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Friday, April 19, 2024
Hindsight 2020: The year in review



The year 2020 was an unforgettably forgettable one as the lives of literally every person on the planet were changed in some way.

It already has been well-documented, here and elsewhere, but without the unselfish work, bravery and positive attitudes of front-line workers everywhere, society’s already frayed fabric no doubt would have unravelled.

So, The Lake Report thanks all those front-line workers: in hospitals and clinics, pharmacies and medical centres, all our emergency services, grocery stores, essential retailers and service providers, plus the hundreds of volunteers here in Niagara-on-the-Lake (and millions around the world) who stepped up, made a difference and helped their community get through COVID-19, so far.

YOU are our Newsmakers of the Year – and we salute you, one and all. Literally, we could not have done it without you.

While the pandemic was the big news of 2020, many other events and people made headlines. Here are a few of the highlights:

Jan. 9 edition – Julia Buxton-Cox launches NOTL’s Buy Nothing Project via Facebook, a place to find and swap goods and services at no cost.

A Hamilton woman is charged with assault and uttering threats after making racist comments against an Asian woman over a parking lot incident on Boxing Day at the NOTL outlet mall. In July, charges against Patricia Zammit were dropped after she accepted a peace bond and acknowledged her wrongful behaviour.

NOTLers celebrate and help out one another: Mark Brown donates ski jackets to migrant workers, Santa raises more than $3,000 for palliative care, town crier Thomas Pekar rings in the new year, the Icewine Festival returns and about 200 people attend the Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Levee.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and developer Benny Marotta face off in court over the historic designation of the Rand Estate. Dozens of residents flock to the courthouse in St. Catharines to support the case against Marotta’s Solmar Development Corp.

Jan. 16 – Marotta loses in court but says he might appeal Justice Linda Walters’ ruling. A few weeks later he follows through and files an appeal.

The town approves, in principle, a 4 per cent hotel tax. But a week later, councillors backtrack.

Operators of short-term rentals in NOTL tell councillors they are not happy with plans to increase licensing fees and make changes to the bylaw governing rentals.

The Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre begins its biggest renovation project in 25 years, with plans to provide improved accessibility and enhanced art programs for a wider and more diverse audience.

Sean Kennedy is named the new president of Niagara College, succeeding Dan Patterson.

Philanthropist Gerry Kowalchuk donates up to $250,000 to fund improvements to the gateway to NOTL at Queen and Mississagua streets.

Robin Foster, Lisa Allen, Ginny Green, Pim Earl and Chris Earl carry on the NOTL Golf Club tradition of playing a few holes on New Year’s Day. They were the first of a few dozen hearty souls out on Jan. 1, 2020.

Niagara College students brave chilly temperatures to bring in some late-harvest grapes. But it wasn’t quite cold enough yet for icewine grapes to be harvested.

Jan. 23 – As usual (except in 2020), large crowds flock to the annual Icewine Festival and Icewine Village on Queen Street.

Developer Rainer Hummel launches a $500,000 lawsuit against the Town of NOTL over a moratorium on development in Old Town.

Town council approves the 2020 budget and an 8.62 per cent tax increase, hiking the average homeowner’s tax bill by $92.

Protesting provincial cuts to education, teachers at St. Michael Catholic Elementary School stage a one-day strike, one of dozens of rotating walkouts that occurred earlier this year in reaction to moves by the Doug Ford government.

Cannabis company Canopy Growth donates $5,000 to Newark Neighbours and the NOTL Minor Hockey Referees Association in memory of hockey player “Mikey” Labonte.

The Welland Canal is drained for another winter season and our story and photos take you behind the scenes to explain how they “pull the plug” on all that water.

Jan. 30 – Parking on Queen Street has been a headache forever. But visitors, residents and business operators have some ideas, including: more parking lots, more free spots, better signage, longer parking periods, a mobile app, two-storey parking garages tucked into nooks off Queen Street, special permits for downtown workers, shuttle buses from outside Old Town.

The Lake Report provides an exclusive look at developer Benny Marotta’s plans for a hotel on the Rand Estate.

Teachers from Crossroads and St. Davids public schools take their turn on the picket line to protest actions by the provincial government.

History Unveiled writer Denise Ascenzo takes an in-depth look at the NOTL Legion’s history in the modern era.

