By Diva Heather Boa
GODERICH – This weekend, the community of Goderich is hosting a wintery pick-you-up to help you and your family push through the winter blahs.
Winterfest has grown and evolved from its humble beginnings more than two decades ago into an event that’s anchored by some key activities with a bit of something new every year. Every visitor to town becomes an honorary Goderichite during Winterfest, whether they’re walking the lantern-lit trails and warming up with a mug of hot chocolate afterwards, sampling the chili in a cook-off of secret recipes, watching nighttime fireworks light up the sky, or taking part in any number of activities lined up for the three-day event, Feb. 6 to 8.
I can remember that first Winterfest more than two decades ago. It was a big financial gamble for a group of very keen organizers, who booked a high-energy rock and roll band to play at the Knights of Columbus Centre as the feature event. If it stormed that evening, we were bound to take a loss on the event. However, it didn’t storm enough to keep people home that night and tickets were sold out in a snap. People came dressed in ‘60s costumes and danced and danced and danced that evening. And there was enough money to keep the event going in future years and draw a loyal following.
One of my favourite events over the years is the Saturday chili cook-off, with folks wandering the downtown Square trying to juggle Styrofoam bowls, a bun and steaming beverages while bundled up against some blustery weather. Tomato sauce and ground beef slopped onto mitts and napkins blew away in the wind. It’s a wonder we ever got our ballots cast for the best chili. That challenge continued through the years, probably weighed against the festive spirit that comes with meeting friends and neighbours on busy, chilly sidewalks. This year, however, the Rotary club is trying a new location, with chili competitors lining the indoor streetscape of the Maitland Recreation Centre. Some of the braver competitors, clinging to tradition, will set up outside the centre’s front doors.
One of the newer events is the Saturday evening fireworks show by PyroWorld in the town’s agricultural park. The spectacular show is set to music, with the low-level fireworks reflecting on the snow, which makes for great photographs. Anyone who isn’t interested in braving the outdoors for hot chocolate at 6:30 p.m. and fireworks at 7 p.m. can catch the musical presentation on 104.9 The Beach, starting at 7 p.m.
“There are a variety of indoor and outdoor activities through the weekend,” said Wanda Keith, who is the town’s festival and special events co-ordinator.
“The variety of things happening is phenomenal. And it’s all local organizations putting these events on,” she said.
Another event that’s new this year will be the Goderich Makers Market on Saturday morning. It’s just like a visit to the farmers market, only it’s wintertime and it’s indoors, with produce, local meat, baked goods, soups, crafts and soaps. In addition, the local horticultural society will bring the promise of spring by hosting a seed swap, with seeds available to swap or purchase by donation.
For a full list of events, click here. One additional event didn’t make it to the poster, which is the free skate from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at Victoria Park’s outdoor rink, as long as the weather’s cold enough to keep the ice frozen. Hot chocolate and cookies provided by Zehrs.