The Virgil Stampede went off without a hitch on Victoria Day weekend and many Niagara-on-the-Lake residents volunteered their time to ensure that happened.
“I have been volunteering with the Stampede for years. It’s a great opportunity and such a good event,” Coun. Gary Burroughs said as he manned the gate on Saturday afternoon.
“They do such good work for the whole community. It’s about community,” he said.
The Stampede has been going on in one form or another for 54 years. It is hosted and funded by the Virgil Business Association.
“They’ve done some amazing work over the years and that’s why I volunteer. Plus, it’s fun,” he said.
NOTL residents Brun Gossen and Sophia Vollmer were among the many volunteers helping run the food stand.
“It’s nice to see all the kids out. It’s nice to see the community back together,” Vollmer said in an interview.
She has volunteered at three previous Stampedes. It was Gossen’s first time and she said she loved being surrounded by the positive energy exuded by the crowds.
Both Vollmer and Gossen were quick to bring attention to a longtime volunteer for the beloved event.
Gloria Meyer has been working at and volunteering with the Stampede for more than 40 years. Her father, Max Bogusat, was one of the founders of the fair in the 1960s.
Having been involved with the Stampede since she was a kid, Meyer had a slightly different take on the COVID-caused two year hiatus than most.
“I actually enjoyed my two years off,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s good to be back.”
Meyer recalled one particularly rainy May weekend as a teenager where she had to begrudgingly help out at the Stampede.
“I remember before this whole building was built, we used to have tents set up for the food,” she said from the building that houses the food stands.
“And I remember the one Stampede weekend where it was raining and I was in the french fry booth. I remember having to wear boots because there were puddles and I remember thinking, ‘I hate this job,’ ” Meyer recalled, garnering laughter from the volunteers around her.
Despite some bitter weekends as a teenager spent with boiling grease and potatoes, Meyer has continued to volunteer, every year, for four decades because she knows the value the Stampede brings to NOTL.
“It’s great support for the community because the money we raise goes back to the community,” she said.
Meyer said the biggest change in the past 40 years has been the financial investment in all the amenities and the extravagant firework display.
She recalled how money in the early days helped build the Meridian Centennial Arena and was invested in parks and recreation around town.
Lida Kowal Curtis, a member of the Virgil Business Association, was also volunteering.
“It’s very important to raise awareness and needs for the community of Virgil. Especially for people of all disabilities: the elderly, children. We just put in a glider over at Crossroads" for children who use a wheelchair, she said.
“We were so proud to be able to do that.”
Kowal Curtis was referring to the recent installation of an accessible playground at Crossroads Public School.
“We also contributed to build the skate park because we wanted it to be a park for people of all ages. So, it’s a multi-generational park,” she said.
As she doled out hot dogs, volunteer Debbie Dolha said, “I got recruited by my granddaughter and my sons here.”
“I volunteered once before, I think it was about three years ago. I like it, it’s fun to see everybody having such a great time,” she said.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report