Feb. 6 – A testy debate ensues at NOTL council over how involved politicians should be in a “service review” being conducted by consulting firm Deloitte. Clare Cameron’s request for an interim report, which council could then suggest revisions to, is defeated.

In an exclusive op-ed, Regional Coun. Gary Zalepa urges a major restructuring of taxation policies at all levels of government to make Canada more competitive.

In response to The Lake Report’s story on Queen Street parking problems, councillors acknowledge the issue is a major concern but say there is no quick and easy fix.

The NOTL Public Library’s monthly Repair Café fixes everything from children’s toys cassette players and toaster ovens.

Feb. 13 – It’s true, seniors can enjoy sex and love late in life, says columnist Dr. William Brown.

A Region of Niagara official tells NOTL councillors that picking up garbage every second week, starting in October, doesn’t amount to a reduction in service.

The town launches a $5-million campaign to help replace the St. Davids community pool. The COVID-19 pandemic keeps the pool closed all summer. Then, in September, the town was refused a major federal-provincial grant of $4.7 million for the project, putting plans in jeopardy. The town still hopes to repair and reopen the pool in 2021.

Niagara College partners with Canopy Growth to take over operation of the former Coyote’s Run vineyard. The annual leasing cost to the college: $10.

Feb. 20 – The Lake Report unveils the nominees for the first-ever NOTL’s Choice awards, reader-nominated businesses that excel in our community. Winners will be voted on by readers.

Longtime NOTL volunteer firefighter Darren Trostenko is named as one of two deputy fire chiefs. Among Trostenko’s duties will be overseeing operations, professional development and training. He’ll work alongside current deputy Jay Plato.

Behind the scenes at the hugely popular Legion fish fry. Every Thursday, with military efficiency, the NOTL Legion feeds hundreds of hungry patrons.

Feb. 27 – At the urging of young climate activists Hazel Norris and Molly Shara, the Town of NOTL declares we are facing a climate emergency.

A $2 sock fundraiser led by Avondale Food Stores is an overwhelming success, Virgil store manager Kathy Brown says.

The Eco Warriors Club at Royal Oak school declares war on coffee cups and supplies teaching staff with reusable mugs.

The Lake Report launches a new series called Innovation in Wine Country. Writer Jill Troyer looks at how Niagara growers are staying on the leading edge of innovation. Part 1: Using lasers to deter birds from attacking crops.

March 5 – Who really won the War of 1812? Well, it’s complicated, History Unveiled writer Denise Ascenzo says.

Led by Reif Estate Winery, more than a dozen NOTL wineries team up to collect food for the Newark Neighbours food bank.

Joe Pillitteri and Lakeview Vineyard Equipment are leaders in their field. Part 2 of our Innovation in Wine Country series.

Provincial and regional representatives unveil the latest on plans for a major redesign of the Glendale exit from the QEW. The multi-phase project will incorporate what is called a diverging diamond interchange.

March 12 ­– The Shaw Festival has a hugely successful year and posts a surplus of more than $500,000 thanks to increased attendance and record high revenue from donor gifts.

With the reopening of the Mewburn Road bridge, connecting Niagara Falls to NOTL, a serious car crash at York Road and Concesssion 6 is raising new safety concerns. In the latest incident, Angelo Recine’s car was T-boned by a vehicle that ran a stop sign. Later, council reduces speed limits in the area.

Good news: Your municipal taxes will rise but the town says NOTL water rates will not increase for 2020.

The Spirit of Niagara Awards celebrate the people who help shape our community, with a ceremony at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids.

Leslie Moulson reports that the NOTL Sparks, the youngest Girl Guides organization, commemorated World thinking Day by learning the meaning of culture and celebrating diversity.


March 19 – An era of uncertainty and the reality of COVID-19 hits home: The border closes and that means big problems for Niagara farmers, town offices close and NOTL businesses adapt to curbside pickup, takeout only or just close up – for now.

The Lake Report devotes almost its entire edition – the first of many such Special Editions over the next several months – to news and information to help readers understand what is happening in NOTL.

The town enacts an emergency bylaw that allows the mayor and chief administrator to make key decisions without council’s prior approval. That will lead to some controversy in the months to come.

Foreshadowing things to come, the Shaw Festival cancels the first month of its 2020 season, which was due to launch April 2.

