Just as Father Christmas merrily wishes ‘Happy Christmas’ to all good children every year without fail, throughout this August summer weekend the smiling children of Alliston have been calling out ‘Happy Potato Festival’ !!
Alliston is located just over an hour north of Toronto, it’s a small town with a big community feel. The township of New Tecumseth is the potato capital of Ontario, the annual harvest festival is a great opportunity for local businesses and the people of Alliston to come together celebrating the potato in all its glorious forms.
Over the course of the weekend there are events for all the family. Fairground rides and stalls entertain the kids, there’s a ‘Texas Hold Em’ poker event and beer garden with live music for the rowdy adults. It’s a big weekend for the town with neighbourhood BBQ parties where kids are allowed out on their own later than would usually be allowed and everyone has a chance to let their hair down, some more than others though!
Our first Canadian potato festival and the town’s 42nd kicked off on Friday night with a huge parade. Kilted Pipers from the Ontario Fire Service led the parade, while shiny fire trucks sound their horns and sirens.
Massive agricultural trucks decorated with balloons roll on by reminding the town of its farming heritage.
Shriners’ parade units from all over Ontario travel to take part in the parade. These fellowships raise money for Shriners’ Children’s Hospitals. The Shriners fraternity are known for driving through parades in miniature cars wearing their traditional fezzes promoting their charitable image. I particularly liked the Shriner ‘Ken Doll’ on the front of the mini car machine.
The main employer in Alliston is Honda of Canada Manufacturing, which has three plants producing cars. There was a big float and plenty of Honda promotional goodies being handed out.
During Saturday, Victoria Street the main thoroughfare in Alliston is blocked off from traffic. Local trade stalls sell their wares, Girl Guides and Scouts tout sweets & pops, the chip trucks fry up piping hot twirly strips of potatoes on a stick, bands play jaunty tunes and the gymnastic & kickboxing organisations demonstrate their latest choreographed moves. It’s lots of fun with all the family cruising the strip.
The ‘Under and Over’ antique car club gathered to show their vintage motors, classic colourful Cadillacs shine next to beautifully kept Chevy’s.
Sunday was all about relaxing in the Evans household, the previous night was spent celebrating milestone birthdays for Rachel and their good friend Jeff. The boys had their own annual jamming session in the garage until the wee hours, Neil Young would be proud!
If we had ventured out to the Midway fields we would have seen a dog show, baby show and many other arena events…but we chose to drink wine and beers on the porch with a few potato based snacks to finish the weekend off.
So to sum up the festival; its one where the whole town gets together to see their friends and get drunk, go on rides that you need take out a small mortgage for, eat a baked potato or poutine, expect one of your friends to get arrested and then talk about it for the rest of the year!
We had a wonderful festival weekend with our Evans family and had opportunity to meet some fabulous Alliston friends.
Potatoes, live long and prosper..until the next festival when you call call out Happy Potato Festival!