Spotlight On Niagara

Niagara Grape and Wine Festival: Bigger and Better for 2019!

Niagara Grape and Wine Festival: Bigger and Better for 2019!

By David DeRocco 

Death, taxes, and local opinions on how to improve the Grape and Wine Festival – those are three realities of life you can always count on when living in Niagara. Thankfully for both local and out of town visitors, organizers of Niagara’s premier fall event have been working hard to incorporate more exciting new ideas into this year’s festival.

 “For starters, Montebello Park is undergoing more changes this year,” said Dorian Anderson, Executive Director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. “Last year we started dressing up the park a little bit. We added some light installations, a bunch of décor things, and we’re going even further this year.”

 With the Montebello Park rose gardens celebrating their 100th anniversary, Anderson says better integration of the area into the festival’s overall design for the park was a big part of the plan for 2019.

 “I’ve always loved Montebello Park, I think it’s a beautiful gem, and I wanted to highlight some of the most beautiful parts. So we’re actually turning the rose gardens into a new wine lounge. There will be a seating area with a premium bar so people can sit in there, have a view through to the stage and enjoy the surroundings.”

 Another exciting element being added to Montebello Park is a pop up art installation called The Wine Life Exhibit, an area inspired by Toronto’s Happy Place exhibit featuring four distinct 10 by 10 installations. Anderson says the innovative space will offer visitors a uniquely different Wine Festival experience.

 “For example, in one of them you can ride a tractor,” she explained. “There will be a video wall that has you driving through a vineyard. There’s going to be one that has 10,000 VQA corks on the wall with thrones made out of wine barrels. It’s really kind of cool and kitschy stuff, following the trend of offering Instagram-able moments. There’s this entire area of the park that’s going to be filled with awesome spaces to capture fun images of yourself.”

 In addition, festival organizers will be lighting up the long promenade of mature trees leading into the park from Midland Street, which will serve as an inviting, open walkway complete with tables and chairs. 

“There’s never any problem coming up with fun and great ideas,” said the St. Catharines-born Anderson, who understands the passion local residents have for the 68 year old festival. “We’ve got a great team here and the community is pretty vocal about the fun and neat things they’d like to see each year. It’s really just working with the footprint of the park, because it’s got all those lovely undulating hills. Being able to actually fine tune our ideas down to the few we want to execute each year is probably the bigger challenge.”

 The 68th annual Grande Parade will also be getting some additional attention, thanks in part to the creative vision of Artistic Director Alice Burke.

 “We wanted to play on the vibrancy of colour this time of year,” said Anderson, referring to this year’s ‘Parade of Many Colours’ theme. “We started with the Pied Piper Parade to lead the theme of the Grande Parade. We wanted to have something fun, to have kids looking like a colourful marching crayon box. That lead us into ideas for the fall festival, to have bursts of colour to brighten up the streets.”

 Another happy note for the 2019 parade is the addition of five more marching bands, a feature made possible through a sponsorship from Performance Auto Group. Of course, no Niagara Grape and Wine Festival season would be complete without the Discovery Pass program, which gives holders access to three full weekends of sampling at local wineries. Anderson says the Discovery Pass program is often forgotten by locals caught up in all the other elements of the festival. 

 “We have 30 wineries participating in the program this year. I always think a lot of people, especially locally, don’t always think of that because they’re just focused on Montebello. But for the wineries, this is the most exciting time of the year. There’s so much activity going on. I’m one of those people who like seeing behind the scenes and seeing how things are made, and this is the time for that at the wineries. There are harvests happening, tons of people in the vineyards, huge grape bins coming in from the vineyards. It’s really a neat time to visit, and a lot of new vintage wines get released during this time.”

 With all that’s going on during Grape and Wine Festival, what does the festival director enjoy most about this time of year and the job at hand? 

 “That’s a hard question. I think my favourite part of the job is that I grew up with this festival. I was born in St. Catharines, so to have the opportunity to bring some innovation and energy into it is great. We’ve got tons of people in the community to share ideas, so to be able to be the one to get to bring those ideas to life is probably my favourite part of the job. Especially right now, revitalizing Montebello park and the parade makes me so happy!”

 For full details, Discovery Pass purchases and park entertainment schedules, visit:


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