Cobourg Waterfront Festival


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

The Cobourg Waterfront Festival has been attracting visitors for over 25 years, and crowds are still flock to this wonderful event. During the festival Victoria Park is full of the vendors and food merchants, providing all kinds of treats and interesting items for sale. The band shell continues to provide a wide assortment of music and entertainment all weekend long. The Lion’s Club Marketplace offers visitors a wide variety goods from around the world.

The sandy beach was full of swimmers, volleyball players and families enjoying time together. The pier carnival and rides were full of excited youth and some adventurous adults.

The Rotary Craft Show and Sale attracts hundreds of visitors to the arts, crafts, and products.

Various music and other attractions throughout the downtown parks and beach remain part of the success of the Cobourg Waterfront Festival.

Many volunteers and service clubs continue to contribute funds directly back into the community. Our hats are off the all those who continue to strive to keep the momentum going! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, the volunteers and service clubs of many communities remain the “heart-beat of the community“.

It’s a great festival to attend and worth while spending the time to enjoy the day with family and friends.

Beautiful Downtown Cobourg

Cobourg is located on Lake Ontario halfway between Toronto and Kingston. Hwy #401 runs through just north of the downtown core. Cobourg’s population is approximately 19,000. Cobourg’s unique downtown core, beautiful sandy beach and magnificent harbour attracts thousands of tourists each year. The main focal point of the downtown area is Victoria Hall. Built in the 1850’s, Victoria Hall represents the grand history of Cobourg and its residents. Many Ontarian’s have now discovered Cobourg and are relocating here to become part of the permanent community. As a result, residential construction is booming!

Abutting the sandy beach is Victoria Park. The park’s amenities include a Lawn Bowling facility, children’s play area, food concession, picnic facilities, Lions Pavilion, Bandshell, swimming pool, floral clock, magnificent gardens and an in-town trailer camp.

The harbour area is located just west of Victoria Park and includes numerous open slips and a full service marina. Victoria Park and Cobourg Harbour are the site of the annual Cobourg Waterfront Festival

High In the Sky…
(The following is a description of one of our visits to the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Each year organizers add various activities to ensure that the event remains “fresh”.)

It was the first day of the festival and the Canadian Forces Snow Birds (that’s the Canadian precision aerobatic team) were due in town.

Well, over the town! Victoria Park and the waterfront area were jammed and I mean jammed with people waiting for the show to begin. A day earlier the residents of Cobourg were treated to a show preview. The Snowbirds flew over the town as they practiced their routines. The windows of our home shook as the planes flew by overhead. We didn’t care, we new what was coming tomorrow! But today was the big day and 11:00 am was fast approaching.

Right on time, everyone looked out over the lake. They started out a pin pricks in the sky. They had their lights on and were growing in size every second. Finally we could make them out, all 9 jets. Just when we could make out the full details of the planes, they pulled up and went straight up in the high atmosphere of the sky! What a fantastic beginning.

All 9 planes passed in several formations and then suddenly they all dispersed in several directions. The crowd was then treated to single, duo, triple, etc. performances, each more spectacular than the other. All too soon the 9 planes formed up again and passed over the crowd in a final salute. Two days passed and it was time to sky gaze again. This time it was for the SkyHawks. The SkyHawks are the Canadian Forces Parachute Team.

They are considered the very best in the business. Parachute teams from all over the whole marvel at their skills. Once again the park and beach fills with people. The team is scheduled to start their performance at 11:00 am. About a half hour before then, the SkyHawks’ support team clears a landing zone on the beach and set up wind socks and a landing “X”. They test the wind speed. The wind isn’t consistent. They wait a few minutes and test the wind again. This happens several more times.

At a little after 11:00 am the jump plane passes by overhead. The crowd becomes alert, but no one jumps yet. The plane makes several passes and the wind is tested again and again. Finally the Teams announcer comes on the microphone and tells the crowd that the conditions are now perfect for jumping, the best he has seen. He tells us to look straight for the first 2 jumpers. It takes a few moments for the jumpers to be seen. They are very high up. We see the first one spiraling down and then the chute opens! It’s in the form of a Canadian Flag. Trailing the jumper is a real Canadian Flag billowing in the wind. The jumper makes a perfect landing. Each jumper performed flawlessly, landing perfectly in the beach landing area. Another great show over! All the members of the team gather up their chutes and then line up for a final salute to the crowd. Everyone cheers and waves. The members of the team have agreed to sign autographs and answers questions. Much of the crowd surges on the team to take them up on their offer. Everyone at both shows enjoyed the performances and hopefully remembered the sacrifices our troops were making over seas. With the first show over, we walked back to the Lions Marketplace

The Lions Area…

We had walked down from our home to the Victoria Park and the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Fortunately for us it wasn’t too far. For those who did drive, parking was in short supply. There was however a shuttle bus service available that would take you from your car to the main entrances of the festival. The festival is divided into two sections. Victoria Park is operated by the Cobourg Lions and the harbourfront area by the Cobourg Rotary Club. Each area has a number of sections/activities within its boundaries.

The first section we visited was the Lions Marketplace.

The Lions Marketplace…

The Marketplace takes up a good portion of Victoria Park. The Marketplace is a collection of vendors selling everything from Crocs to Sunglasses.

