Spring awakenings near Niagara
Spring in this part of the world starts March 20 and ends June 20. Here’s a sampling of events and festivals within a few hundred kilometres of Niagara:
Let me start this story by telling you about a swell little Pageant of Bands that occurs in, of all places, Springville, N.Y., May 19 at 1:30 p.m.
This is the 50th anniversary of this event that has more than 20 high school marching bands, all hoping to capture the Best in Class trophy. I’ve been to this one before and if you like marching bands you’ve arrived (www.springvillegi.org).
While I’m in New York State, here’s a few more to consider visiting:
Check out the first Super Car Cruise on May 29 between 1 and 4 p.m. in the quaint, tiny village of Olcott N.Y., on the edge of Lake Ontario (www.olcott-newfane.com).
On that same weekend, the Carousel Park in Olcott opens for the season. This is a vintage kiddie park where all rides are 25 cents. Take your kids and the neighbours’ kids, too.
At Letchworth State Park, Castile N.Y. (www.nysparks.com/park), your eyes will get a workout when you travel here between May 25 and 28. It’s the annual Red, White and Blue Balloon Festival. Thirty balloons ascend from the Letchworth gorge, offering views of waterfalls, gorge and scenery of “The Grand Canyon of the East.” Balloon rides must be booked in advance (www.balloonsoverletchworth.com or 585-493-3340). The rides cost $235 a person and last 45-60 minutes, depending on wind conditions.
After the ride, celebrate with a glass of champagne. The sight of the balloons over the park is magnificent. Admittance to the park is $8 a vehicle. The park offers spectacular views over three major waterfalls and amazing hiking trails.
Now, back to Ontario.
One of the biggies is the re-enactment of the Battle of Stoney Creek (www.battlefieldhouse.ca) which occurs the June 2-3 weekend. This is the 31st anniversary of this event. You’ll be able to enjoy the thrill and pageantry of this battle, which was one of the turning points of the War of 1812. Re-enactments take place Saturday at 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 for adult, $3 for a youth (6-18) and children under five free.
If you ride a bike, this could be of interest. The 19th annual Paris to Ancaster Classic Bicycle Race occurs April 15 (www.parisancaster.com).
This race is inspired by the famous French race and takes place over the roughest farm lanes, trails and gravel roads to be found anywhere.
You can celebrate International Migratory Bird Day,on May 12 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Tommy Thompson Park, located in Toronto at the waterfront (www.springbirdfestival.ca).
This spring bird festival offers an opportunity to learn about the amazing phenomenon of migration and the importance of bird conservation.
Speaking about birds, here’s another sure sign of spring. In Stratford, the Swan Parade Weekend takes place March 31 and April 1 (www.visitstratford.ca or 1-800-561-7926).
That’s when residents officially launch these regal, graceful, majestic noble birds from their winter pens to the Avon River.
The event features live entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, buskers and family fun throughout the weekend.
The Swan Parade happens Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Leading the swans to the Avon River will be the Stratford Police Pipe Band.
If you haven’t seen this parade you’re in for a treat.
Here are some events closer to home:
In Fort Erie, the 4th annual Bridgeburg Car and Bike Show takes place downtown May 2 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. There will be more than 100 vendors and a Mighty Machines display. The kids will love it.
On Mother’s Day Weekend, May 11-13, the annual Pelham Art Festival will be in full swing. Sixty-five artists from across Ontario will be exhibiting at the Pelham Arena. A weekend pass is $10.
The annual Virgil Stampede takes place on the Victoria Day weekend, May 19-21. On the Monday, the last night of the stampede, they’ll be a fireworks display at 9:30.