What I Think Is Special About Niagara Festivals

Some of the best friendships are the ones that make you think.

I’ve been doing my fair share of that lately, all thanks to a dear friend of mine.

During one of our recent catch-ups, I said I had just attended Pioneer Day in Jordan Village. I was telling her things like how it’s been running for fifty years, how much I liked the old schoolhouse, how the apple fritters are a must, and oh my goodness muskets can be loud. From there, we talked about some of the the other festivals I’ve been to this summer. Then she asked me, what exactly was it about these events that I liked? What made me attend them this year?

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You see, my friend knows me very well. Festivals usually mean crowds, and I’m not so great in crowds. I also don’t like the ensuing transportation and parking hassles that follow. I consider other practicalities too. For example, you know those portable washrooms? I really, really, really don’t like them. So much so, that I will NOT use them, unless it’s a critically dire situation. To this day, I have never had one of those critically dire situations, thank goodness.

Okay, I’m a bit weird, but that’s just my thing.

So my friend was curious. “What made you change your mind and go to these things Jo? How are the Niagara ones different? I never would have got you out to anything like this in Toronto.”

Her question stumped me for a bit.

Why am I so willing to do this now? Not only willing to do this, but enjoying it too?

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Some might say that the crowds aren’t as big out here, but that most certainly is not true. It’s estimated that over 300,000 people attend Canal Days in Port Colborne, and this year I was enjoying Canal Days right there along with them. And have you ever been to the Peach Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake? It’s absolutely packed with people. I don’t know the estimated numbers of attendees, but I’m sure they’re pretty darn high too

I had to think about my friend’s questions, and then I realized, I didn’t have words at that moment to explain it.

The only way I can describe it, is that it’s a feeling I get.

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When I go to these events here, there’s a definite impression. A vibe of some sort. Perhaps it’s a feeling of community. Shared history. A connection with other people through this shared history.

This is something I hadn’t experienced before. Like my friend said, if events like this happened in Toronto, I wouldn’t go cause of the whole crowd/parking/Port-A-Toilet thing. Yep, I repeat, I’m weird sometimes. But honestly, that’s only part of it. In those days, I was so caught up in my overscheduled-life-is-crazy-and-busy-and-stressful-and-I-don’t-have-time-ways. Days off back then were all about trying to relax and decompress – and the rigmarole I associated with attending an event in the city didn’t make me feel too relaxed.

However, my life is busy here too, especially during prime B&B season. So, yeah, how come I make the extra effort now?

Because I think there’s something special going on.

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One of the things I’ve loved about these festivals, is that I get some insight into the area – It’s roots, it’s foundations, and how that has contributed to what it is today. Was/Is this location a farming community? A town with a strong maritime history? A bustling spot with theatres, shops, and grand old homes? What about the people who lived here? Who settled the area originally? Who lives here now? How have things changed? Have the changes been good?

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Aside from all these thoughts percolating in my brain, I just love seeing all ages having a fun day out.

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There’s always good things to nibble on, activities, and often, historic sites to roam around.

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Some activities make me really appreciate the world I live in now. Look at this candle-making demonstration.

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I can’t even imagine how long it would take to do this. To make ONE candle. I’m much more appreciative now every time I casually flick on an electric light.

Or can an you envision what it would have been like to attend a one-room schoolhouse a hundred years ago?

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Check out all these rules below. Sweeping and dusting the classroom? Certainly wasn’t required in my day. And we never had to worry about washing our feet.

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The people-watching on days like this is the BEST.

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I always enjoy just walking around an event like this, watching from outside all the hubbub. After I do that for awhile, Ken and I venture into some activity, or get into a casual, friendly conversation with some participants.

One of my favourite people that I met at Pioneer Day was this little cutie.

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Pioneer Day was held the first Saturday in October, so it was also Apple Day – an annual fundraising tradition here for Scouts Canada. As I arrived, this sweet girl headed straight for me, ever so nicely asking me to take an apple. I had every intention of getting one, but as I had just arrived, didn’t want to take it yet. I told her to look out for me when I was leaving, and I would get the apple then.

Her response, filled with genuine concern was : “But you can’t wait that long. You will be VERY hungry by then!”

Ken and I just looked at each other and couldn’t help laughing. He’s been in sales all his life, and is a firm believer that good salespeople are born, not made. His words about my friend were: “The kid’s a natural. She instinctively knew how to overcome your objections to the sale!”

I asked her how much the apples cost. She told me it was no cost, but they were accepting “nations” in exchange, and that the amount of my “nation” was totally up to me.

Oh, she had my heart.

When I left, she came running up to me, a big smile on her face, holding out TWO apples. She proudly said, “I picked the biggest, nicest ones out for you.”

Natural salesperson indeed. My “nation” potential instantly doubled.

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Yes, the part that really makes these events special is the people.

From the organizers, who work so hard, ensuring the day will run smoothly, to the volunteers, who generously share their time, skills, and enthusiasm.

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And of course, all the people who come out to enjoy a day in the community, celebrating what makes it unique.

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I don’t really know if I have been able to articulate clearly just what I feel when I attend these festivals. Maybe I still haven’t answered my friend’s question.

All I can say is, they’ve been a special part of my Niagara life this year.

**All of the photos in this post were taken by Ken at Pioneer Day, held at the Town of Lincoln’s Jordan Historical Museum. If you’d like to read some of my other festival adventures, I’ve also written previously about Canal Days in Port Colborne, and The Peach and Strawberry Festivals in Niagara-on-the-Lake.