A number of food vendors also lined the pathways. In addition to vendors, there were information tents. You could test your boat safety awareness by taking the BoatSmart Exam, offered by BoatSmart Canada or you could be d.u.m.b Struck by the Insurance Bureau of Canada with their interactive driving test – Distractions Undermine Motorists Behaviour. All of this in good fun! The booths were lined up on either side of winding pathways. In the hodgepodge of pathways, it would be difficult to find a specific vendor or a certain product. The discovery of interesting products, however, was fun. Moving further north in the park, we crossed Queen Street. On the north side of this street were a few children’s activities. Home Depot had set up a small area where children could hammer and build to their heart’s content. A much larger play area was provided by McDonald’s. They had brought their Ronald McDonald Sports Zone. The kids really loved this exhibit. When we were there, there were line ups to get in. Someone told us that we had just missed Ronald, himself! Oh well, onto the Bandshell…

The Bandshell and More...

The Bandshell has a full schedule of entertainment for the whole festival. On Canada Day (July 1st) the Canada Day committee plans all the Bandshell activities.

On the other days, the entertainment is arranged for by the Lions/Lionesses. The Bandshell line-up includes Children’s Entertainer, Dan the Music Man (he was entertaining while we were there), local music groups, revival tribute bands and up and coming music stars. The Bandshell committee tries to find entertainment for all tastes. This is a very popular attraction. Right next to the Bandshell is the Lions Beer Tents.

Patrons can enjoy a refreshing drink while listening to the Bandshell entertainment. Just south of this area, towards the lake, is permanent children’s playground. It includes everything from water features to swings to a wading pool. Also included in this area is a permanent canteen for hungry beach worshipers. For the festival, pony rides were added plus a mini golf area. We now wanted to visit the Rotary Harbour area. To get to it we need to pass through the Victoria Park Trailer Camp.

It was time to explore the Rotary area

The Pier…

To the south is the Cobourg Pier. That is were most of Rotary’s food vendors are situated.

Past them is the Midway. We started to walk south. On our left was the Colborne Rotary Tilley Hat Booth. Traveling further, we were in the midst of all the food vendors. The mixed smells were enticing. So enticing that some of the food had are names attached to them.

We succumbed to the mythical “Food” Sirens. I forced myself to eat a tasty “Back Bacon on a Bun”! Judi had greasy fries! We moved further into the crowd and onto the main part of the pier.

The pier seemed like it was in motion with the whirling of the rides and the loud music blasting from the midway loudspeakers. It was time to backtrack and head for the more placid Arts and Crafts tents…

Arts and Crafts Show…

The Rotary Arts and Crafts Show is located at the north end of the pier. It is nestled between the Cobourg Harbour and newly built condominiums.

It is the largest juried crafts show in Ontario. Over 150 crafters are housed under 5 huge marquee tents. Products being sold range from bath and body products to soapstone art and everything in between. We walked to the entrance and were greeted by Rotarians eager to sell us tickets to enter the show.

It was early Saturday afternoon and the tents were crowded with happy shoppers. We entered the first tent and peered down the first row. The row stretched almost as far as the eye could see. Undaunted we started out looking for the perfect purchase. As we walked along the row we stopped at many booths to get a better look and the creations being offered. Most were hard to resist. Two booths, in particular caught our eye. Judi had been looking for a hair barrette and found the perfect one made from an old spoon. That’s right, you heard me, an old spoon!

That is what this crafter sold, creations made from old cutlery! They were inventive and beautifully crafted… a great find. The other crafter we found work with wood and created wonderful games… cribbage boards, poker sets, Crokinole and more. We found the perfect gift for friends of ours who love to play Euchre but aren’t very good at keeping score… a beautiful wood Euchre set with a counting peg board! On our tour of the tents we saw quite a few booths being “manned” by men and women wearing yellow bibs. They were the “booth minders” who looked after a vendor’s booth when a break was needed. By the time we reach the last booth in the last tent, my feet were sore and my back ached. We needed the rest, Canada Day is coming…

Canada Day…

This year Canada Day (July 1st) fell on Sunday. The Canada Day committee plans a full day of activities each year. The day starts off with the Canada Day parade at 12:00 noon.

This year’s parade was led by the Cobourg Concert Band and followed closely by this year’s dignitaries. The remainder of the parade included floats, bands, dancers, fire engines, dogs, children and lots of marchers.

The crowd, which lined the streets, cheered as each went by. The parade started at the west of the downtown area, marched through the downtown core and finished at Victoria Park.

All the way along the parade route people lined each side of the street. Once the parade was finished, everyone (well almost everyone) headed over to the Bandshell to be part of the opening ceremonies. The town crier welcomed everyone to the ceremonies and declared the festivities officially open. The Cobourg Mayor was introduced and thanked the town crier and offered him his bi-yearly payment, a pint of beer! The crier gratefully accepted and deposited the payment quickly. Dignitaries were asked to say a few words of welcome.

Once all were finished, two giant Canada Day cakes were brought out and officially cut by the mayor and a “birthday girl” from the crowd. Everyone was invited to line up for a piece of cake. The Canada Day festivities could now begin. A great entertainment was scheduled for the Bandshell. Performers included the very popular Aengus Finnan, Marty and the Mojos, The Big Easy 7 and more.

Elsewhere in the park children’s activities were taking place… crafts, face-painting and balloons. After a very eventful Cobourg Waterfront Festival day, the grand Canada Day finale came at dusk, the annual fireworks display. As each series of fireworks lite up the sky, there was an audible “awe” from the crowd. With the last firework lighting the sky, the crowd reluctantly left waterfront. Another great Canada Day over.

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