Like many Canadians, Gail Kendall finds herself stuck in Bali and trying to return home, as recommended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The pandemic slams the door on a Niagara hockey team’s dream season. The Niagara North Stars minor midget AAA team won the right to compete in the prestigious OHL Cup showcase tournament. And then the tourney was cancelled.

March 26 – Despite numerous other restrictions, the federal government allows seasonal workers with valid visas to come to Canada to help the agricultural industry.

With a lot of misinformation and confusion about COVID, columnist Dr. William Brown explains how the virus attacks humans.

Queen Street, usually bustling with activity, is marked by dozens of stores with signs announcing closures due to COVID-19. The town waives parking fees and other for those who don’t pay levies on time.

Fire Chief Nick Ruller and his department make plans for dealing with whatever problems the pandemic brings.

NOTLers Scott Robinson and Chelsea Widdicombe are stranded in Peru and hoping for a flight home. It will take a while and a lot of effort and ingenuity on their part and on their families’ here in Canada, but weeks later, they finally make it back.

The pandemic prompted mass cancellations of Easter flower orders and that left growers and sellers with a whole lot of plants on hand.

April 2 – NOTL resident Margot Hickson returns from a memorable vacation to New Zealand and southeast Asia – and tests positive for the virus. Her husband Ian Reece is showing some symptoms but ultimately tested negative.

The province gives the town special powers to issue fines for anyone not following emergency orders regarding business closings, sizes of gatherings or unfair pricing of essential goods.

In one of the first of many statements and videos, Lord Mayor Betty Disero begs people to stay home and to embrace physical distancing. #StayHomeNOTL becomes an ongoing message.

This is history: The NOTL Museum encourages residents to keep a journal and write about live in the pandemic. Because this really is historic.

Several NOTL businesses, including Simpson’s Pharmacy, One Earth and Limited Distillery, are producing hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

NOTL home chef Alex Hicks wins $10,000 and notoriety in the Food Network’s “Wall of Chefs” show competition.

April 9 – Migrant farm workers arrive at farms in NOTL and after a mandatory 14-day quarantine they will be able to start helping out.

A few NOTL business operators, fearful about COVID spreading in the community, have barred migrant workers from their stores. That amounts to racial profiling, a Brock professor says.

The Virgil Stampede is yet another casualty of COVID. And the Shaw Festival, having cancelled all shows up till June 30, warns it is nearing the financial breaking point.

Stratus Vineyard reinvents how it operates: Mother Nature can’t wait, so retail and sales staff are out in the vineyards, cutting and pruning vines until farm workers have passed their isolation period.

The NOTL Public Library moves aggressively online with a whole month of activities – for all ages.

Our columnist, Dr. William Brown, says if he becomes breathless due to COVID, he wants no heroic measures taken. And he says everyone should let their loved ones know what their own preferences are.

Fran Boot, Donna Feddema, Julia Buxton-Cox and nearly 60 others are helping front-line workers by making masks for them.

April 16 – “Smile stones,” bearing messages of hope and positivity in the middle of the pandemic, mysteriously appear throughout a NOTL neighbourhood.

NOTL’s major summertime events – the strawberry, cherry and peach festivals – are all cancelled due to COVID-19. And for the first time in 42 years, the NOTL Soccer Club delays the start of its season. Eventually, the season is cancelled.

In response to our story about allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers, NOTL resident Yvonne Bredow writes about her experiences as a Black woman in town.

After a lot of uncertainty, and $3,500, Connor Crickmore is home from Nepal after the Canadian government co-ordinated an evacuation flight for him and about 200 others.

With an abundance of unsold Easter chocolate, stores at the NOTL Outlet Collection mall donated the treats and firefighters Brad Disher and Colin Hunter distributed it all to front-line staff and farm workers.

April 23 – Erin Jarvis is one of three nurse practitioners helping keep NOTLers safe during the pandemic. We profile her in the first part of a series. Next are Jane Carson and Elise Suhadolc.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero wants to know how many people in NOTL have COVID. But the Region of Niagara won’t say, citing privacy concerns. So it only publishes region-wide statistics. The region eventually relents, but it still lists cases per 10,000 population, rather than issuing easy-to-understand total patient numbers.

