The Virgil Stampede returns Saturday, planned to be a better-than-ever three-day event to celebrate the upcoming May long weekend.
This year, members of the Virgil Business Association, organizers of the event, are excited to be able to give back to their community with a crowd-pleasing event, after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. It’s a tradition that goes back 56 years, when an annual family fireworks display for locals taking place in Virgil grew to become first a popular two-day celebration of the long weekend, and then eventually to three days, drawing families from across the region.
Most of the favourite events and entertainment will return. New this year, with the addition of the skatepark on the property, funded in part by the 2019 stampede proceeds, the VBA decided to add an event to make use of the popular facility. West49, a retailer of skateboards and skateboard apparel, has been invited to participate, and will be at the skatepark Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m., offering demonstrations, and a trick competition with prizes.
The same great food concessions will be back, provided by local businesses and volunteers, and at the same prices as 2019.
“We’ve really tried wherever we can to keep the prices the same as 2019, including the food,” says VBA president Richard Wall. “It’s our way of saying thank you to the community. Despite inflation since then, we didn’t want to take advantage and raise our prices. Everything we could keep the same, we did. And whatever we raise from this year’s stampede will go back to the community.”
Wall is as excited about this year’s event as he’s ever been. “Everything I’ve seen and heard makes us feel it’s going to be a great year,” he says. “There is a lot of interest out there, from a lot of people who want to be part of it. It feels like everybody is happy to hear it’s back. It’s going to be a great event.”
And if it is, the VBA will begin to look for a project to fund, he added. In the decades since the first stampede, when proceeds went to help fund the first arena at the sports park, the VBA has raised more than $1.2 million to put back into the community.
Amusement rides are being provided by Albion Attractions all three days, with bracelets for all-day rides. Although rides were traditionally provided by Homeniuk, a family-owned business, one of the family members passed away recently. Randy Homeniuk, who has been onsite for decades of stampedes, is partnering with Albion.
Bracelets will be available at Phil’s Independent in Virgil at a discounted price of $35 until Friday May 20, at 9 p.m. — also the same price as 2019. Gate admission is free for those with bracelets.
The Kids’ Pavilion will be back, with lots of free entertainment for the youngsters in the crowd. The Ben Show’s high-energy comedy, juggling, unicycling and circus stunts will be performed three times each of the three days. Ben Burland wows audiences and makes people laugh, perfect for a family event.
The popular air-brush face painting that kids love will be part of this year’s stampede, also in the Kids Pavillion. It is offered by a family of artists who do their best to make sure the line-up is never too long for youngsters to wait. There is a charge for the face painting.
And Mike London, a veteran at the stampede, will be back to provide an opportunity to interact and learn about some of his reptiles — he brings different ones each year, but usually includes an iguana, a 10-foot python and an alligator, along with an assortment of geckos, chameleons and jumbo tortoises.
There will also be free pony rides for the kids all three days.
The Niagara Electric Flyers will be back, inside the Centennial Arena, all three days. The enthusiastic group of radio-controlled model plane operators always put on a great demonstration.
And as always, the event will wrap up with the traditional Victoria Day fireworks, Monday at dusk.
New this year, says Wall, is increased security at the gates. The property will be fenced, with personnel from a professional security firm — one accustomed to handling major events with large crowds — checking bags as people enter. There have been some minor incidents in past years, Wall says, so on the advice of the Niagara Regional Police the decision was made to bring in security guards, “to ensure we continue to have a great family event for everyone.”
Volunteers are still needed. For those who might have time to give, visit https://
Gates are open at the Virgil Sports Park Saturday, May 21 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, May 22, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday, May 23 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Parking will not be permitted in the sports park itself. The entrance from Four Mile Creek Road will be open just for drop-offs, says Wall, but while there is no parking on the site, there are several choices in town.
Parking will be permitted at the town hall parking lot on Lorraine Street, and from there, it’s a short walk along Lorraine Street or to the Four Mile Creek entrance to the sports park.
Cornerstone Church on Niagara Stone Road is offering its parking lot for all three days.
Niagara Motors has given permission to use their parking lot, only for Sunday and Monday.
The Niagara Credit Union has also agreed its parking lot can be used Sunday and Monday. There is access to Loretta Street from the back, and from there it’s a short walk to the sports park.
Phil’s Independent parking lot is available for parking only on Monday.
For more details visit virgilstampede.ca.