I’ve lived in the Niagara region for about a year now and haven’t really gone out to see what the area offers. My first judgements of the area were quite melancholy. I’m a 22 year old who is well travelled and has lived in some of the most beautiful places this country has to offer. You could say moving to Niagara Falls where large companies feed off of the cheesy tourist sites wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. But after visiting the world class wineries and different destinations the region has to offer, I guess you could say I started falling for Niagara.
What really did me in was the 65th Annual Grape and Wine Festival that locals rave about. The festival takes place over about two and a half weeks in venues from Niagara-on-the-Lake to St. Catharines and the surrounding areas. Events include tastings at an abundant variety of wineries, a Polo match, concerts and you can even pick, stomp and taste grapes of your choosing. This is by far one of the biggest events of the year and is raved about by all the locals.
On the last Saturday of the festival myself and a couple of friends decided to stop by and see what all the fuss was about. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but upon arriving I was pleasantly surprised. The streets of downtown St. Catharine’s were full of enthusiastic people who had been attending the events at the bars, clubs and venues surrounding the area. It was obvious that everyone was having a really good time, there was nothing but positivity all around. Since it was a 19+ wine event the crowd was a bit more mature. Ages ranged from the odd 19 year old to men and women in their late 50s or 60s, and it worked perfectly.
All of Montebello Park was blocked off for the event, where there over a dozen stalls lined up around the venue serving wine samples from different wineries. A cover band was playing on a concert stage in the middle of the venue all night. We all know cover bands can be hit and miss. But Jonesy was amazing and played great music that all ages enjoyed. Since the festival was in a park there wasn’t any seating so most people were standing around, dancing in the crowd, or sitting in the lawn chairs they had brought.
Though there were so many wineries to choose from, it would be quite expensive to taste each one if you were up to the task. To avoid cash handling, you had to buy tokens at $3.25 each to be given to the vendors. One token could get you 2 oz of wine at the vendor of your choose, or 2 tokens ($6.50) for 4 oz of wine. Not to mention you have to purchase a plastic cup for one token as well. So in a nutshell, the $40.00 I brought with me disappeared quite quickly. Though I wasn’t too happy about how expensive everything was, that feeling went away almost immediately after I got my tokens and walked into a huge party. The lines didn’t take too long to get through, and even if it did the people and band playing on the main stage were there to entertain you.
The event closed down at 11:00pm but being that it was downtown, the party only moved to many of the bars and clubs a couple of blocks away. The Grape and Wine Festival was really one of the best times I’ve had in a long time. My only regret is that I didn’t go to more of the events during the month. But next year, I’ll be sure to clear my schedule because I’m not missing it again.
Brittany Skerritt – Guest Blogger
Feature image credit. Niagara Falls Tourism