Inspire Niagara & Beyond - Fall & Winter 2023-2024

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FALL/WINTER 2023-2024

An Exclusive Interview with the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati. PAGE 6

Plus! Winter Domes 20 Poinsettia Showcase 40 Fall Fashion Trends 60 AND MUCH MORE!


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Enjoy our quality chocolates, whether you’re at home, relaxing for the evening or searching for that ideal gift for friends and family.

70 Queen Street Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-468-0800

7500 Lundy’s Lane Unit C1, Niagara Falls 905-356-0585

807-300 Taylor Road Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-685-5500

FALL/WINTER 2023-2024

Welcome to Inspire Niagara Magazine’s Fall/Winter issue!

In our bi-annual digital publications, you will find the very best of everything Niagara has to offer. We will guide you to the wines to sip, the beers to savour, the foods in which to indulge your taste buds, the fabulous entertainment for all ages, and the amazing shopping. We locals know what is hip and happening and are eager to share with the millions of people who visit Niagara all year long as well as the residents of our beautiful peninsula.



Our editorial team has brought together a number of not only informative, but fascinating pieces that are sure to capture your interest. As Editor of Inspire Niagara Magazine, my goal is to bring features that speak to all things Niagara and to educate, entertain and yes, enchant our readers. Best,











JODY VIZZA Cover photo courtesy of City of Niagara Falls.

INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND is published by Niagara Media Machine. All opinions expressed in INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND, its employees or owners. All unsolicited manuscripts and/ or photographs submitted are assumed to be intended for publication or republication in whole or in part. The right to alter, edit or refuse photos and/or manuscripts intended is assumed. All unsolicited material submitted to INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND is submitted at the author’s risk. Manuscripts and/or photographs intended to be returned must be accompanied by sufficient postage. INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND does not assume any responsibility for any claims of our advertisers and reserves the right to refuse any advertising. No part of INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND may be reproduced in any manner without the express written permission of the publisher.


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Mayor A Sit Down With

Jim By Martine Mackenzie

The City of Niagara Falls website says it best: “Jim Diodati is the mayor of the City of Niagara Falls, Canada. He is a life-long entrepreneur and leads with a passion that is relentless. Having established, owned, and operated several successful businesses before being elected mayor in 2010, he has used his unrivaled innovative style of ‘politainment’ as he calls it, as he reinvents what it is to be mayor. He has been at the helm for critical change-driving projects which have forever transformed the face of the Niagara Falls and will leave a legacy for generations of people.


Prior to the last election in 2018, Mayor Jim was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and underwent extensive chemotherapy over the course of that year. His strong track record of past achievements, a dedicated team, close knit family & friends and overwhelming support from the community saw him through to another term, in which he found himself leading the community through the challenging and critical times of the COVID pandemic. In the face of adversity, Jim has been known to carve a path where there wasn’t one before. He believed so strongly in things like GO Train coming to Niagara Falls, building a new South Niagara Hospital, and putting a University Hub in downtown Niagara Falls, that he just kept leading the way and bringing people together until they became a reality. His unparalleled zest for life is no more evident than when in the company of his family. He has three children - Olivia, Mya, and Jimmy.”

Inspire Niagara Magazine sat down with Mayor Jim to talk about what he believes makes Niagara Falls such a great place. During your tenure as Mayor, what are some of the accomplishments that you are most proud of achieving with your team? For sure at the top of the list is the new hospital. It’s a 3.6-billion-dollar center of excellence for healthcare because that will touch everybody in the community. We may not all go to the library, we may not all do different things, but everybody at some point will be touched by that hospital. I’m also very excited about the new university campus that will be in our downtown because we are going to have 10 000 to 15 000 students living and studying in our downtown and when you look at what happens to any community where there is a university or a college, it brings in new blood, it brings in new money, and it brings in a new energy and I believe that along with the Go Train is going to completely electrify our downtown and it’s going to turn it into the coolest area of the city where you’re going to go

to see really neat shops, really neat entertainment places and the place is going to really come alive. It will attract and retain the youth. I’m also thrilled about something that took years to accomplish and that is the building and opening of the OLG Stage – the new theatre at the Fallsview Casino with 5000 seats. It’s big enough to bring in some of the top acts in the world. I was thrilled to go see Rod Stewart and Billy Joel there and I’m hoping to see some other big acts, like Jerry Seinfeld. The other theatre was great but it’s just not big enough to be able to accommodate those big acts. This theatre has one of the top reputations in North America because of how it was designed with spectacular sightlines and sound acoustics which makes it as exciting for the performer as it is for the spectator. I think it adds that cachet to come to Niagara Falls and one more reason for it to be on people’s bucket list of places to visit. These are my top ones.

