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Winona Peach Festival

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Peaches and Cream…

I love food with peaches, peach pie, peach ice cream, peach cobbler and peach jam! Imagine my surprise and delight as I scanned through the August festival list and found the Winona Peach Festival! I went on the festival’s website and knew that I really wanted (needed) to attend. The site included all types of peach recipes. Although there was a long list of recipes, I could only print off the ones that showed. (Darn!) I called Judi over to my computer and said “Take a look at this one! We’ve got to go!” She said “Why?” I said “Look it’s peaches!” She sadly shook her head and softly said “Okay”. That was about two month before the actual festival. To top if off, that was our anniversary weekend! I thought here’s a chance to celebrate our anniversary and go to a peach festival. Could it get any better???!!! The big day came (Saturday) and we were off for the weekend. Every other festival we have attended has had bright sunny skies. Today, as we drove towards Hamilton, the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. At one point I thought we would have to stop because the rain was so heavy. As we reach the Skyway Bridge the rain slowed a little, but when we reached the Winona area the rain started to come down heavily again. We had a choice to make, go to the festival in the rain or keep driving on to Niagara-on-the Lake. As I mentioned earlier it was our anniversary weekend so we had planned to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake on Sunday (our anniversary day). Would be easier to dodge the rain in Niagara-on-the-Lake and its stores or walk through muddy grounds at the festival? We opted to keep traveling to Niagara-on-the-Lake and go to the festival the next day. Accommodations were no problem as we had pre-booked. After a great day in Niagara-on-the-Lake and a good night’s sleep we were refreshed and ready to tackle the Peach Festival. Of course, that was after our Tim’s coffee and breakfast sandwich. The sun was shinning and the peaches were ripe…

On To The Festival…

After breakfast at Tim Horton’s, we drove the short distance from Grimsby (where we stayed overnight) to Winona. The festival had great directional sign, so the festival grounds were easy to find. Parking was in a large open field adjacent to the festival. Parking cost $7.00 per vehicle. This was our only festival cost; entrance to the festival is free. We crossed the road and walked to the Arts and Crafts entrance. Right at the entrance was a booth selling, what else, baskets of peaches. We later discovered that most of the entrances have these peach booths. The Arts and Crafts section of the festival is located amongst a grove of trees. The setting is very scenic and cool in the hotter weather. The tents in this section were laid out in rows with plenty of space for shoppers to roam and view the goods and there was plenty to choose from: stained glass, art, bird houses, clothing, music, furniture and a lot more. This festival is one of the most popular events in Ontario, both with attendees and vendors, so it wasn’t surprising to see a number of familiar faces. Our Port Hope artist friend, Laurie Rockman was one of them. We stopped to talk with Laurie for a while, but the crowds were starting to come to purchase her "gently irreverent greeting cards", so we moved on. If we had had an unlimited budget, there would have been plenty to carry home! As it was, we walked away (paid) with two Teddy Bears. The bears are made by “Mary’s Bears” who are located in St. Catharines. The number of vendors in this area is quite impressive, so it took us a while to walk through and see all the booths. The Arts and Crafts area is loaded with artisans plying their trade. We passed by a booth where the lady was spinning on an unique spinning wheel. The clothes in her booth were great. Her businesses name was “Designs in Elegance”. Just as we were finishing our Arts and Crafts trek, we came to the satellite festival information booth. We talked to the couple running the booth and found out quite a bit about the festival. It has an interesting history that can be read on their website. We left the booth with the sweet smell of peaches in the air…

Fun and Food…

Before we headed for the food area, we thought we would check out the Midway. Unlike most of the Midways we have seen at other festivals, Winona’s contained a combination of contracted attractions and community service clubs. I think it gave a great touch to the Midway. As usual everyone was having a lot of fun, laugh, yelling and screaming, all part of the Midway experience. After we had taken a good look around, we headed towards the food area. The food court is in a large open area. The food booth formed a partial circle around a tented eating area. As with the Midway, the Winona Peach Festival’s approach to the food court was unique. All of the food booths were operated by area service clubs, associations and churches, and the food was excellent! After Judi and I purchased our lunch, we took it to the covered picnic tables. The area was very crowded, but we managed to find two vacant seats. While we were eating we met and talked with many interesting people. We asked them if they were enjoying the festival, to a person they all said yes. This was a great testimony to the festival organizers. The main part of our lunch was over, but desert was beckoning. Of course, being a peach connoisseur, I was in heaven… peach pies, peach cobblers, peach crepes, peach everything. What to choose, what to choose? We wandered around the food court and looked at all the offerings! The Fifty United Church Women’s booth won me over. I purchased a wonderful piece of peach pie from the ladies and was rewarded immediately, because I devoured it immediately! So much for self control! Satisfied, we decided to continue our exploration of the festival…

Stay Tuned for Our Commercial…

We left the food area and walked into the commercial section. Here company tents were lined up in rows displaying a variety of goods. Interspersed amongst these tents were non-profit organizations. The Heart and Stroke Foundation were selling healthy choice salmon burgers. Stoney Creek Minor Hockey had a Bingo tent. Businesses were handing out literature and some were handing out unique giveaways. One booth Abel Pest Control, who I might add give me some good nature trouble, gave Judi and I fly swatters. They told Judi it was to keep the “pest” away. I am not sure what they meant!? Pepsi Cola was there with a climbing wall a decked out Pepsi van. As we moved through the rows of tents and displays, we could tell that most we enjoying the spirit of the festival. A children’s area was set up by Teletoon at the end of the commercial area. Here there plenty of games set up for kids to play. They looked like a lot of fun and almost made me sorry I was an adult. Just passed the Teletoon area, McDonald loomed high. This area was closed when we went by. We watched the kids playing for little while then moved on. We passed a Tea Garden area operated by the Peachwood District Girl Guides of Canada and came to another attraction area…

Old Cars and the Main Stage…

The next attraction was an antique car show. These magnificent automobiles were lined up, ready to be viewed. Unlike a lot of car shows I have been to, the majority of these antique cars were older classics. Too many of the shows I have seen lately feature the muscle cars of the 60’s. It was a treat wandering amongst these old cars, looking at the motors and peering through the windows and the beautiful interiors. The car show was right next to the main stage. We walked over to the stands and took a seat. Performing on the stage was Calvins Magic. He was terrific. He invited a number of kids on stage to help him with his magic. The audience loved him. Each day the main stage’s line up was full. The daytime was geared for kids and the evenings for adults. As we started back towards the parking lot, we came across a sign that I think sums up our impressions of the festival. The sign said “Seniors Bus Service”. For many this may not seem like a big deal, but I think it is. Most of the festivals we have visited concentrate on the large details and generally forget about the smaller details. Providing a bus service for seniors, signage on the highway and throughout the festival, 2 festival information booths and the community food court all add up to a fantastic festival, well run and well thought out. We Congratulate the Winona Peach Festival committee, 40 years young and one of the top festivals in Ontario.

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