Port Rowan Bayfest reels in crowd
Eight-year-old Mariah Toth of St. Williams competes in a Hula Hoop contest on Saturday during Bayfest in Port Rowan. Toth placed third in the contest, and in a Wacky Hair contest earlier in the day. Brian Thompson/Postmedia Network
Bayfest 2017 was, among other things, a big dill.
That's the way Abby Malott and Ashley Aker were talking as teams battled it out for pickleball supremacy at the Port Rowan Community Centre on Saturday.
“We like to keep it relaxed and fun and so we always promote as 'a kind of a big dill,' a play on word with the pickle and the game,” Malott said. “But it can be pretty competitive.
“There are some very good players here and the games can get pretty intense but again the emphasis today is on fun.”
Malott and Aker, of Stonebridge Community Services, organized the Pickleball Tournament, one of many events held in Port Rowan on the weekend as part of the community's Bayfest celebration. The community celebration brings several thousand people to Port Rowan over the Labour Day weekend.
“Pickleball is a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton, and it's one of the fastest growing racquet games in North America right now,” Malott said. “It's really popular in the the southern United States and a lot of Canadian snowbirds have picked up on it.
“When they (snowbirds) come back to Canada for the summer they want to be able to continue to play.”
There were 16 teams – 32 players – from across the region including Brantford, Tillsonburg, Port Rowan and St. Thomas participating in the tournament. The game is popular with people of all ages but especially seniors who like to play tennis but have trouble covering an entire tennis court.
Still, to play the game well, players need to have quick reflexes and there is also a lot of bending and stretching.
Bayfest has been a community celebration for more than 30 years and was previously known as TomatoFest. The celebration begins Friday and continues through to Sunday and acts as an end of summer event as well as homecoming.
The celebration kicked off with a new Fire Up the Festival event, which featured live entertainment at the community centre as well as a fish and chip dinner at the Port Rowan Legion Br. 379.
On Saturday, there was street chalking on Bay Street and in the Bay Hill area, a dog show, a plastic frog tossing contest as well as a kids casting contest held at the community centre.
Other events scheduled for Saturday included a soap box derby, ice cream eating contest, a selfie scavenger hunt and family movie on Bay Street.
Sunday included a decorated bike contest, the BayFest parade and live entertainment. The celebration was scheduled to end with a Redneck Rodeo in the evening and entertainment by Tia McGraff with Tommy Parham prior to a fireworks display.
Organizers were pleased with the number of people who attended the fesival and say everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.
“It's been great,” Crystal Saunders of the BayFest organizing committee, said. “We saw a lot of familiar faces and I'd say the most of the people who attended are from Norfolk.
“But we met people from Burlington and Oakville too so there were some visitors from out of town as well.”
She pegged attendance at about 5,000 for the weekend.
“We didn't have a midway this year because we couldn't get a company but we had inflatables for the children and everyone seemed to be enjoying those,” Saunders said.