Brighton Winterfest


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Which Way to Go?

It was Saturday morning. Judi was visiting her sister in Newmarket and I was looking for a festival to attend. I headed east on Highway 401 still trying to make up my mind where to go. There were two festivals to choose from and both sounded promising. I finally reached the off ramp. I went to the stop sign. I could turn either way and find a great festival to visit.

Here is where the scientific part of my festival training took over. I flipped a coin and turned right and headed south. It was off to the Brighton Winterfest. My first stop was the Brighton Lions Centre for a pancake breakfast.

I paid my $5.00 and went to the counter to place my order. The lady behind the counter asked me how many I could eat! I had never been asked that question before, so I had to stop and think. Most pancake breakfast you attend just had you a plate with the food already on it, so this was a real treat. It was tricky, though, because I was hungry but didn’t want to look greedy!

I am sure I could have asked for ten and that would have been okay with them, but instead I just asked for the normal three. The hall had a nice sized crowd and all the tables were partially occupied. I spied a table with a couple of empty chairs and ask the people already seated if I could join them. They graciously agreed and what a great choice of tables I had made! I noticed that one of the ladies at the table had a “committee member” badge on. I introduced myself and started to ask some questions as to where some of the events were taking place.

The lady, Marian Johns, said that rather then tell me, she would go to her car and get me a map. WOW, what a great welcome! Sure enough she came back with both a map and a guide. Marian and her fellow committee member, Yvonne Cooper, proceeded to show me where all the events were going to take place. It all sounded terrific. This 14 year old festival seemed to be very well planned. After giving me my tutorial, the ladies took their leave. Shortly thereafter, I finished my pancake breakfast and headed out to the “Days Of Thunder”!

The Speedway…

The Brighton Speedway is located east of town. The speedway normally hosts stock car racing every Saturday night from April 29th to September 30th. Today it was hosting snowmobiles and 4 wheelers, all part of Brighton Winterfest. When I had arrived in Brighton earlier, it was overcast, but no snow. Now that I was driving to the speedway, the snow was starting to come down.

By the time I reached the speedway grounds, the light snow flurries had turned into fairly heavy snow storm, perfect for snowmobiling, but for watching, I wasn’t sure! I parked the car and headed for the stands. The girls that were selling ticket were staying warm in their vehicle rather then standing in to cold ticket booths. Good move on their part! When I arrived, the stands were still fairly empty. I made my way up the slippery steps to the top most row. Not only would I get a good view of the races, I was protected (at least a little) by the wall of the announcers booth.

Fortunately I sat beside two gentlemen who really knew this sport, so I was treated to a running commentary about what was taking place. It seems that each of them had relatives or friends who were racing! As the stands started to fill, the racers began their practice runs. Each racer was called to the track as his or her classes turn come. The roar of the engines drowned out the speedway announcer who was trying to tell us who was of the track. As I sat there and the snow keep falling, I came to realize that I might not be wearing the most appropriate attire. In fact, as I looked around at my fellow spectators, I KNEW I wasn’t dressed right!

They were all snug in their snowmobile suits and comfy, warm winter boots! My summer pants and docksiders just didn’t cut it! Undaunted I stayed were I was and watched the racers perform their practice laps. Finally a pickup truck with a snowplow came onto the track and started scraping the snow off to the side. The racing was about to begin! The sound of engines being fired up and loudly revved came across the infield to the stands.

The first group, snowmobiles, lined up at the track entrance and then were marshaled onto the track. They formed two double lines and slowly approached the starter’s green flag. As they mover forward, they increased their speed. As the starts flag dropped, they were at full speed! The noise was defining! All but one took the first corner perfectly, but the last racer lost control and spun wildly into the embankment.

Fortunately he was able to right his machine and he was off again in pursuit of his fellow racers. The race finally ended after about 8 laps with the winner well out in front. Then it was the 4 wheelers turn. This race started as before but all of the drivers seemed to have better control of their machines. There were very few spin outs in the heat. It was all very exciting, but I was getting cold and wet and I had other events to visit. I bid my fellow top row visitors goodbye and left to find my car. Other adventures were waiting…

On The Waterfront…

From the Brighton Speedway I raced (kidding!) to the Brighton waterfront. My first stop was Gosport Marina. As a drove into the parking area a “Big Brown Bear” was waving a greeting to me!! It turned out to be none other than committee member Yvonne Cooper whom I had met earlier at the Lions Club pancake breakfast. She was warmly dressed in a warm bear costume. I guess volunteering does have its perks, I am just glad this wasn’t July!! By this time the snow had stopped and it was now just an overcast day. A perfect day for a day at the lake!

This was the area where festival goers could take a horse drawn sleigh ride, skate on the lake and build an imaginative snowman/woman.

As I parked my car, a horse drawn wagon loaded with adults and children passed by on its way down the lake shore road.

On the lake skaters were readying the ice by shoveling the snow off its surface.

One the other side of the road a volunteer with a garden hose was wetting the snow so that snowmen could be built. The wetting of the snow was necessary as it was quite cold and the snow was very dry.

Once the snow was wet enough adults and children converged and started rolling snowballs until they were large enough to form the lower half of the bodies. Then came the second, slightly smaller ball which formed the upper half of the body. Finally came smallest snowball as the head. Once the general shape of the snowmen/women was completed, it was time to dress them.

This was where the real imagination took place. One family placed a long blond wig on the head and a boa around its neck. I am not sure what they used for eyes, nose and mouth, because the snow woman toppled over before I could get a close look. Undaunted, the mother and daughter started all over again. I think it was going to be a long day!

A little further away another snowman was taking shape. First a cowboy hat was placed on the head, and then a vest and a bandanna were put on the upper half. This was followed by a belt and gun holster around the middle. I had visions of the whole snowman breaking in half as they did up the belt, but it stayed in one piece. Finally the finishing touches were added, two stick arms and a gun on one of the arms. It was a terrific work of art and everyone there loved it!

After so much excitement I decided to move on to the other lake venue. This is where the “Big Hockey” match was taking place! The venue was a fair distance, so I drove over to it. A game was already in progress.

The 4 and 5 year olds were having the time of their young lives. This is what winter in Ontario is all about!

I watched the game for a while and then took my leave of the Brighton Winterfest. Another successful event under their belt.

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