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The town was founded in 1832. A post office was opened at Orono in July 1852 (postmaster: Joseph Tucker), when the village contained about 200 residents, and was named after Orono, Maine since the landscape seemed similar. The name for the post office is said to have been selected in 1852 when a visitor from Maine suggested Orono— the name of a town near Bangor, Maine. Declared a police village in 1854, the village remained small but vibrant. Significant to the village's growth in the opening decades of the twentieth century was the arrival of the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway in 1911. Farming was, and remains, an important economic activity in the area. Many motorists stopped in the town on their way from Lindsay to Newcastle before the 35/115 was built. The population is approximately 1800.
The Municipality of Clarington, in which Orono is located, was formed through the union of the Townships of Clarke and Darlington. Historically, Orono was the seat of government for Clarke Township. Now Clarington's fourth largest urban community, Orono is attractive to those who prefer a quiet, more rural lifestyle. The downtown consists of several small shops and a central town hall that are typical of villages throughout Ontario and the northern United States.
Most of Orono's youth residents who attend public school move onto The Pines and Clarke High School, located just off the Highway 115 on the border of Newcastle; both are among the oldest active Middle and Secondary schools in the area.
The Clarke Raiders, who are the local high school hockey team, are one of the best in the district. The team boasts AAA players, and players from the local clubs of Newcastle and Orono.
The Orono Leafs, the local CC hockey club, began in the late 1990s, and still have a popular program that is successful.
- Water-colour artist Arthur Drummond lived here in the middle of the 20th century. He was the first Canadian allowed into the American Watercolor Society.
- Orono is home to the former Canadian federal Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda.
- NHLer Bryan Bickell.
- Jonas Bonnetta, singer/songwriter of Evening Hymns
- Portland Pirates hockey player Matt Caruana
- Jeramy Dodds, award winning poet
Orono is the locale for some of the most enjoyable and popular yearly events in Clarington: the Orono Fair hosted by the Orono Agricultural Society the first weekend after Labour Day every year. The fair draws nearly 30,000 annually to celebrate the area's agricultural roots and features equestrian events, Livestock shows, School and Children's exhibits, Agricultural Education, Art Show Competition, Pie and Cake Auction, Woodworking, Cooking Demonstrations, Live Entertainment, Truck and Tractor Pulls, Horse Pulls, Demoition Derby and much more.Orono Bluegrass and Old Tyme Country Jamboree. Ontario Country Kennel Club Dog Show
This picturesque setting has attracted several filmmakers, and Orono's film credits include David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983), Patrick Lussier's Dracula 2000 and Jim Abrahams' ...First Do No Harm (1997 - TV), starring Meryl Streep. Furthermore, many of the town scenes from the CBC drama Wind at My Back (1996-2001) were filmed in downtown Orono.
With 82 antique stores in the downtown core of the village, Orono has become an antiquing Mecca, drawing people from far and wide to shop for antique and vintage treasures.
Notable landmarks include:
- The Village Bakeshop
- Orono Country Cafe
- Jungle Cat World
- Orono Fairgrounds
- The Apple Blossom Shop
- The Trillium Morgan Horse Farm
- Orono Forestry Station
- Ray's Barber Shop
- Orono Community Centre (Hockey Rink)
- Link Greenhouses
- Orono United Church
- The Fire Hall Bistro (located in the old fire hall that was built in 1896)
- Terrens Wellness Centre
- Orono Antique Market (located in the old Orono Armoury)
- Main Thru Church Antique Mall
- Patriot Antiques
Producing millions of evergreen seedlings annually for restoring Ontario's forests, the Orono Forestry Station (founded in 1922) was a prominent feature in the town until it closed down in 1996. The trails that snake throughout the station are walked daily be residents and geocachers alike.
At the centre of the village, residents and tourists enjoy the Sydney B. Rutherford Woods Walk Park, one of the many wooded areas in the village. Orono is surrounded by several pastoral hamlets, such as Kirby, Kendal, Newtonville, Leskard, Starkville; and larger towns like Newcastle and Bowmanville.
The nearby Brimacombe (Oshawa Ski Club), locally known as the Kirby ski hill, is a popular winter attraction, and has a dramatic landscape view of the Oak Ridges Moraine's rolling hills and farmlands at the top of the hill in the Summer season. The ski hill boasts 4 chairs, and one T-Bar. The club also provides 22 trails and two terrain parks for the paying public to use.
- McEvoy, Henry (1869). The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory. Robertson & Cook. p. 349.