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Niagara Falls
Friday, June 14, 2024
Dedicated volunteers make the Stampede go ’round again
Eve De Pencier high fives 7-year-old Cecilia and 4-year-old Niall Norton after their win at the balloon popping game. JULIA SACCO
Marcus Tsujinaka and Dory Fowler were the friendly faces at the food both on Sunday. JULIA SACCO
Katelyn Kreamer took orders at the burger booth on Sunday afternoon. JULIA SACCO

Pleasant weather graced the Niagara Peninsula last weekend, making for three days of sunshine at the Virgil Stampede.

Richard Wall, president of the Virgil Business Association, which organizes the annual carnival, said that while final numbers weren’t yet available, he suspects this may have been a record-breaking year. 

“It was a great weekend — I don’t know across the board — but one of our better years,” Wall told The Lake Report. 

More volunteers were involved this Stampede weekend, with an estimated 300 to 400 helping out, he added.

The majority of work to plan and run the Stampede is done by volunteers.

Among them was Petra Browning, daughter of a founding member of the Stampede, Siegfried Wiens.  

“I’ve been doing the Stampede since I was eight years old,” Browning said.

Her dad used to run the french fry booth, she explained, and while in elementary school she and her sister Angela would help him out every year. 

“We were always there until the end, but he always let us sneak out to watch the fireworks,” Browning said.

“My mom was home and we came home late and she put us right in the bathtub because we smelled like french fries.”

Browning became a member of the Virgil Business Association in 1988. During this year’s Stampede, she helped organize volunteers and lent a hand at the food stands on Sunday and Monday. 

Maintaining the family tradition, Petra’s son Sam and daughter Sienna also helped out at the burger stand.

Martin and Rita Mazza also volunteer together as a family.

Every year, Martin, owner of Italian Pizza and Subs, donates pizza and dough for pig ears.

This year, he prepped 125 pizzas and 528 pig ears for Stampede weekend. 

Along with that, the husband and wife duo work the french fry booth and stay on the final night to help with clean up and enjoy the fireworks. 

“My wife’s birthday is May 20, so she spent her birthday watching the fireworks,”  Mazza said.

“That’s my big joke: I always say, ‘Rita, I’m going to buy the best fireworks I can afford for your birthday today.’ ”

Wall extended a hearty thanks to Mazza, Browning and the hundreds of other volunteers who gave their time over the weekend. 

“Without those 300 or 400 volunteers, the Stampede would not happen,” he said.


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