Photos courtesy of The City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Tourism and OLG.


You’ve lived and worked in Niagara your entire life. You earned a bachelor’s degree from Western University in London, Ontario. You could easily have left the area for any big Canadian city and made a name for yourself there. What brought you back here? What is it that makes Niagara such a great place to settle down and raise a family? That’s a good question. Originally, the reason I came back, because I didn’t have intentions of coming back, but I started a business in first-year university which was a College Pro Painters franchise. When most of my friends were doing Spring Break and going away on reading week, I was coming home doing estimates and my area was St. Catharines to Grimsby. I did that and it turned out to be a really good business for me and I ran that through university. Then I started another business in my last year at Western which I ended up running for several years. One thing led into the next. I was here, and I was committed for a number of years to run my businesses but then I took time to look around and I realized what was right and what was wrong. I made a pledge that I’m going to get involved. I’m not going to just complain but I’m going to try and make things better. I started volunteering and started getting engaged. Volunteering led me to the elected official arena, and I made a decision after doing a SWOT Analysis of the area. I had to be brutally honest about why people were leaving; why weren’t they coming back; what was good, what was wrong; where were our opportunities. And I made a decision, that if 8

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I’m going to stick around, I’m going to make it better for my kids which means I’m making it better for everybody’s kids and grandkids. I wanted it to be a legacy. It wasn’t about me. It was about Niagara Falls and the Niagara Region. I made a commitment. I’ve had other opportunities presented to me, but they never presented me with the opportunity of a legacy and that’s much bigger than me. It’s something that I feel passionate about and it drives me every day to jump out of bed and I never feel like I’m working. I’m working on a strategic initiative plan for the city so that we will be sustainable into the future. This is what floats my boat and pumps my tires. It’s about making things better. It’s making some tough decisions but filling in where we need filling in. That’s what is really driving me and gets me excited. Niagara Falls, Ontario is synonymous with a great place to summer vacation. Tourists don’t often think of Niagara as a place to holiday during the fall and winter months. What does Niagara offer during this time? What are some its best kept cold-weather secrets? This is great! I bring greetings to hundreds of conferences every year from all over the world and I turn it into a little bit of a commercial for Niagara Falls. I’ve only got them for a few minutes and they’re already here, so I don’t have to sell them on Niagara Falls. I have to sell them on the other parts of Niagara Falls that maybe they don’t know about. You know, it’s funny because when I was away at school (Western) and people would say, “Where are you from,”

and I’d say, “Niagara Falls,” – they would snicker! And I could never understand, so I finally asked someone, “What’s so funny about that?” They answered, “I don’t know. Where do you live? Clifton Hill?” Some people just don’t realize that we are a regular city with schools and churches, and parks. I can’t believe how misunderstood we are because we are so famous for tourism. I’ve been many places around the world, and I’ve never met a person who didn’t instantly recognize us. I refer to us as the Coca-Cola of municipalities, but the main thing about it is because we are only 100,000 people, but we attract 14 million, we get the benefits of the big city that other places don’t. And because of those millions of tourists, we have great attractions, amazing restaurants and wineries and golf courses. There is so much shopping and people can cross over the river (into Niagara Falls, NY). We are the kind of community that still pulls over for funerals and where your neighbour will snowblow your driveway too. When I’m on the stage, I tell people who ask, “when is the best time of year to come?” that it’s really a tough decision. Obviously, the majority of people come in the summer. The flowers are in full bloom, it’s warm and it’s sunny and kids are off school. But then, in the fall – autumn – when the leaves are fiery red and bright yellow and orange. Take the Zip-Line down the gorge or the helicopter ride. Those colors in the gorge are a mosaic – or a beautiful painting. Then in winter, come back again and you will see the mist freezing on the trees and on the fences and the buildings. Come after

