Goderich Winterfest Retrospective

by Wanda Keith, Festivals & Special Events Coordinator (Tourism Goderich)


Tourism Goderich had been hopeful that Goderich Winterfest could happen with an amended format, unfortunately the event has been cancelled for 2021.  In order to remain in compliance with the provincial directive to “Stay at Home,” the Town of Goderich has decided to avoid any public confusion and not hold or promote any events at this time.  We look forward to the future when we can safely gather and hold events once again.

A Retrospective on Winterfest

In the early 1980’s the Goderich Men’s Slow-pitch League approached the Town of Goderich Recreation Department.  They wanted to host a “Snow-Pitch” Tournament and thought it would go over better if it was combined with other activities.

The Rec. Dept. asked for other groups to create some winter fun and so Winterfest in Goderich was created.  The “Snow-Pitch” Tournament along with the dance to celebrate the end of the competition were huge attractions for many years and the dance was often sold out.

Through the years Winterfest has included tournaments: snow-pitch, badminton, curling & darts; theatre productions; live entertainment – hypnotists, jugglers, musicians, ventriloquists and fire performers; activities both indoors and outside such as dances, bowling, ice skating, swimming, crafts and more.

A couple of the events which have been part of Winterfest year after year are the Rotary Chili Cook-off and the Candlelit Winter Walk organized by the Maitland Trail Association.

The Chili Cook-off started out having participants stationed around the Courthouse Square which created lots of activity in our downtown core.  When they decided to move the event indoors, it was first held at the Maitland Rec Centre and finally it has been in the Suncoast Mall.

There were often between 300-450 people tasting and voting for their favourite chili. The Candlelit Winter Walk would get people enthused and aware in late January as there was usually a “lantern making” workshop.

Here people created their own lanterns which then helped to light the Maitland Woods for the walk with takes place on the Friday evening – our “kick-off” event for Winterfest here in Goderich.  The Candlelit Winter Walk celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2019.

In 2016, the BIA created ICEtacular as part of Winterfest.  It drew people back to the Courthouse Square with ice sculptures, horse drawn wagon rides, music, entertainment and fun activities. Cold winter weather was certainly a must for this event.

Tourism Goderich introduced a fireworks show in 2012.  This low explosive pyrotechnic event was set to music and was enjoyed by families as it was fired early in the evening.  It has continued an a “fan favourite” event and was only cancelled once due to inclement weather.

With lots of community groups, businesses and volunteers organizing and running the events, Goderich Winterfest is a truly cooperative, communal weekend.  The support that each group gives to ensure that the public have a great experience is commendable.

Tourism Goderich coordinates the advertising and promoting of the various events which the citizens of Goderich enthusiastically facilitate as part of Winterfest.

We encourage new events both indoors and outside; with broad appeal for both young and old. Everyone wants to “beat the winter blahs” with lots of great events for the entire family.

Our slogan: “Don’t Hibernate ~ Celebrate” captures the spirit of Winterfest.

More to tell – isn’t there always!

I thought about the crazy team themes/costumes worn for the snow pitch tournament and the conditions they have played in over the years – lots of snow, no snow, ice and even mud.

The Chili Cook-off also had some very creative team names and costumes, along with unique recipes.  Of course, we can’t forget the “fixings” that some teams provided.  My family and I always had our “tray” (square or rectangular container) to hold our bun, chili container and drink – milk to cut any heat we encountered!

The Children’s Theatre has provided some wonderful productions over the years with packed audiences of proud family and friends.  It is wonderful to realize that many of these young “thespians” have gone onto participate in the arts as they matured.

Our Huron County Library and Museum have participated for so many years, giving family an opportunity to “warm up” and enjoy crafts or games in their buildings.

In the early years, there were also Winterfest “buttons” that people could collect.  I believe that they cost a dollar or two.  I was “gifted” four of them from 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2000.  These were various shapes and made of a composite material.

It is amazing to think of how many people over the years have organized or created events, volunteered and attended Winterfest here in Goderich.

We often hear of people travelling to our region to enjoy this festival for the variety and the fact that many of the events are free.

Below is a short “Retrospective” video, celebrating over 25 years of WINTERFEST fun!