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Ball's Falls Thanksgiving Festival

Judi
by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams

Nestled in the heart of the Niagara Escarpment near Hamilton Ontario, lies the Ball’s Falls Centre for Conservation. Over 20 years ago I attended a special event at Ball’s Falls where I participated in a Wine & Art Show. Unfortunately I don’t remember much about the venue. At the time I was busy setting up my “booth” to display and sell my original watercolour works. The Ball’s Falls Centre for Conservation opened in 2008, featuring interactive exhibits and learning centers that showcase the natural and cultural history of the Niagara Escarpment. Here they offer interactive exhibits via a unique eco-tourism experience that let you experience the natural and cultural diversity of the Niagara Escarpment.

The Ball's Falls Thanksgiving Festival has become a long-standing, favourite tradition for both family and individual visitors, who come from far and wide to experience the Ball’s Falls annual festival and its natural setting. In addition to the arts, crafts and wares, you can enjoy the incredible beauty of this 19th Century hamlet. The event is a major fundraiser for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), with revenues from admission directed to a number of NPCA’s conservation programs.

Deep in the heart of the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area lays a “treasure” to be discovered. Our journey took us around the main entrance, driving through farmers fields to the back of the area, where we found ourselves in a magnificent forest. The "forest" was filling up fast with cars parking. At the time we “thought” we would remember where we parked our car, by a beautiful cluster of trees. I’ll get back to this at the end of our visit.

Off we strolled down a steep embankment, I was already dreading the challenge of the walk back up … no worries. I’ll get back to that too! We were greeted by a hub-hub of activity. Tents were strategically placed throughout this portion of the park. Food booths smelt yummy and inviting. An apple coring demonstration had folks gathering around watching. (I apologize for not knowing the correct terms for the “technical” names for the heritage displays.)

Over 20 years ago we had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with Loretta Sawatzky, Administrative Assistant/Gift Shop and we hadn’t seen her since.  I recognized her immediately in the Information Tent, her smile was as big as I remembered. Rob Winninger, Site Administrator, was there as well. Both were great to talk to. What better way to learn about what we were about to experience then from the organizers. Loretta suggested we would need about 2 hours to explore. All in all, I think we were there about 4 hours. So much to see and do!

About 4 double sided tents lay in row. They were housed by an overall larger tent. This was a great idea as weather can be unpredictable in the fall and this tent would keep everyone safe from the elements. Here high quality artisans and artists sold their wears. You could see their passion and devotion to their crafts. The Festival Nomad finally treated himself to a “new tea cup”. You know … “the perfect cup”! The artist was kind enough to hold our purchase while we continued to explore.

The park and forest continued on. Over a bridge across river rapids was an entire “kid’s zone” - large jumping castles, putting greens, live musical entertainment, face painting and more. Back across the river, another building housed many unique food and gourmet goods. This was a very tempting area to spend some time in, taste testing and more.

Onto the other side of the street we crossed into the "Heritage" area! Here there was a large display of hay bails, pumpkins, corn stalks and a perfect tree for kids to climb greeted us, a great photo opportunity for parents, grandparents and families. A large display of birds of prey was on exhibit. Kids could ride a train around this area with a “real” train conductor. The "Heritage Village" was full of activities including demonstrations of weaving, wood turning and much more. The Mill was open for visitors to explore.

Finally, the “piece de resistance” … the “treasure to be found” … Ball’s Falls! As I walked across a bridge I caught a glimpse of this great Niagara escarpment falls. As I approached it literally took my breath away. The roaring of the water, the crevasse glistening in the sunlight on the escarpment wall and the majestic scenery was amazing. The air was crisp, the sun shown brightly. Gary and I stayed and photographed for some time and then, with much reluctance, it was time to take our leave.

Much to our pleasant surprise, a shuttle bus service was right there to take us back up that steep roadway to our car. Gary stood in line while I ran back to collect his new “treasured tea cup”. As we stepped off the bus the “hunt” for our car began! Suddenly we were not the only “red car” in the deep forest of trees, still shimmering with golden leaves. We ended up walking some distance to locate the car, but at least it was on flat ground!

The Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival is an entirely enjoyable, entertaining and exciting event for the entire family. The Ball’s Falls Conservation area is open year round. You should check out their website for all the details. If you ever get the chance to travel out to the Niagara Escarpment to visit the Falls, you might want to save your visit for this amazing Festival … you’ll be thankful you did!

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