a dusting of snow and see the 3 million lights and the 75 animated displays for the Festival of Lights which is free. We had a tradition when my kids were young – we’d get a box of Timbits and drive through the park and really get into the Christmas and winter festive spirit. Come spring, the earth wakes up and you see all the cherry blossoms, and beautiful budding trees. Everything is in full bloom. My suggestion is to come back for all four seasons because the four faces of Niagara Falls are uniquely different. They’re all exciting and beautiful, so I struggle to pick the best time. We offer a buffet of fun and excitement! There is something here for everyone whether it’s a bridal party coming for their bachelorette, whether it’s a family looking for a vacation that’s affordable with some fun things like waterparks; whether it’s a romantic getaway and you want to catch some entertainment and dine, and stay in falls’ view rooms and take in some natural attractions as well – year round, we offer so much within a day’s drive from so many places. We’re affordable, we’re accessible, we’re safe and we’re fun! I can’t think of a better destination to bring your friends and your family. Thank you so much, Mayor Jim! You are welcome to join Mayor Jim on social media for daily updates and community information! 9



The History of Hydro-Electricity IN NIAGARA By Martine Mackenzie The New York Power Authority has a long and proud history. As an early experiment in public power, it served as a model for federal initiatives such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration. Today, the Power Authority produces some of the cheapest electricity in North America, helping to drive New York’s economic revival while its efforts to promote efficient use of energy and to develop new, environmentally-friendly power sources continue to break new ground and to draw national 10

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and international attention. By 1954, all approvals were in place, and Robert Moses, New York’s “Master Builder,” who had been designated by Governor Thomas E. Dewey as Power Authority chairman, was ready to go to work. In cooperation with Ontario Hydro, a construction army transformed millions of tons of concrete, stone and steel into a power-producing marvel. The Power Authority’s 800,000 kilowatt (kw) share of the facility is today known as the St. Lawrence-Franklin

D. Roosevelt Power Project. An accelerated construction schedule led to the start of electricity production in July 1958 and delivery of full power a year later, two years ahead of the original schedule. In 2021, The New York Power Authority hit more than one milestone with the opening of the Energy Zone, its newest Visitors Center located in Utica, NY. The John S. Dyson New York Energy Zone will introduce visitors to the dynamic world of electricity, past, present, and future, and New York State’s part in it. Interactive exhibits, a 3-D immersive movie experience, hands-on activities, videos, and more meet visitors at every turn. Locally, the Niagara Power Vista, part of the giant complex in Lewiston, NY offers some great fun for people of all ages. Niagara Power Vista provides a rich educational opportunity for school groups and community organizations. Featuring over 50 interactive exhibits, visitors receive a hands-on understanding of electricity and hydroelectricity. With resources that merge science and play, the Niagara Power Vista is an ideal destination for an immersive STEM learning experience. Educational tours and workshops are offered by reservation only. There are FREE activities and events all year! Meetings or family gatherings - the Niagara Power Vista offers free meeting space to coincide with exploration of the exhibits! And if you’re looking for a real trip back in time to explore early hydroelectricity in Niagara, just hop on the “Discover Shuttle” from the Power Vista and it will take you down to the site of the former Schoellkopf Power Station. The Schoellkopf Power Station was constructed in three sections between 1905 and 1924, and at the time of its completion was the largest hydroelectric power station in the world. The complex included offices, gatehouses, and Images courtesy of New York Power Authority.

other buildings at the top of the Niagara Gorge, and turbinegenerator stations located at the base. Water was diverted from the Niagara River above the falls, by a 4,600’ canal that ran through the city to the edge of the gorge. On the morning of June 7, 1956, workers noticed water seeping into the plant from the back wall. By mid-afternoon, the cracks in the rear wall were widening while 40 men worked with sandbags to stop the flow of water. At 5:00 PM, the Schoellkopf Power Station sustained a catastrophic collapse which destroyed two thirds of the plant. Six generators capable of producing 322,500 horsepower had been demolished. Damage was estimated at $100 million dollars. The most devastating was the sudden loss of 400,000 kilowatts of power from the power grid. Suddenly, a loud rumble was heard from behind the wall, and the wall began to collapse. One of the workers, Richard Draper of Lewiston, was killed. The rest escaped unscathed. The entire southern portion of the plant collapsed into the river below. As the generators blew apart, some debris was propelled to the Canadian side of the gorge. In 2013, the Maid of the Mist began construction on the site as a location to store their boats during the harsh winter months. As part of that project, the original elevator shaft was restored and elevator access to the Gorge and the Schoellkopf site was granted. Visitors can also access a connected hiking trail as well. There is no cost to ride the elevator and it is open seasonally.