Thirty wardrobe staff at the Shaw Festival use their professional skills to produce masks and gowns for health care workers.

Town worker Tara Druzina’s planning department job shifts to community outreach due to the pandemic and she initiated a pen pal program for residents of long-term care homes. It’s been a great success.

April 30 – Struggling to find ways to keep tourists away, the town could ban parking on Queen Street in Old Town, interim CAO Sheldon Randall says.

After another weekend of unwanted visitors, Lord Mayor Betty Disero makes a video plea to tourists to stay away from NOTL.

Given the town’s concerns about the influx of visitors, The Lake Report hit the streets to find out just who is coming to town. Most were from the Greater Toronto Area.

Vintage Hotels owner Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy advocate, is arrested in Hong Kong. Months later, the billionaire’s problems with the Chinese government continue as authorities crack down on dissent. Even today, months later, his battles with the Chinese authorities drag on as arrests and detentions continue.

NOTL ‘mask trees’ raise $3,000 for shelters in Niagara.

May 7 – Parking was indeed banned in Old Town but more than 10,000 cars entered the area the previous weekend, the town says. And 19 were towed, 113 ticketed and eight emergency order fines issued.

Parking lots owned by the Niagara Parks Commission are packed most weekends and the agency says it has no plans to close the lots to deter visitors.

The Lake Report’s pandemic survey finds NOTLers saying they are following the rules but only 25 per cent say they always wear a mask when out. As the pandemic continues, it is rare in NOTL to see someone without a mask on.

Mother’s Day looms and garden centres get the green light to reopen.

House sales in Niagara dropped 62 per cent in April compared to a year earlier, but realtors are confident of a rebound.

May 14 – Some grape growers’ contracts with wineries have not been renewed. It’s not all COVID-related, but the trend is sparking concerns.

Coun. Norm Arsenault launches a campaign to have people fly the NOTL flag. He needs at least 200 orders to make it happen. NOTLers order more than 400 flags and the blue ensign now is proudly flown all over town.

Letter writers take the town to task for its hardline “Gestapo” tactics, parking ban and closing washrooms.

Confounded with how to deal with a continued influx of tourists, the town’s emergency operations control group decides to reopen public washrooms and lift the short-lived parking ban.

May 21 – Despite the pandemic, various cost savings mean the town has a financial surplus at the moment. But that could change quickly, the town treasurer warns.

Long lines of physically distanced visitors are seen outside public washrooms as thousands of tourists visited NOTL on the Victoria Day long weekend.

The NOTL Farmers’ Market is set to reopen for the summer season, but with restrictions.

May 28 – Finally, the Region of Niagara relents and reveals how many COVID cases each municipality has had. In NOTL, so far: 21.

In early May, some 10,000 cars entered Old Town on the weekend. The weekend after Victoria Day saw 22,513 vehicles drive into downtown, the town says.

The town considers allowing restaurants to use part of the sidewalk for patios. Once approved, the idea is a big hit with everyone.

June 4 – At 7:30 nightly since March 19 neighbours in The Village development gather outside to make noise, sing and play music in tribute to front-line and health care workers.

The Shaw Festival shift its focus to education and outreach as live shows are cancelled until at least Aug. 1.

NOTL resident Laurie Stratton says a town bylaw officer got “aggressive” after he complained about the officer “aggressively speeding.”

After months of COVID restrictions, NOTL wineries prepare to welcome back visitors.

Thanks to the generosity of landlord Lloyd Redekopp, Virgil’s Yellow Door Theatre Project avoids closing and is now hosting classes online via Zoom.

June 11 – Yvonne Bredow, who documented her racism experiences in The Lake Report, leads an anti-racism rally through Old Town.

Coun. Stuart McCormack draws criticism for being the only council member to not sign a letter condemning racism.

After enduring three years of animal rights protests, the Sentineals ask the province to include protection for carriage operators in new legislation.

NOTL real estate sales bounce back in a big way and realtors like Chris Bowron think the trend will continue.

June 18 – NOTL downtown businesses urge the town to provide financial relief measures, including instituting a heritage tax rebate program and free parking or make Queen Street a pedestrian mall.

In the wake of an advocacy group’s report saying migrant farm workers are being exploited by farmers, Erwin Wiens urges workers to speak up if bosses are not playing by the rules.

