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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Virgil Stampede adds new safety and security measures
A mainstay in Niagara-on-the-Lake for more than 60 years, the Virgil Stampede is introducing new security measures after fights broke out during last year's Stampede. EVAN SAUNDERS/FILE PHOTO

After last year’s Virgil Stampede ended in fisticuffs and a police presence on the final evening, this year’s edition over the Victoria Day long weekend will see some changes to security protocols, but an event organizer says it will still offer fun for the whole family.

Guests will not be allowed to bring backpacks inside the fairgrounds and other bags will still be subject to security checks.

“This is just to make sure everyone is safe,” said Marcia Penner. “In today’s climate, we don’t want to take any chances.”

The final night of last year’s Stampede was marred by a number of fights among teenagers with some NOTL residents reporting on Facebook the use of pepper spray, a knife being dropped and even a mention of a gun.

Niagara Regional Police determined that no gun was actually seen or displayed.

“Every year the bigger kids come in and try to test the waters,” said Penner. “So we are just trying to nip that in the bud.”

Existing security measures such as no alcohol or drugs allowed on site are already in effect.

This year again there will be pre-event wristband sales for the price of $35 if purchased before the weekend. Sales are open now. If purchased at the gate, they will cost $45. 

The bracelets are good from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and can be bought online via the Stampede’s website at virgilstampede.ca or at Your Independent Grocer in Virgil.

The Stampede got its start as a neighbourhood-driven, fireworks-only exhibition almost 60 years ago.

In 1968, rides were added and the next year it became a two-day event.

Now, it is a three-day fair, culminating with Victoria Day fireworks on Monday. 

While it no longer has a horse show, growth over the years has turned it into a local and regional mainstay featuring food, music, skill competitions, family comedy and carnival shows, pony rides and the highly anticipated nickel sale raffle among other attractions.

“It is a great event,” said Penner.

“People have been coming for years. It brings the community together, and not just this community, it’s all over. There are thousands of people who come. People come from as far as Hamilton.”

Organized by the Virgil Business Association, every year the proceeds are returned to the community.

The first cheque was cut in 1967 with a donation to the Centennial Arena project, which officially opened the next year during the Stampede.

Since 1968, Penner said the fair has poured $2 million back into the community.

  • The Virgil Stampede will run this year from Saturday, May 18 through Monday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It ends Monday evening with the fireworks display at 9:30.

wright@niagaranow.com

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