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Saturday, October 1, 2022
Return of the Festivals: NOTL’s much-loved summer events return
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It’s the year of the return of the festivals and Niagara-on-the-Lake organizations are gearing up to bring them back with a splash.

The Lake Report has confirmed this year’s Virgil Stampede and fruit festivals are a go. The Kinsmen Show and Shine car show and barbecue also will be back, as well as the Festival Market at Grace United Church and two major events by the NOTL Museum.

The Stampede strikes back

The Virgil Stampede is the first on the roster, on the May 24 long weekend.

Things will be a little different this year, said Richard Wall, president of the Virgil Business Association, which hosts the fair.

Indoor activities like the nickel sale and model planes will be postponed this year, just to be safe in case there are additional pandemic restrictions that come forward, he said.

Some other activities like the miniature horse show won’t be happening simply because of time constraints.

But the main attractions will remain the same he said, with midway rides, food stands and the Monday fireworks show.

Wall said he “sensed a lot of excitement” for the stampede at the association’s first in-person meeting in two years.

He said he imagines a lot of people are looking forward to getting back out and suspects it could make for a “really exceptional year” for the fair.

He said the goal is to keep the costs low for families, too, and not raise prices.

A new hope for fruit fests

The Strawberry Festival is the first of the fruit festivals and is planned for June 18 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Julie Hunter, chair of the festival, said it’s exciting to be getting back to the tradition.

While things still need to be “fine tuned,” most of the highlights of the festival should be there this year, including the strawberry sale, book sale, strawberry crepes and barbecue.

The church might scale back the live entertainment this year and there was no time to prepare the popular meat pies in time for the sale, since church members were unable to meet indoors to cook them over the winter.

Up next is the Cherry Festival on July 9, hosted by St. Mark’s Anglican Church. Andrea Douglas, a warden of St. Mark’s, said everyone is looking forward to getting back to the annual celebration.

The church had been watching closely to see if provincial and diocese limitations on events would be eased and now that they have, it’s “full speed ahead,” she said.

“The entire parish is excited and happy to be able to hold the Cherry Festival again, after a two-year absence. It’s not only a big event for our church community, but for the larger community,” Douglas said.

Personally, she said, it’s “a feeling of relief and happiness that some things that I found personally very fulfilling and rewarding and that other people enjoyed so much can resume.”

The festival will be similar to previous years, with a jewelry sale and barbecue. The popular cherry pies and cherry jams will also return.

Anyone interested in donating to the jewelry sale can contact the church to drop off donations.

The Peach Festival is the third major fruit harvest celebration, with plans for the festival to go ahead on Saturday, Aug. 13.

The festival is typically a two-day celebration, with the first day operated by the NOTL Chamber of Commerce and the second day hosted by St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

Nicole Cripps, the chamber’s events manager, said the chamber portion of the event will see a return of festival favourites that take over Queen Street for a day.

“I can’t wait,” Cripps said. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic year. I’ve already booked the Toronto All-Star Big Band for it, so they’re looking forward to returning and I know the farmers will be looking forward to coming out on the street and selling their peaches.”

She said the chamber would be keeping an eye on government restrictions on gatherings, but she is hopeful the event will run as planned.

She noted the popular Shades of Summer dinner is scheduled for the following day and that tickets for it likely will go on sale in June.

St. Vincent de Paul will be holding its portion Sunday, August 14, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the church grounds located at 73 Picton St.

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The rise of the car show

The Kinsmen Show and Shine car show is planned for Aug. 14, said past-president Ken Slingerland.

The show typically takes over a portion of the Commons near the Kinsmen hall for two days, as NOTLers cruise over to show off their vehicles, new and old.

Grace Festival Market

The Grace United Church Festival Market is also planned to return Sept. 3, said church member and event organizer John Sayers.

“As we stand firmly in mid-air with COVID risks still unpredictable, from this distance it looks as though we will have a festival on Labour Day,” he said.

A big part of the festival is the book sale and jam sale.

Sayers said the church has already had two personal libraries donated and members David Greaves and Heinz Probst “have been working on crafting jars of heavenly (so to speak) jams, jellies, marmalades and sauces since the last sale.”

The museum awakens

The NOTL Museum is planning a whole bunch of events this year, with its two major festivals being the “Past is Present Heritage Festival” on Aug. 1 and the return of Niagara Polo on Sept. 10.

The Heritage Festival will feature historical interpreters and demonstrators, treasures and ephemera sales, free admission to the museum, kids programming and food, said Sarah Kaufman, managing director of the museum.

Niagara Polo will include polo games on the Commons, food and vendors, the popular divot stomp and entertainment, Kaufman said.

The museum’s popular “Tiny Museum” mobile exhibit will also be at both events, she said.

“We are really looking forward to hosting events again this year. The Heritage Festival was full of visitors last year and I suspect it will be the same, if not more, this year as everyone is becoming more comfortable with socializing in public,” Kaufman said.

“We have missed Niagara Polo for a few years now and we know how much the community enjoys seeing the polo matches in their community,” she said.

“We can’t wait to get out and enjoy a day on the Commons with friends and marvel at the strength and skills of our four-legged friends.”