Open 7 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm (closed certain holidays) 11

FREE RIDE TO THE TOP WITH DINING 5200 Robinson Street Niagara Falls, ON L2G 2A2 For Reservations 1.866.221.5056 Visit us at

As Niagara Falls’ only Boutique Hotel, at the Sterling Inn and Spa one can enjoy the atmosphere of a luxury hotel with the personal touch of a fine inn.


Photos courtesy of Merani Hotel Group.

From our full service spa to AG Inspired Cuisine, a fine dining restaurant offering regional cuisine in a cool urban setting, the Sterling Inn and Spa is truly an experience in itself. With amenities and rooms that cater to couples, the Sterling Inn and Spa is the perfect place for a Honeymoon or Romantic Getaway. We are located in what was once the Borden Dairy Factory (1930s-1974). Steeped in history, this facility’s transformation of architectural heritage is an excellent example of sustainable conservation, enabling residents and visitors of Niagara Falls, Ontario to enjoy the awardwinning hotel and restaurant standing today. Enjoy our spacious guest rooms, luxurious steam showers, complimentary breakfast in bed and all the modern amenities you would expect from a four-diamond hotel. Outside of our door the majestic Niagara Falls, the entertainment and night life of Clifton Hill, and the excitement of Casino Niagara are all within a short walk. Our on-site restaurant, AG Inspired Cuisine, is a recipient of 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award (TripAdvisor), international diners rank AG as the #2 Best Fine Dining Restaurant in Canada, OpenTable top 100 Restaurants in Canada, TripAdvisor’s 10 Best Niagara Falls Restaurants and most recently the Sustainability Award (Ontario Tourism Awards of Excellence). Inspired by the growers and producers of Niagara our menu utilizes regional and seasonal ingredients, brought together by the inventive hand of our executive chef, Cory Linkson. Beautifully designed, creative, and unparalleled dishes are crafted to satisfy the palate, while remaining true to the very essence of the ingredients. It truly is inspired cuisine.

To meet the restaurant’s commitment to staying local, ingredients are grown on the AG Farm or sourced from regional suppliers. Dishes are planted, picked daily and produced to deliver the freshest and most authentic local flavours. These ingredients inspire daily changing menus that celebrate the seasons. Even the restaurant’s signature “Rub” is made from dehydrated vegetables from the AG Farm that are ground and custom-blended. Experience a perfect moment of relaxation together at the Sterling Inn & Spa with our personalized couples treatments. Sip on a cocktail while our team of spa and wellness experts employ techniques from around the world to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. From mud-baths to manicures and facials to foot scrubs, you’re sure to find pure bliss at the Sterling Inn and Spa. The Sterling Inn & Spa & AG Inspired Cuisine are owned and operated by Merani Hotel Group. “At Merani Hotel Group, our mission is to be the most hospitable collection of unique brands by creating exceptional experiences for our guests, meaningful opportunities for our team members, and a positive impact in our international communities.” states Faisal Merani. Merani Hotel Group has hotel & restaurant properties on both sides of the Niagara Falls border in Canada and the USA. Are you interested in a cross-border getaway? Make sure to check out their brand portfolio for your next superior stay. AGInspiredCuisine aginspiredcuisine

SterlingInnSpa sterlinginnspa 15

What’s the about

By Martine Mackenzie



People come from all over the world for Niagara Ice Wine. They can’t wait to try it whether it’s as an after-dinner sipping drink or poured over ice cream. Ice wine is very popular here in Niagara, largely because the viticultural terroir in the region is so conducive to the production of this luxurious beverage. Canada, particularly the Niagara Peninsula consistently undergoes freezing in winter and has become the world’s largest ice wine producer. As a result, Canada produces a greater volume of ice wine than all other countries combined. Approximately 90 per cent of all ice wine produced in Canada originate from Ontario based wineries. So, let’s find out just what all the fuss is about.

What is ice wine?

What’s the history of ice wine in Niagara?

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing for a more concentrated grape juice to develop. The grapes’ must is then pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet juice.

