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Waterford Pumpkinfest

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Where Have All the Pumpkins Gone…

It was a balmy Sunday when we left Cobourg. The skies were blue and the temperature was an above average 27 degrees Celsius. It was going to be a long drive today! We were headed back to the Hamilton area to Waterford. Waterford is a small community of about 2,500 that comes alive every October for the award winning Waterford Pumpkinfest. As you enter Waterford you see the evidence of its residents participating in the great event. Almost everywhere you look homes are decorated to celebrate the season. Carved pumpkins, scarecrows, colourful gourds, straw and fall flowers all add to the ambiance of the town. From the main road we wound our way around back streets until we came to a side road that led to the edge of what we thought were the full festival grounds. Once we were out of the car, we started to explore the site. The whole area was very large and well used by the festival committee. The first attraction we came to was the Arena Parking Lot Stage. Kim Moverley and The Lost Hobos were on stage. Surrounding the stage was a number of food vendors. We would keep them in mind for a later lunch! Moving on, we passed the arena building towards the Waterford High School. Out on the high school’s playing field antique and classic cars were steaming in to park and then participate in the 17th annual Car Show sponsored by the Waterford Lions Club. Before visiting the Car Show, we decided to check out the Canadian Hand Crafted Craft Show that was being held in the high school gym. The cost to enter was $3.00 each. There were 2 locations within the school crammed with hand crafted gifts. All just ready to be purchased, gift wrapped and then put under a Christmas tree for some lucky person. As we walked through the festival grounds we looked for signs of pumpkins, after all, this was a "pumpkin festival"! So far we hadn’t seen any. Perhaps we would find some when we checked out the Car Show…

Cars Galore…

The Waterford High School parking lot was completely full. So was the field next to it. There were hundred’s of vehicle parked everywhere. It was like being on the 401 highway in Toronto during rush hour! It seemed that every type of classic and antique car was represented here. I know that there are larger car shows, but this was the largest I had ever attended. It was very interesting walking through the rows of car. There were many great vehicles to admire, some of which I recognized while others I did not. Then there were the cars that I grew up with. They’re called muscle cars now. We just called them fast and we loved to drive them that way! It’s hard to know how we didn’t all kill ourselves back then. The police were certainly more forgiving. I saw many of the cars that I owned, or wanted to own, Corvairs, VW Camper Wagon (we all wanted one of these with shag carpeting!), Thunderbirds, Mustangs, Chargers, Corvettes, Road Runners and my first new car, a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro 327 Convertible. There were so many to fantastic vehicle to look at my eyes started to glaze over. I was becoming a car zombie! I had to leave and get my reality back. The car buffs who attend these functions must have oil in their blood! I was exhausted, I needed something to eat. It was lunch time, so everyone else wanted to eat too. I found one vendor whose menu suited me and I stood in line. Judi had opted for a Cinnamon Roll and water. Her line was much shorter than mine and she received her food quite quickly. I, on the other hand, waited and waited and waited. It took me over a half hour to just reach the order window and then another half hour for the food to be cooked. Finally my name was called out and they handed me my order. Fortunately, with Judi being so quick, she had saved an eating space at one of the picnic tables. The table was located in front of the Arena Parking Lot Stage, so we were able to listen to the talented Derek Waite while we eat. Earlier we had seen a sign saying that there was going to be a “Birds of Prey Demonstration” at the ballpark. We finished our food and walked over to the park…

