It's been 52 years since a neighbourhood fireworks display for locals grew to become the Virgil Stampede, now a three-day event that draws thousands to one of the most successful family events in the region.
Its enduring popularity is evident in the numbers, said Virgil Business Association president Richard Wall.
And although the final numbers aren't in, it appeared to be one of the best-attended events yet, he said.
The weather co-operated two of the three days — Saturday's weather forecast scared people away, said Wall — but Sunday and Monday the grounds were packed, the rides were busy, and judging by the sales at the food booth, always a good measure of the turnout, those two days should have made up for poor showing Saturday.
The decision to open Sundays about five or six years ago is proven to be a wise one with weekends like this year – a three-day event can make up for one poor weather day, said Wall. And people seem to be getting used to the idea that Sunday is a good day to come to the stampede.
“I would say overall, based on the traffic Sunday and Monday, this year's event would be up there with one of the best years ever.”
The outdoor market, new this year, was cancelled Saturday, but from those Wall spoke to the rest of the weekend, the feedback was mostly positive, unlike attempts at indoor markets in the arena in previous years, he said.
Saturday's demolition derby managed to pack the bleachers despite the weather, and with more heats and more cars to watch than previous years, “a lot of people were saying it was the best show yet. And because of the rain, there was mud flying into the stands, which apparently the kids thought was pretty cool.”
The organizers of Monday's miniature horse show were also delighted with the turnout – more horses registered mean the show went throughout the day, wrapping up at 5 p.m.
The food booth was so busy at the end of the day Monday, after serving to the fireworks audience, “there was one bag of french fries left and some onion rings. You can't get much closer than that. And you couldn't move through the crowd. It was a packed house, and a great show.”
Wall, whose father Dave was the president of the VBA in the early years of the stampede, can see the continuity of three generations both helping out and attending the stampede.
And after a skirmish last year on the grounds that made the VBA decide to have police on site, the event ran smoothly with “just a few minor issues that were dealt with,” he said.
In the decades since the first stampede, when proceeds went to help fund the first arena at the sports park, the VBA has raised more than $1.2 million to put back into the community. This year money is being put aside to support the concept of a pump track for cyclists and skateboarders, which is still in the early stages of discussion as an addition to the Virgil sports park.