In 1983, Niagara-based wineries Inniskillin and Reif Estate Winery, as well as Hillebrand, and Pelee Island Winery, two wineries with Austrian winemakers situated in another part of Ontario, all left grapes on their vines in an attempt to produce ice wine. Inniskillin and Reif lost their entire crop to hungry birds, while Hillebrand and Pelee Island were able to harvest a minuscule amount of frozen grapes. In 1984, Inniskillin winery was the first winery in Canada to produce ice wine for commercial purposes, produced in 1984 under the direction of the winery’s Austrian-born coowner Karl Kaiser often being mentioned as Canada’s first ice wine. Kaiser used nets to protect his vines and was able to produce Inniskillin’s first ice wine. This wine was made from Vidal grapes and was labelled “Eiswein”.

Why is ice wine so expensive? Ice wine production is risky (the frost may not come at all before the grapes rot or are otherwise lost) and requires the availability of a large enough labour force to pick the whole crop within a few hours, at a moment’s notice, on the first morning that is cold enough. The grapes for ice wine must only be harvested when they are frozen naturally and the temperature must be -8 C (20°F) or below when they are picked. This results in relatively small amounts of ice wine being made worldwide, making ice wines generally expensive.

Images courtesy of: Niagara Ice Wine Festival, Niagara College Teaching Winery, Inniskillin Winery.


What are the best grapes for ice wine? Typical grapes used for ice wine production are Rielsing, considered to be the noblest variety by German winemakers; Vidal, highly popular in Ontario, Canada; and the red grape Cabernet Franc. Many vintners, especially from the New World, are experimenting with making ice wine from other varieties: whites such as Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Kerner, Gewürstraminer, Muscat Ottonel, Chenin blanc, Pinot blanc, and Ehrenfelser; or reds such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon. Pillitteri Estates Winery from the Niagara-on-the-Lake region of Ontario claims to be the first winery in the world producing Shiraz (Syrah) ice wine with the 2004 vintage, Semillion, and Sangiovese in 2007. Ice wines from white varieties tend to be pale yellow or light gold in color when they are young and can maderise (acquiring a deep amber-golden color) as they age. The red varieties tend to have a light burgundy or even pink color like that of rosé wines, since the steeping of the skins in the pressed liquid typically used in red wine making is obviously not possible in ice wine production. And of course, there is the annual Ice Wine Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake! This is where the above-mentioned wineries along with many others, bring their wares for tasting all along Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake for several weeks during the month of January. In 2024, the event will take place January 12-14, 19-21, & 26-28. Niagara Ice Wine Festival 18

Inspire Niagara & Beyond

Where can I get the best ice wine in Niagara? As is everything in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Wine choices and preferences are something very personal and very subjective. But, we certainly can recommend some of the best that you can find here in Niagara in no particular order: 1. Peller Estates Wines Known for their delicious Ice Cuvée. 2. Konzelmann Estate Winery Niagara’s only lake-front winery, it specializes in Vidal ice wine. 3. Château des Charmes Makes some of the best Vidal ice wine in Canada. It’s literally award-winning. 4. Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery Yes, the “Great One” has a winery! A visit here is a must to try their Cabernet Franc icewine. 5. Reif Estate Known for its Vidal! 6. Inniskillin Wines at the Brae Burn Estate The pioneer in the icewine industry! Their Riesling varieties are incomparable AND they host icewine experiences every weekend!



Dome at Fielding Estate Winery.



Wining and Dining in

W inter There’s nothing like patio season here in Niagara. After being subjected to a long, cold, dark, and dreary winter, locals, and visitors alike flock to outdoor patios as soon as the weather hits 15 degrees Celsius and the sun peeks through the clouds. There’s a magic to being outdoors in the beautiful sunshine during the day and the sparkling stars at night. With the onset of the innovative invention of domes, people can now enjoy this luxury all through the colder months. Below, you will find the best of the best that Niagara has to offer when it comes to this wonderful experience.

By Martine Mackenzie

Photos courtesy of Fielding Estate Winery, Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen in the Old Stone Inn, Konzelmann Estate Winery, Bistro Mirepoix.


Fielding Estate Winery

Konzelmann Estate Winery

Fielding Estate Winery has a spacious patio full of wine domes under which you can enjoy the ambiance of dining outdoors without the chill. Your beverage of choice can be cider or wine by the glass or enjoy a flight along with charcuterie and cheese plates. Each private snow globe is heated and transparent so you can admire the surrounding views of the vineyard and Beamsville Bench in pure comfort. Dome reservations are for 1.5 hours and for groups of up to 6 guests. Children are welcome but the domes are not pet-friendly so it’s best to leave all furry companions at home.