The Gaio family auditions for a spot on Family Feud Canada. And they make it!

Police use NOTL as a training ground for new canine recruits.

June 25 – The town repeals its freeze on urban development in Old Town, which sparked at least one lawsuit, from developer Rainer Hummel.

Some retailers want Queen Street closed to traffic, but the town’s chief administrator says the move could cause other problems, like traffic moving onto residential side streets.

After a strong push from business owners, the town forms a committee to develop a heritage tax rebate program.

The second wave of COVID-19 could be worse than the first, columnist Dr. William Brown rightly predicts.

July 3 – Weeks after being loudly criticized by some for not supporting a town statement decrying racism, Coun. Stuart McCormack resigns. He said he disagreed with the “direction council is taking.” Sandra O’Connor is later appointed to fill his seat.

The town closes Queen Street to traffic on July 1 as part of an experiment to see what works best for businesses and visitors alike. But many are upset with town signs saying “Road Closed” instead of telling visitors the street was “open for walking.”

Even a pandemic doesn’t deter NOTLers from celebrating Canada Day in socially distanced style. https://www.niagaranow.com/news.phtml/4094-covid-doesnt-deter-canada-day-celebrations

The Pillar and Post marks a half-century in operation.

July 9 – The town’s chief administrator and his family help rescue a couple tossed into the Niagara River.

An urban NOTL barnyard hosts private tours to showcase the farm’s nearly 500 animals.

A service review by consultants from Deloitte suggests $1 million in savings and new revenue for the town. But it means higher parking and user fees.

A group calling itself Voters for Sustainable Tourism advocates for promoting tourism in a way that doesn’t degrade the quality of life for residents. “Overtourism” is not healthy, the group says.

July 16 – The Queen Street pedestrian mall experiment doesn’t last long. Council changes gears and opens the street to traffic but widens walkways and creates more space for social distancing.

Town council debates grow a bit testy as members discuss making face masks mandatory. Ultimately, the issue is moot as the Region of Niagara opts to make masks compulsory.

Almost daily during the pandemic, Trudy Enns plays the recorder outside her mom Betty’s window as she visits her at Pleasant Manor.

NOTL pharmacist Sean Simpson receives the Anita Robertson Legacy Award for his outstanding community service.

Unable to stage concerts before a live audience, Music Niagara launches a wholly online season with its At Home series.

July 23 – “Life was pretty darn good,” and then Eric VanNoort’s epileptic seizures started. His mother Sharon tells the story.

E. coli levels at NOTL’s Queen’s Royal Beach, home of the iconic gazebo, have exceeded allowable limits twice so far this summer. But the results are not available to the public so people have no way of know if the water is dangerous.

Food truck operator Lorenzo Lucchetta is ordered to cease operations for violating pandemic rules. He says he’s just trying to survive.

COVID has taken a major toll on NOTL charities. Tim Taylor takes an in-depth look at how they are battling to survive.

The ever-popular Lion Burgers will return to the St. Davids Lions Club on July 31 with an innovative drive-thru dinner format.

July 30 – The COVID pandemic could cost NOTL businesses $78 million over the next year, according to a survey of 181 businesses conducted by Niagara Economic Development.

NOTL’s emergency control group, empowered to make quick decisions without council approval, prompts some tense debate at council. But a move to rescind its controversial power is defeated.

Finally, after persistent lobbying by Dock Area residents, especially engineer Ron Simkus, the town allocates $300,000 to finish a project to protect the shoreline near Ball’s Beach Parkette. The result, completed later in the year, is a beautiful and effective flood barrier.

After questions from The Lake Report, the town starts posting web advisories on water-quality conditions at Queen’s Royal Beach.

Aug. 6 – Entrepreneur and community builder Liz Hawley, who together with her husband John built The Village development in NOTL, is killed in a head-on collision on Niagara Stone Road.

Canadian fast-food franchises Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet unveil plans to open outlets in Virgil.

Almost 90 per cent of NOTL residents support mandatory face masks, according to a survey of readers of The Lake Report.

Carriage operators in NOTL express frustration with lack of police action against animal rights protesters.

Aug. 13 – Dangerous blue-green algae is suspected in the sudden death of a dog that was swimming in Lake Ontario.

After concerns from residents, Coun. Clare Cameron suggests "putting the brakes” on Virgil’s new skatepark, now under construction.

