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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Ross’s Ramblings: The characters of NOTL give town its character
NOTL resident and Canadian polo legend George "Foster" Dell, right, play-by-play announcing, during the 2018 chukkers. To the left in the photo is Shawna Butts, assistant curator for the NOTL Museum. Wendy Dell

We regularly hear well-meaning local people pontificating about protecting the character of our charming wee town.

Zoning density, lot coverage, square footage and more details. Can we agree that bricks and mortar and buildings don’t give Niagara-on-the-Lake its unique charm?

The characters who live here create the character.

Upcoming in early September, there will be two opportunities to observe many local characters “doing their things” as they continue to be active, working hard to provide interesting, fun fundraising gatherings for all of us.

On Friday, Sept. 9, on the shore of the Niagara River on the lawns of the Pumphouse Arts Centre, well over 200 energized fun lovers will bring their own meals and spend a most pleasant evening under the gaily strung overhead lights. And hopefully a moon – for the Moonlight Picnic.

There will be much socializing and dancing to the fabulous cover band Back in the Daze. For several years now, with a two-year hiatus due to the ongoing deadly global pandemic, this dance-a-thon has featured lotsa bare feet on the grass, as aging characters recall how to have fun.

All this to raise money and to increase awareness of NOTL’s artistic epicentre. Close by the imposing lighthouse and with a boat or two passing by on our river that apparently drains one-fifth of the land mass of North America. Who knew, eh?

The next day, Saturday, Sept. 10, our history-laden and expansive Commons will feature polo ponies galloping during the chukkers at Niagara Polo. This fundraiser for the NOTL Museum attracts fashionistas in festive Beau Chapeau hats, with dining options from fancy to basic barbeue.

Sashaying characters in effulgent attire, greeting one another and engaging in important small talk, all to enhance NOTL life.

A small group of local characters, including Rene Bertschi, who is more efficient than the Swiss Federal Railways, work hard to put on a great day for us lucky locals. Come out and stomp divots, and enjoy some Niagara wines and beers.

Gregarious polo announcer George Dell, a former polo player and longtime member of the Governor General’s Horse Guard, will again be on the microphone apprising spectators in real time of the subtleties of polo, a sport sometimes described as croquet on horseback.

Foster Hewitt was the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and his voice, intoning “Good evening hockey fans in Canada and the United States and Newfoundland,” and always just in time. “He shoots. He scores” was heard all over Canada.

As Foster Hewitt was to hockey, George Dell is to polo. Hence, I call my tennis and golf pal “Foster.”

But I ramble.

Allow me to mention a few of our townies who give NOTL its “character.”

Donald Coombe stylishly walking his dog, eager to chat with his sidewalk pals. Tony and Phil, proprietors of our local grocery stores, often seen in the aisles stocking and straightening and merchandising.

The good and efficient people who work at our post offices, almost never frustrated by our scribbling and lost keys.

Super achievers like Atis Bankas and his co-workers at Music Niagara, who will bring us some 40 eclectic concerts each year, in unique and classy venues that add to the occasions

Dr. Richard Merritt and Terry Boulton, who do the research and meet the deadlines to publish books describing the “not that long ago” history of NOTL.

What character and characters!

Daily we see members of the Shaw Festival company bicycling around town, often lost in thought as they somehow memorize their lines and choreography.

So many of our street names remind us of our past, which created the character of our town.

So, let me ramble to a conclusion by pointing out that we are so fortunate to share our town with so many diverse characters.

Think about enjoying the Moonlight Picnic at the Pumphouse and Niagara Polo on the Commons. Meet some of the characters who combine to give our town its character.