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Dec. 8, 2019 | Sunday
Local News
NOTL Chamber gives fair visitors Royal treatment
John Fedorkow, the 2019 Niagara Grape King, worked as an ambassador at the NOTL Chamber of Commerce booth at the Royal. (Waverly Neufeld/Niagra Now)

A “royal” surprise awaited visitors to the NOTL Chamber of Commerce’s booth last Thursday at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – a chance to meet the King.

The 2019 Grape King, that is.

John Fedorkow, the owner of Fruithaven Farms in St. Davids, spends a lot of time working as the ambassador for the industry after being crowned the Grape King in September.

He made a special appearance to the chamber’s booth at the Royal, informing and educating people about the wine industry and how it works – from the ground up.

Fedorkow said the main goal was to give people a better idea of what the grape and wine industry is like. Representatives from various wineries and other Niagara businesses were also on hand at the fair.

“I’m the one from the grassroots level. I’m the grower,” he said. “So (when) they ask about the wine and the wineries, these people from Trius can answer those questions, but I can answer the other ones.” 

“Our perspective as grape growers is to get people to know 100 per cent grown VQA wine,” said Fedorkow. “When you think about buying a bottle of wine, think about 100 per cent Ontario.” 

From Nov. 1 to 10, the chamber marketed the town at the Royal, from educating people about the artistic and historic aspects of the town with the Pumphouse and soldiers from Fort George, to showing off the booming wine industry.

Chamber president Eduardo Lafforgue said the idea was to create the NOTL experience, with a rotation of different vendors each day. 

Last Thursday, the focus was on wine and wineries, and Greaves Jams.

Greaves store manager Krista Sheldrik said the feedback from visitors was positive. “A lot of people are just familiar with Greaves,” she said.

“A lot of people come up and they say, ‘Oh, you’re Greaves from NOTL.’ They know exactly where we’re from.”

Barbara King and Jane Weber from Owen Sound were impressed with the displays – and samples. The two have been to NOTL before and Weber said she toured Trius this past June.

Frank Dodd, executive chef of Trius Winery Restaurant, was serving a white bean and winter vegetable cassoulet with ice wine pulled pork. 

“I think it’s great,” said King. “I haven’t seen anything like this before. I’ve been coming to the Royal for years and I haven’t seen local entrepreneurs showcased, which is lovely.”

Gina Flaubert and her daughter Naomi were at the fair primarily to see the horse show – and the wine. Flaubert credited the generous, tasty food portions from Trius for attracting a lot of attention.

The 40-by-10-foot booth was in the centre of Heritage Hall, an optimal spot to attract a lot of attention as it was near the main entrance and by a crossroad for lots of pedestrian traffic.

Lafforgue said that the booth was doing just that, attracting at least 1,500 visitors each weekday and nearly 2,000 visitors daily over two  weekends.

“It’s very impressive,” said Lafforgue. “The demographics of this event are exactly the demographics that we’re targeting.”

Nicole Cripps, events co-ordinator for the chamber, said the organization believes it exceeded its target of 15,000 visitors during the fair.

Numbers are calculated by the quantity of samples served by the wineries, restaurants and breweries as well as the ballots that were filled out for the “Ultimate Niagara-on-the-Lake Experience Contest,” she said.

Valued at over $2,500, the winner’s package highlights NOTL’s best assets, and includes a two-night stay at White Oaks Resort and Spa, a round-trip flight from Toronto for two provided by FlyGTA, an assortment of gift cards to various wineries in the region and more. 

Lafforgue was happy with the 10-day run and the reception from visitors. The town is coming together to sell the destination, not just the products, he said.

“They’re all working together as a team. It’s fantastic,” said Lafforgue. “The residents are selling the retailers and the retailers are selling the wineries and they’re all speaking about the destination. That is the most important part.”

He’s hoping to do it again. “All of our participants are saying, ‘OK, see you next year.”

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