Our National Bird…

Over at the ballpark a crowd had started to gather. James Cowan, Director of the Canadian Raptor Conservancy (no it has nothing to do with the Toronto Raptors Basketball Team!), was about to give a demonstration with his wonderful birds of prey. We had seen this demonstration at the International Plowing Match, although some of the birds being shown were different. The show at Waterford was just as special as the one at the Plowing Match. One of the birds James loves to show is the Red-tailed Hawk. He is trying to promote the idea of having the Red-tailed Hawk become the National Bird of Canada. This hawk can be seen all over Canada; is majestic; has RED in its name (Canadian Flag RED) and is the voice of most of the birds of prey seen in movies or on television. Once he starts his campaign, I will let you know. No matter what happens, the Red-tailed Hawk will fly majestically over our skies as he promotes Canada to everyone he sees! I spoke with James after the show to see if the Canadian Raptor Conservancy was open to the public. He told me not at this time, but they hope to soon. Judi and I want to be one of the first to visit! After the demonstration was over we needed to decide on what to see next. There was no information booth when we arrived, so we didn’t have our customary program to guide us. There was a kid’s playground set up in the arena, so we went there to see the playground and to check if there was a program available. There were no programs left, but the lady at the front desk gave us a festival map. We decided to continue our explorations…

In Search of Pumpkins…

We walked back toward where we had parked our car and took that street to the main road. The map told us to follow the main road to the town centre. Others were taking this route so we followed them. So far we had been disappointed because we had seen very few pumpkins. After all, this WAS a Pumpkinfest! Where were all the pumpkins? We started our journey down the hill to the centre of town. On our way we passed a booth selling all kinds of Pumpkin Pies (a good signs!). Next, coming up the hill, we were passed by the Pumpkin Express shuttle wagon (another good sign!). About halfway down our decent I started to sign the top of a giant pumpkin! Judi and I looked at each other wondering what the heck it could be! As we continued our decent the orange blob became a lot of orange blobs. The closer we got the clearer the vision became! In the middle of the town parkette was a giant pyramid made completely from carved pumpkins! Candles were still burning in most of them. It must have been quite a sight at night. I don’t know how many pumpkins were used, but there were a lot! Waterford’s school children, who carved the pumpkins, must be very proud of themselves! Maybe somebody can let me know and I’ll add that statistic to the article. There was not only the really large pumpkin pyramid, but there were two other smaller pumpkin pyramids! Amongst the pyramids was a large pumpkin shaped information booth. I wandered over to the booth to see if they had a program available. I like to collect festival programs so that I can use them for background information. For example, this was the Waterford Pumpkinfest 25th anniversary. It’s not hard to see why they have lasted so long. They didn’t have any there, but the gentleman working at the booth promised to try to find me one. I told him we had more exploring to do and that I would come back to see if he could get me one…

Small Town Ontario at Its Best…

We walked down Alice Street (the main downtown street) passed all the retail stores. A carnival midway had been set up at the end of the street. There were a lot of food vendors here. It’s too bad we hadn’t discovered this earlier. It might have saved us some “food line-up time”! We checked out the Midway and then walked back to the town parkette and the information booth. Unfortunately the gentleman wasn’t able to find me one. However, as surprisingly wonderful gesture, he promised to mail me his copy! About a week later a large envelop appear in our mail box the program enclosed! This gentleman, Mr. Robert Stevenson, was not only great to talk to, but was as good as his word. Thanks a lot Robert; you are a true example of how good festivals become great festivals! It was getting late and we were getting tired. Across from the parkette was the shuttle wagon stop. We crossed the street to wait in line for the next wagon. While we were waiting I spied some very large pumpkins around the corner from the stop. I had a little time so I walked over to take a look them. They were huge! I think they might have even rivalled the ones we saw at the Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest! Don’t tell my brother I said that, he thinks his festival has the biggest pumpkins in Ontario! Finally the wagon came and we all loaded on. Just before we left, I took one last look at the giant Pumpkin pyramid. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I had to take another look! The pumpkins spelled out “25th Waterford Pumpkin Festival 2007”! The trip back to our vehicle was not a simple one. There were a number of stops to be made before we reach our destination, the Midway, the Museum (where the Rotary Club had set up a “Spookhouse”), the Legion (food and refreshments), the High School and finally the Arena. Although it was a long ride back, it was great, because we got to see how involved the whole town was. There were harvest and pumpkin displays almost everywhere we looked. Needless to say, we found out why they call it a “Pumpkinfest”! This is small town Ontario at its best!

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