James Grigjanis-Meusel, 26, sinks a four-foot putt on the final hole to win the NOTL Golf Club’s open championship by one shot over defending champ Joe Doria. Yolanda Henry wins the women’s open title, for the second time.

Proposed changes to NOTL’s noise bylaw are scrapped after a major petition, national news coverage and a satirical piece ridiculed the idea.

Aug. 20 – Vandals target the old Virgil public school, breaking windows and causing about $1,000 in damage. Six boys ages 14 to 16 are cautioned by police but not charged.

Architecture expert Brian Marshall oversees restoration of the historic Breakenridge house at 240 Centre St. in NOTL for owner Lloyd Kelly, a lawyer from Texas.

Threats and criminal behaviour involving carriage protests in NOTL will not be tolerated, a senior police officer warns.

The town receives $500,000 from the province to help with losses and costs incurred during the pandemic.

Aug. 27 – Pro- and anti-carriage groups descend on downtown NOTL and go head-to-head to express their views.

Aubrey Blake Clements, accused in the fatal crash that killed Liz Hawley, was impaired by drugs, police allege. Clements never gets his day in court as he dies unexpectedly at age 32 in late November.

The federal government contributes $500,000 to boost NOTL tourism and another $400,000 to help the Shaw Festival, which has had to cancel its entire season.

Former councillor Dennis Dick dies of cancer at age 67. The dedicated volunteer “will be deeply missed,” the town says.

Sept. 3 – A Special Edition, featuring the winners of the inaugural NOTL’s Choice Awards, voted on by more than 3,000 readers.

In an effort to minimize disruption by protesters, the town forces carriage operators to move to Byron Street from their normal spot at King and Queen.

As COVID restrictions continue to ease, the town says the community centre will reopen.

A new boardwalk at Fort Mississauga will connect walkers to the lakefront and the historic remnants.

Sept. 10 – A new basketball court in the Glendale area is a slam dunk winner with the community.

Residents and neighbours are angry after the Town of NOTL allowed more than two dozen healthy trees to be chopped down along the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.

Spurred by Eric VanNoort’s battle with epilepsy, VanNoort Florists raises $13,000 for research into the disorder.

Retired teachers offer some back-to-school lessons for education in the COVID era.

Sept. 17 – The Virgil skatepark opens and is an instant hit with young users who flock to it.

Joseph Pohorly, a teacher, engineer, farmer and founder of Joseph’s Estates Wines, among many other accomplishments, dies at age 88.

With a small, socially distanced ceremony at the cenotaph, the anniversary of 9/11 is remembered in NOTL.

A series of Music Niagara virtual concerts is planned to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

Sept. 24 – A NOTL Hydro worker who stole more than $250,000 from the utility is fired and police are called in to investigate.

The annual Terry Fox Run, a virtual version this year, raises $30,000 in NOTL.

The Legion fish fry resumes with drive-through delivery and it sells out on opening night.

Queenston Mile winery draws international attention after teaming up with Taco Bell to pair Jalapeno Noir with its newest menu item.

Oct. 1 – Bell Canada contractors begin excavation work to bring the Fibe network to town.

Niagara Region endorses the Glendale District Plan, which will bring up to 15,000 people to the neighbourhood when completed.

After 25 years, hairdresser Fernando Spadafora is closing his popular NOTL salon and retiring.

NOTL council meetings are lonnnnnng, twice as long as some other Niagara municipalities. Councillors debate ways to reduce meetings but opt not to change the schedule for 2021.

Oct. 8 – A great summer means great wines and Niagara grape growers expect tremendous vintages from the 2020 crop.

Discarded masks and gloves are a unique symptom of COVID, environmental columnist Kyra Simone says.

Pharmacies in NOTL prepare to give out hundreds of flu shots, including drive-through clinics.

How Shaw Festival CEO Tim Jennings steered the company through the COVID minefield.

Oct. 15 – Chautauqua residents want the town to help reduce traffic from areas narrow streets.

Writer Jill Troyer takes readers behind the scenes of the annual grape harvest.

The traditional Christmas parade in NOTL is cancelled. But organizers come up with a novel concept – a drive-by parade.

Oct. 22 – Alternate-week garbage pickup starts and environmental columnist Kyra Simone has tips for how to save more and throw out less.