Konzelmann Estate Winery is Niagara’s exclusive lakefront winery and is heralded for providing one of the most friendly, informative, and educational experiences in Niagara’s Wine Country. Konzelmann’s vineyard dome provides a private outdoor experience like no other where you and 3 guests enjoy an hour-long private tasting paired with locally sourced charcuterie all on a raised outdoor platform overlooking the vineyard and Lake Ontario. Reservations are a must.

Trius Winery If you’re wanting an elevated dining experience, look no further than Trius Winery. This winery/restaurant offers a four-course dinner with wine pairings in a personal, heated snow globe in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Tastings begin nightly at 7:00 p.m. and reservations are a must. You are guaranteed an dining adventure like no other as Chef Frank Dodd uses local farm-to-table Niagara fare to whip up fantastic and unique dishes. Trius also offers hot chocolate by the fireside to look forward to after your dining experience.

The Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen The Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen in the Old Stone Inn offers both alpine cabin dining and dome dining where guests can have the outdoor experience of their choice in Niagara Falls. Both the alpine cabin and dome offer seating between 4 and 6 guests and feature Bluetooth speakers, so guests can enjoy the playlist of their choosing. Using only the finest of ingredients ensures that freshness is never compromised. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Bistro Mirepoix /onionscarrotscelery /onionscarrotscelery Bistro Mirepoix in St. Catharines, Ontario offers the cutest wee sheds that resemble greenhouses. They are the perfect spot if you’re craving brunch and looking for the option of eating outdoors. This little bistro focuses on breakfast and lunch, but mostly brunch, and has a mouth-watering menu that includes Pork Belly Eggs Benedict and Sourdough Waffles. In fact, Bistro Mirepoix is so charmingly quaint and tiny that it doesn’t even have a website. However, it does have a Facebook and Instagram page and can be reached for reservations at the following number: (289) 968-8772.

While you can leave your snow pants and big boots at home as the domes are heated, guests are advised to dress accordingly.

Opposite page, top left to bottom right: Shed at Bistro Mirepoix, Vineyard Dome Interior at Konzelmann, Dome Dining at The Flour Mill, Vineyard Dome Exterior at Konzelmann, and the Domes of Fielding Estate Winery.







Bakery at Skylon Tower


et By Martine Mackenzie


Photos courtesy of The Skylon Tower.

I usually research my subjects carefully before I take on writing a feature. I had written about The Skylon Tower numerous times before, so imagine my surprise to find out that there is a very impressive in-house bakery hidden on the lower level of the tower. I was greeted at The Bakery, as it’s affectionately known by John Zizian, the Pâtissier, and overseer of all the sweet goodness that comes out of his spotless and very organized kitchen. John is classically trained in pastries and baked goods and prides himself on having been with The Skylon since 1993. As he walked me through the immaculate workspace and gave me a guided tour, John pointed out that everything dessert is made from scratch. He had just finished cracking and separating over 100 eggs, extracting the whites, whipping them up into a gigantic foam, ready to be baked into 13 sponge cakes. “It’s all chemistry and math,” John says. “With baking, it’s all about consistency and technique – once everything is mixed, if there’s been a mistake, we start it over from the beginning. We can’t take out too much salt from batter.” Watching how this well-oiled machine works, I doubt that this happens very often. Because the two dining rooms, The Revolving Dining Room and The Summit Suite Buffet are at the top of the tower, space is at a premium and is reserved for dining tables where guests can get the ultimate view of Niagara’s thundering waters and surrounding areas. Although equipped with fully-functional kitchens, all foods are prepped on the lower level, then transported up via the “Yellow Bug” where the dishes are finished. Steaks are cut to order, and calamari is hand-breaded. Regardless of whether your palate prefers savory or sweet, a meal at either of The Skylon’s restaurants will be made up of only the top-of-the-line ingredients. In The Revolving Dining Room, guests have the choice of many desserts which are the perfect way to end a glorious meal, overlooking the lights on and the fireworks over The Falls. There are three types of cheesecake: Skylon’s Baked Praline Cheesecake, served with whipped cream and candied pecans; Freshly Baked Vanilla Cheesecake, served with strawberry or raspberry sauce; or Chocolate “Velvet” Cheesecake, topped with a pecan and coconut nougat with drizzles of caramel and chocolate sauces. Of course, another favourite is Skylon’s Warm Pecan Pie, served à la mode with vanilla ice cream. For the chocolate lovers out there, there is a Chocolate Amaretto Torte, garnished with toasted almonds, which uses only the finest Belgian dark chocolate. For those who really want a decadent dessert, Skylon’s famous Crème Brulée is a real crowd-pleaser and is caramelized to order. For those favoring something more traditional, there is an individually baked Apple Pie à la mode served warm and topped with caramel sauce. 25

