Day and night, there’s something for everyone in this multi-location, four day event set against a back drop of the sparkly blue water of Lake Erie and the Welland Canal. The quiet, tiny, city of Port Colborne, nearly quadruples in size, as flocks of people come to check out tall ships, free
live-concerts, eat deep fried food, and revel as boat owners have fully-clothed, pole dancing competitions down at the docks. Young and old are entertained at every turn; from buskers, to live bands stationed all over the city, tent-vendors, food-trucks, and midway rides. Canal Days is loud, busy, fun, and one of the most all-ages-friendly events ever.
Port Colborne’s quaint little shops along West St.’s Canal District, are worth a trip on their own, but during this event there’s such a great energy there. Shop owners welcome you with excitement and live music, and the entire street is lined with food vendors and retailers selling hats, dresses, jewelery and glow-in-the-dark mo-hawks. Here’s the place to get anything you ever wanted deep fried; deep fried pickles, blooming onions, deep fried cheesecake, even mars bars, (which are surprisingly good). Tall ships, like Empire Sandy, grace the docks for the weekend, and everyone can have a unique chance to see them in full sail, take a cruise, check out the crew’s quarters below deck, and get on board a big laker ship. Kids play ship captain as boat crews welcome them to push all the levers and gadgets in the control room. Down the street are amusement rides and inflatables for kids aged 4 to 99. Free little-tike train rides take you to and from the parks for face painting and balloon animals.
Live entertainment dots the strip every few hundred feet or less, while free big-name concerts drive people in droves. In 2012, the Market Square Event Stage headlined Sloan, The Trews, and more, all weekend long. Sunday night, resident’s dress up their boats with lights and have a floating parade on the canal. It’s a nice opener that builds anticipation before the big fireworks extravaganza, visible anywhere along the bridge, West St., East Village, and the Twenty Valley Wine Bar (better come early because seats go fast). PoCo always puts on a good fireworks show. Packed with foot traffic, it’s beautiful to watch them from the bridge, where you can also see the lights of all the boats and the vendors lined up along on West. St.
H.H.Knoll Park, at the marina, hosts a car show, and the Niagara Windriders Kitefliers Assn, who bring battle kites, aquarium in the sky displays and the notorious night fly, where all the kites are lit up and glittering to Frank Sinatra on a loud speaker. This is one of the most peaceful and relaxing experiences; feeling the wind, watching the kites sway in and out. Its a nice place to kick back for a break. At the marina, BoarderPass Niagara provides a more active thrill as young and old ride the rails at the wakeboard park.
Other events at various locations included: canal days 5K run, a mountain bike race, golf challenge, craft market, museum stargazer display, War of 1812 battle re-enactments, and a rubber duck race to support Port Colborne’s local Showboat Theatre, who presented ‘Pop goes the 60’s’. The city always puts out a handy schedule of event times and locations in the newspaper, and in a glossy print guide. It’s best to come for a few days in a B&B to enjoy popping in and out freely to the various events. Bring a bathing suit, because a beautiful beach is just a short drive away.