Who doesn’t love a cherry pie?
The St. Mark’s Anglican Church Cherry Festival took place on July 9 and proved a sweet success. Cherry pies were completely sold out within the first few hours of the event.
Residents and visitors alike expressed their joy at the return of one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s most famed social gatherings.
“This is why I moved here,” said NOTL resident Kerry Ryan.
“I wanted a community where there was lots going on. I’ve joined the newcomers club, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Social Club —the community centre, it’s great.”
Ryan moved down to NOTL from Toronto a little over a year ago. She said the community spirit of NOTL is second to none.
Andrea Douglas, one of the lead organizers of the festival, said the roughly 400 cherry pies made for the event were sold out by noon.
Douglas said more than 100 volunteers worked to make the festival a success. From running stands to baking goods and pies, the festival’s many enthusiastic volunteers kept things going all day.
“It’s really all about getting our community back here and we can’t believe how many people have come out today. We’re kind of overwhelmed and that’s a good thing,” said barbecue volunteer and regional coun. Gary Zalepa.
“I think people have an appetite to get back outside and socialize,” he said.
Zalepa said he has been volunteering for the festival for about 10 years.
“I got trained by the professional — Gary Burroughs. The baton was handed down, so to speak.”
Zalepa is also a member of St. Mark’s and said the congregation were equally excited to have people visiting once more.
“A lot of parishioners are excited to do something together instead of online.”
“This event is also really key for sustainability for St. Mark’s and getting that back on track.”
The sustainability of St. Mark’s, which houses NOTL’s oldest cemetery, was a subject of its own at a booth at the back of the festival where Sally Mitchell was raising money for the cemetery restoration.
The St. Mark’s cemetery is older than the town of NOTL, with its earliest burial dating back to the 1780’s, said Mitchell.
“We are restoring another 20 monuments this year,” Mitchell, who sits on the cemetery board, said.
She said the cost for work done in the cemetery this year is budgeted around $20,000, much of that going toward headstone restoration.
Volunteers did not feel like their hard work and time went to waste.
“I think the day’s been very successful,” said Kathy Taylor, wife of Lake Report writer Tim Taylor.
“Very successful,” fellow volunteer Joy Rogers added.
Taylor and Rogers were running a baked good stand with muffins and coffee among other treats. They too sold out of their goods.
“We really needed it because we’ve been closed for a long time,” said Rogers.
Taylor said festival-goers were enthusiastic about the event, but it was not without its frustrations for some.
“They’re most disappointed when they drive all the way out from Mississauga at one o’clock in the afternoon and the cherry pies have been sold out since ten,” said Taylor.
“I suggested they come the night before and get a bed and breakfast.”
Parishioner Anjulika Chand tried her hand at running the jewellery stand for her first time this year.
“I’ve been going to St. Mark’s for six or seven years now but I’ve been coming to these festivals since we were little kids and always loved them. So, I thought this was a great opportunity to join in and help out,” said Chand.
“You know, it was nice to see everybody out, enjoying themselves and having a good time. You know, giving back to the community that we all love.”
All the jewellery for sale at the church had been donated by residents and parish members, she said.
Still festival hungry? The Niagara-on-the-Lake Peach Festival is scheduled for August 13. Read the Lake Report for further details as the date approaches.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report