Mystery pumpkin deliveries to some NOTL residents by a Good Samaritan prompt smiles and thanks.

Restaurant owner Maria Mavridis’ idea for ensuring NOTL kids get Halloween goodies, despite the pandemic, mushrooms into 700 goodie bags thanks to donations from area businesses.

Starbucks in Old Town announces it is closing. No clear explanation, but many businesses are suffering during the pandemic. Good news: Budapest Bakery, home of the chimney cake, is expanding and moving into that space in February.

Oct. 29 – After three years of dealing with loud opposition to his plans, developer Benny Marotta puts two of the Rand Estate’s main properties on the market – for a whopping $19 million.

The town approves an extra $340,000 to help fund the $2 million expansion of the Niagara Nursery School.

NOTL Golf Club pros Billy Simkin and Ricky Watson are honoured by the Ontario PGA for their community work.

The Legion poppy campaign will go ahead despite pandemic restrictions. The goal is $20,000.

Nov. 5 – NOTL business landmark Mori Gardens is closing after the leased land on which it sits is bought by developer Benny Marotta.

Maya Webster, 9, continues her fight for diabetes research and is chosen as a delegate to the Juvenile Diabetes Kids for a Cure Lobby Day.

NOTL’s Rebecca van der Zalm competes in The Greatest Baker worldwide contest and makes it through the first few rounds.

As part of our Remembrance Day coverage, we write about the Legion’s Memory Project and Second World War veteran Lewis Lambert.

Nov. 12 – The large, formal Remembrance Day ceremony couldn’t be held, but NOTL did not forget. Residents spontaneously came out to honour veterans and a small online ceremony was held at the Legion.

NOTL wins six Niagara Biennial Design Awards, including one for The Village neighbourhood’s Luminaires candle lighting project.

Niagara’s chief medical officer warns that the region could face more COVID restrictions. He is soon proven right.

Silks Country Kitchen is more than just a breakfast purveyor and the family-owned restaurant celebrates 25 years in business.

Nov. 19 – Marnie Cluckie is named the town’s new chief administrator. She starts work on Dec. 9.

Active COVID cases in NOTL decline to just two but Niagara Region imposes new stricter controls, including no more than four people seated together in restaurants.

Bloom & Co. is about more than just the popular “NOTL” ball cap. The business is helping bring new life to St. Davids. Writer Tim Taylor tells their story.

The mayor says having child care available is crucial for the town to attract younger families and that is one reason council is spending another $340,000 on the expanded Niagara Nursery School.

Santa Claus has a special helper at the NOTL post office and she is helping him respond to children’s letters.

Nov. 26 – About 300 people get stuck in the community centre parking lot – as part of a drive-thru flu shot clinic.

Joan King is overwhelmed by the community’s generosity in helping fill Christmas stockings for every resident of NOTL’s long-term care homes.

A long list of volunteer firefighters, with a combined more than 280 years of service, are honoured by the town.

Dec. 3 – Our road test of NOTL’s new on-demand transit service shows it is a smooth and affordable option for getting around. For only $3 per trip.

Correspondent Ross Robinson says a hike to Woodend Conservation Authority is a welcome escape from COVID cabin fever.

The $53.8-million Glendale/QEW interchange project will begin soon and will substantially change that highway exit.

Vince Pillitteri, founder of Seaway Farms, is honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the Ontario Produce Marketing Association.

Dec. 10 – Spectacular photos of fabulous Christmas light displays around NOTL. And a guide on where to find them.

COVID vaccines won’t mean an immediate end to masks and restrictions, Dr. William Brown says.

Is Doug Ford trying to kill the Greenbelt? It seems so, says columnist David Israelson.

Christmas parade guru Bob Cheriton hangs ’em up after almost 20 years.

Dec. 17 – It’s our last print edition before the holidays: Days after complex brain surgery for epilepsy, Eric VanNoort is home recovering in time for Christmas.

Benny Marotta slaps the Town of NOTL with a $1 million lawsuit in a dispute over a small strip of land in St. Davids.

After much debate and division, the town alters its short-term rental bylaw, without the controversial “principal residence” rule.

NOTL wins the prestigious National Trust Prince of Wales Prize for its sustained commitment to heritage conservation.

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