Wine festival showcases 'homegrown' parade
File photo of Grande Parade in downtown St. Catharines
It’s a classic fall bash for Niagara and its visitors from afar that celebrates the peninsula’s pride.
And this year’s Meridian Grande Parade specifically has Homegrown Niagara as its theme.
Floats and displays will course through downtown St. Catharines Saturday to commemorate the area’s community leaders, bounty and first-class quality of life.
About 75 entries are part of this year’s extravaganza of drumlines, marching bands, floats, music and other crowd favourites.
“What we ask is they point to local heroes or history-makers in their themes,” said festival executive director Kimberly Hundertmark.
“What I gather, through their applications, is that the homegrown theme was weighed heavily in criteria for the entries that were received,” she said.
“We want them to tell a homegrown story, whether it’s our tender-fruit industry or who we are in Niagara.”
The Meridian Pre-Show Funzones also start earlier, at 9:30 a.m., at three locations — city hall, St. Paul and Ontario streets, and Geneva Street, and offer family fun for youngsters, with a performance by DanceFX, face painting, clowns, balloons and more.
Non-perishable donations and money for Community Care will be collected during a parade that starts at 11 a.m., and which serves as the centrepiece to the Niagara Wine Festival that wraps up Sunday.
Hundertmark said many parade entries come from the local school system, as well as Brock University and Niagara College.
The parade length is set to be an hour-plus, which seems to be the sweet-spot for length. The forecast for Saturday is also stellar, with mainly sun and a high of 18°C.
“It looks to be picture-perfect day, so it’s really pointing to a great event,” she said.
Street closures downtown begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, with road-access points sealed off to vehicles by about 10 a.m.
As for the festival overall, the weather — a big attendance factor — has been mostly decent, except for last weekend’s downpours.
“We’re feeling really good about this last weekend,” Hundertmark said, adding the festival relationship with Meridian Credit Union over the past couple of years “has grown to be a really strong one … it has really enhanced the street presence of our parade and filled a gap.”
“We’re really proud of how we’ve evolved the parade.”
The action continues at Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Niagara District Airport and wineries across Niagara through to Sunday.
Live music continues at the park, including Jonesy Saturday night and New Country Sunday.
Niagara Wine Festival, through to Sunday
The hub of Niagara Wine Festival is at Montebello Park in downtown St. Catharines. Local chefs will provide regional cuisine for one to three tokens per portion, while VQA wines can be purchased by the sample or glass.
Tokens can be purchased in $3.25 (HST included) denominations or in advance at the festival office at 8 Church St., St. Catharines or online at www.niagarawinefestival.com. Free admission each day. Free parking on weekends and evenings in City of St. Catharines parking garages and lots. Niagara Inflatables’ Grapeland will be open Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m., tickets available for rides.
Saturday in downtown St. Catharines Meridian Credit Union hosts three pre-show Fun Zones for kids in front of city hall, at the corner of Ontario and St. Paul streets, and Geneva Street. Starts at 9:30 a.m. prior to the beginning of the parade at 11 a.m. Event also features a drive for Community Care.
Discovery passes to wineries
Passes are available through EZ Tix, participating wineries, Ontario Travel Information Centres in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls and the Niagara-on-the-Lake chambers of commerce, or visit www.niagarawinefestival.com.