Demolition derby returns to Virgil Stampede

The demolition derby will be back Saturday afternoon, May 20, for the 51st annual Virgil Stampede. The three-day event will have rides, food, games, the best nickel sale around and lots of family entertainment, wrapping up with fireworks Monday night. Postmedia file photo

The demolition derby will be back Saturday afternoon, May 20, for the 51st annual Virgil Stampede. The three-day event will have rides, food, games, the best nickel sale around and lots of family entertainment, wrapping up with fireworks Monday night. Postmedia file photo

Penny Coles

Niagara Advance

This weekend is the 51st anniversary of the Virgil Stampede, and organizers are confident they can top last year’s milestone event.

“Last year’s 50th anniversary inspired us to ramp things up, and we’re not taking the foot of the gas,” says Phil Leboudec, president of the Virgil Business Association, organizer of the event.

“And that includes bringing back the demolition derby. It was such a hit last year, we’re counting on it getting bigger and better each year.”

Every time you try something new, you can find a way to tweak it to make the experience even better - and that’s true of stampede events, says Leboudec.

The demolition derby is put on by Thrill Show Productions, which promises a wild ride for spectators.

They bring their three most popular classes, calling them “racing with a twist - drivers don’t do circles, they do damage.”

They will bring drivers with them - they have a loyal following who compete to earn points, trophies and cash prizes - but the events are open to anyone who wants to participate, as long as they are 17 years or older, and have a G1 licence.

The first class is full-sized straight stock - a demolition derby for full-sized cars that have been gutted inside but retain their stock motors. There isn’t a lot of work to preparing the cars, with the end goal of destroying them while putting on a good show.

Then there’s the mini smash of four cylinder cars, with drivers all wanting to have the last car running.

The third class is a four-cylinder figure-8 race, with smaller cars racing to be the first to complete 15 full figure 8 laps to win. Some contact is expected, but not smash and crash - cars are usually still running when the race is finished. It’s a crowd pleaser, with cars going through the figure 8 frontwards, backwards, sideways and even upside down - an event you don’t want to miss.

There are cash prizes and points for all events - it’s $50 to enter, and the prize value depends on how many cars enter each event.

The show begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 20.

Those interested in participating can register online at or call 1-519-268-2332.

It’s been more than five decades since a small group of Virgil neighbours decided to organize a small fireworks display for their families to celebrate Victoria Day, which led to this annual event - and the fireworks are still the highlight.

The stampede fireworks are already considered one of the best shows in Niagara, and organizers promise another great display.

Firemaster Productions, with the help of volunteer firefighters, say they love putting on the stampede display, probably because they’re given free licence to design it themselves.

Back for the second year also celebrating the origins of the stampede, is a miniature horse show, organized by Stephen Capell of Minor Brothers Country Living.

There are more than 30 classes of show, he said, and after last year’s success, he is hoping for a good turnout for the Monday event, bring a lawn chair, and be part of the fun at the ball diamond at the back of the sports park property, beginning at 11 a.m.

The events are mainly aimed at kids - miniature horses are friendly, interact well with people and are much easier for kids to handle and control, making them good pets - but there are adults as well who love to take part in the competitions, and most classes are broken down to separate adult from youth.

John Homeniuk of Homeniuk Rides has agreed to once again offer a reduced all-day ride price. Bracelets will be $40 if purchased at the stampede, and can be used for one day, all day, from the time the rides begin operating in the morning until closing time.

If purchased in advance at Phil’s valu-mart on Niagara Stone Road in Virgil, until store closing at 9 p.m. Friday, May 19, an all-day bracelet will cost $30.

Phil’s valu-mart is again sponsoring a kids’ pavilion Saturday to Monday, with Mad Science, karaoke, pony rides, balloons and an air-brush face-painter. All activities in the kids’ pavilion are free with the exception of the face painting - this year it will be a father-daughter team of artists.

Elementary-school children from the Niagara-on-the-Lake are invited to round up their pets and head to the stampede Monday, May 22, around 1 p.m. beside the miniature horse show.

There will be a bike safety rodeo for kids in the Centennial Arena Sunday, May 21, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with prizes to be won and two bikes to be given away.

Magician and juggler Tim Holland will perform Saturday and Monday, and Mike London of London Reptiles will bring some of his reptiles Saturday and Monday.

And of course the crowd favourite - the fireworks - will wrap up the Victoria Weekend celebration Monday night.

Last year was a perfect three-day weekend as far as weather, says Leboudec. “Let’s be realistic, we were blessed, and weather is a huge factor for an outdoor event like the stampede.”

It was the biggest fundraising success yet, with money directed toward recreational projects in NOTL.

But whatever the weather, he says, “the events are all still going to happen. At the end of the day it’s a community event, a great chance to party and celebrate the kickoff the season Virgil style.”

The event opens Saturday and Monday, May 20 and 22, at 9:30 a.m., admission is $5, with children under 15 free. The gate opens Sunday at 11 a.m.

The Virgil Stampede is located at the Virgil Sports Park on Four Mile Creek Rd. in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

For more detailed information visit the Stampede website at or the Virgil Stampede Facebook page. 

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