could keep in touch and alleviate the feeling of being alone, something Wehrli said was very important.

The newspaper, distributed only among condo residents, is professionally printed and includes a lot about the history of Newmarket — something Wehrli has taken an interest in.

Though the pandemic has been tough, Wehrli's love for his adopted country hasn't waned. He has fond memories of Switzerland but hopes to eventually become a Canadian citizen and has no plans to leave Newmarket. .

"I broke up with Switzerland," he said, "but we're still friends."

Now that things have reopened, Wehrli can once again be found on Main, at the movies, and at a concert or two this summer.

"Newmarket has a heart and you can see it and feel it. And I can prove it every day."

 



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