75th Winterama brings plenty of smiles to Penetanguishene

The most iconic thing about the town of Penetanguishene is whether you are at the top of the hill or the bottom, it’s big enough that you can see a full parade’s worth of activities no matter where you stand.

Saturday was host to the 75th annual Winterama festival in Penetanguishene, notable for being the longest running winter festival in Ontario. Hundreds of attendees were treated to over 30 floats and marchers along the Main Street route during a day where the weather was seasonably clear and pleasant.

“I’ve been coming to Winterama since I was a kid,” said Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Rawson.

“It’s quite the honour to be involved (as mayor during the anniversary), but with all due fairness this is only happening because of the community spirit, and the volunteers and staff that make it happen.”

Rawson was joined on the parade route by neighbouring municipal leader Bill Gordon, mayor of Midland. Representatives from the Beausoleil First Nation also held a spot in the parade, with many others to follow.

The Penetanguishene Kings and the Flames hockey teams each gave the crowd reason to cheer; the Ship’s Company brought their vessel; members of Habitat for Humanity walked along with smiles on their faces.

The Winterama Queen and Princesses waved regally to the commonfolk in the St. Ann’s Saints float; We Are The Villagers shared in festivities; Timbits waved to all from the Tim Hortons float; Guides Canada sported custom-made headwear; and École secondaire Le Caron brought their own marching band.

Keeping It Balanced Bookkeeping celebrated with a Winterama-themed float; musicians from École publique Saint-Joseph broadcast a Penetanguishene-centric theme song which heralded many elements within the municipality; Penetanguishene Skating Club graced the festivities; and students from Burkevale Protestant Separate School waved vigorously to the crowd.

There were parade exhibitions from the upcoming cardboard races and demolition derby as well. Dogs representing the Pet Shoppe made an appearance; and the entire event was bookended by the Southern Georgian Bay OPP and Penetanguishene and Midland Fire Departments who blared their loud sirens for cheering spectators.

An hour later at a log sawing competition sponsored by Ritchie Forest Products, the Penetanguishene and Midland mayors were further joined in entertaining the crowd alongside executives and representatives from the Townships of Springwater, Tay, and Tiny who fought to be the best. In addition, members of the Penetanguishene, Midland, and Tiny fire departments battled along with the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment.

Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop and executive assistant Jacqueline Bayley participated, securing an early lead in the sawing competition; naturals at the event.

“Log sawing is all about the pulling, not the pushing,” said Dunlop, taking note of the firefighters next on the roster. “It’s all in the technique.” Moments later, the pair were bettered by six seconds, as Dunlop had predicted.

Adam Cook and Kevin Moreau of the fire department won the event with a 21-second rush, while councillor Stephen Walma and CAO Robert Lamb of Tiny Township were the fastest of the dignitaries with a 32-second sprint.

Dock-side, the Rotary Club was hosting a polar plunge with nearly 200 onlookers. Brave participants were introduced along with their fundraising efforts and causes before sliding down and into an icy pool, all to the cheers of the crowd.

The three-day event held great delight for many of the festival goers, including residents old and new. Pat Larmand was in attendance with her small granddaughter Heidi.

“(Back in the sixties) I was a go-go girl dancing in this parade,” said Larmand in joyful reminiscence of her own youthful participation. “I was on a float with Chuck and the Chippers, going down that hill.”

Heidi was shy however, with Pat admitting on her behalf that the biggest draw for Winterama wasn’t for any of the offered events, but instead for Heidi to simply see her cousin. Once the parade had passed through, Heidi gave a curt nod from behind Pat that, yes, she did enjoy the spectacle.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca