Across Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond, excitement is building among youngsters and teens anxious for the return of the Virgil Stampede.
The annual carnival is back for the Victoria Day long weekend for the first time in two years after pandemic closures restricted gatherings in 2020 and 2021.
It takes place Saturday through Monday at Virgil's Centennial Sports Park, outside the arena.
This year no parking is available on the grounds, but see Page 8 for a detailed parking plan for the weekend. There are five lots available at local businesses.
To mark the Stampede's triumphant return, The Lake Report partnered with the Virgil Business Association (the group that puts on the event) to give out four free all-day ride bracelets to kids 11 to 16. We asked what they love about the Stampede.
Congratulations to 15-year-old Maya Gazzard, one of our winners. Maya said her favourite things are the rides and the food.
“The reptile exhibit with snakes is great! I feel very happy and excited every time I go. It brings back good memories.”
Maya lost her father in 2020, a month before COVID-19 hit the world and forced people to stay home. She had attended the fair with him every year since she was three.
Her mother Lyndsay Gazzard said, “I've never seen her so excited that when she saw the signs for the Virgil Stampede this year.”
Corson Dick, 13, from Virgil, was another who wrote in: “I’m 13 years old and I go to Crossroads school. My favourite thing about the Virgil Stampede is the Salt and Pepper shaker,” he said.
His brother Landen said, “I am 11 years old and in Grade 5 at Crossroads Public School. Why I love the Stampede is because I get to spend time with my family and friends. I like the rides because they're so exciting and amazing. And I love seeing the reptiles.”
Peyton Leigh from Garrison Village said, “I am 14 years old and I can’t wait to go to the Virgil Stampede so I can spend time with my friends for the first time in three years! I'm looking forward to going on all the fun rides and to eating as much Stampede food as possible! Happy Victoria weekend!”
Lily Kanters, 12, from NOTL, said, “My favourite thing about the Virgil Stampede is how nice the workers are. I've gone every year and I've always felt very welcome and safe! I also really enjoy seeing all of the community get together and enjoy their time together. I'm really excited to get to spend time with my friends and have life finally working its way back to normal. It's been a long couple of years since we had the Virgil Stampede and I can't wait to enjoy this experience again with my family and community!”
Marty Sherlock, 15, from Chautauqua, loved attending the Stampede with her late father Shane. “Some of my favourite things about the Virgil Stampede are, of course, the rides and the games, but my favourite thing me and my Dad loved to do was watch the car derby and get our face paint done, we also loved watching the fireworks.”
Samantha Fretz, 16, said, “I love the Stampede because it's always a great time to spend a fun-filled day with friends, going on rides, eating cotton candy and playing carnival games! One of my favourite parts is seeing the animals that the reptile zoo brings!”
Maximus Fretz, 13, said, “I really enjoy going to the Stampede because me and my friends spend so much time together going on the rides. My most favourite ride is the Monkey Maze.”
Dean Velsink, 12, said, “I am looking forward to visiting the Stampede with my best friend John who has never gone. We want to go on the rides and I really hope the UFO ride is back this year. Also, I hope the tall slides are back and I'm looking forward to watching the fireworks.”
Our four draw winners in the bracelet contest are Maya Gazzard, Peyton Leigh, Landen Dick and Dean Velsink. Congratulations! And a big thank you to everyone who entered our draw. Stay tuned for next year!