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Jun. 18, 2021 | Friday
Local News
Strawberry Festival cancelled again, others in limbo
The 2021 Strawberry Festival is cancelled. (File photo/2019)

Brittney Cutler
Special to The Lake Report

With summer approaching quickly, Niagara-on-the-Lake's annual fruit festivals are facing tough decisions on whether to hold out for a chance to open or to cancel for another year.

The first festival of the season, the Strawberry Festival put on by St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, will not be happening this year. And July's Cherry Festival is on hold as organizers hope to stage a modified event later in the year.

The NOTL Chamber of Commerce says it's too early to know whether August's Peach Festival will go ahead.

Julie Hunter, co-ordinator of the Strawberry Festival, said it’s just not an option this year, despite the increase in vaccinations. 

“According to the government regulations, we need to be in compliance with what their rulings are and since we have not heard anything about festivals being allowed, we are not going to go ahead with it, but in hopes of maybe next year we’ll regenerate the festival again in some shape or form,” Hunter said. 

Hunter is upset about the festival being shut down for another year, after being cancelled last year. However, she said she is hopeful to start planning next February for the festival to be held in June 2022.

Normally, the Strawberry Festival kicks off the summer and offers a wide variety of foods, including strawberry jams, crepes, shortcakes, tarts and pies as well as refreshments such as strawberry smoothies and yogurt. There also is a barbecue, plant sale, book sale, and, of course, lots of fresh strawberries. 

An estimated 3,000 people attend each year and it is popular with locals and visitors.

“We seem to draw tourism coming in, on Hwy. 55, they see our signs with the event going on that day. We also have buses planning their trips well in advance for seniors and bringing them in from as far as Oshawa, Kingston and Peterborough," Hunter said.

The money raised helps with maintenance of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It's a historical building and it takes a lot to keep it in good shape, Hunter noted

The co-ordinators of the strawberry festival usually start planning around February, but COVID interrupted their schedule.

The Grace United Church book sale organized by John Sayers as part of the Festival Market, is another town favourite. However, because of COVID restrictions, it’s hard to tell if the fair will be held this year.

The book sale features thousands of books including fiction, history, biography, arts and many more at low prices. There are also jams, marmalades and different produce at the sale.

“It’s our intent to have a book sale on Labour Day weekend as part of the Festival Market at Grace United," said Sayers.

"COVID may dictate that we can’t do it, in which case we will have an awful lot of books to read.”

Marnie Taylor, Sayers’ partner on organizing the book sale, said she keeps the books in her garage, but because there was no sale last year, her garage is getting quite full.

“We have two years worth of donations, most of them are in my garage. We have thousands of books," she said.

“The garage was getting so full for the winter, I had trouble parking my car so I had to park my car in the driveway and make more room for sorting.”

Taylor said she hopes COVID restrictions will be lifted and the sale can go on – and her garage can get cleaned out.  

“It’s like any other festival. The Cherry Festival, the Peach Festival, the Strawberry Festival and our festival is part of the fabric of the town and it’s too bad we can’t do those things, but everybody understands that, I think,” she said.

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