What is most fascinating is learning how much time and imagination goes into the process of creating these amazing desserts. The pecan pie has a scratch made sugar cookie crust instead of the traditional pie crust. John assured me that I will never taste anything like it anywhere else. “We really like to do things differently here,” he adds with a smile, as we make our way up in the “Yellow Bug” to The Revolving Dining Room so that I can sample some of this sweetness. It was all there for my asking, taking, AND tasting! All full size! Of course, I had to try the Chocolate Amaretto Torte. It was smooth and delightful, filled with amazing chocolate flavor. I do love chocolate, but I often find cakes to be too much. Not this one! I don’t know what the secret ingredient is, but it kept the torte from being cloyingly sweet. I moved onto the individual Apple Pie which was served warm with beautiful vanilla ice-cream making it À la Mode. The drizzle of scratch caramel sauce was a nice touch. First of all, this dessert can easily be shared as it is enormous as are the portions for all of Skylon’s desserts. As I cut into it, John watched for my reaction. “What do you think?” he asked. “That’s not apple pie filling,” I answered. “Nope! We make our apple pie with an apple crumble filling!” Let’s just say, it was a crunchy, and a very pleasant surprise. In fact, I didn’t just taste this dessert, I went back and finished it! AND, I also finished the cheesecake! Let’s talk about that cheesecake! “It’s all in how it’s made,” says John. “The process from start to plate takes 24 hours, as does the crème brulée.” I was presented with a very generous portion of vanilla cheesecake topped with

homemade strawberry sauce. Something happened in my mouth when I slipped that bite of cheesecake off the fork… it is HEAVENLY! I know cheesecake and it’s my go-to order for dessert whenever I go out for a meal. But THIS! This cheesecake has something in it that I couldn’t quite pinpoint, and I pride myself on my discerning palate. When I pressed John, he smiled coyly, and admitted, “Yes, there is an ingredient in our cheesecake that you won’t find in traditional baked cheesecakes anywhere. I can’t tell you what it is, but I’m glad you were able to pick out that there’s something different. You should come closer to Christmas and try our candy-cane cheesecake,” he added. “At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but the combination of mint and the crunchy candy pieces, with our vanilla cheesecake – well, it was a HUGE hit! We’re planning it again this year!” Needless to say, I left the Revolving Dining Room very sated and very happy, having also enjoyed a lovely cappuccino along with the desserts. The Skylon Tower is the perfect place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions of any kind and The Bakery will be happy to provide a custom cake order to make for a truly special evening, but they do require 48 hours advance notice. Special thanks to Pâtissier, John Zizian, Theresa La Fratta, Customer Service Sales Coordinator, and to Anita PengHrepic, Director of Sales and Marketing.

WELCOME TO our table


our focus is to provide you with a great selection of local produce that is healthy, tasty and fresh. All of our meals are made and inspired by Executive Chef Jan-Willem Stulp. The Grand Oak provides you with excellent gourmet meals, fresh local produce and the best in customer service. BAKERY • MEALS TO GO • CATERING • EVENTS

4600 Victoria Ave., Vineland, ON L0R 2E0 t:289.567.0487 •

E AT D R I N K V I S I T EATING WELL IS ALWAYS IN SEASON AT OSTIN’S RESTAURANT Located in the Holiday Inn & Suites, Ostin’s is proud to provide a unique experience to customers, with exceptional food, uncompromised beverage options, friendly attentive service and a welcoming presence. The all new menu that has been carefully curated to bring you a mouth-watering mix of dishes made with the highest quality ingredients. The combination of great food and elegant atmosphere add to the dining experience, that is sure to please every member of your family or group.

To see our menu and reserve a seat, visit

Holiday Inn & Suites is Niagara’s premier entertainment destination. We have everything you need under one roof. Eat, drink and play every day of the week in our modern and exciting venue located at 327 Ontario Street, St. Catharines.

WE’VE GOT FUN FOR EVERYONE! Our onsite Parkway Social features 30-lanes of bowling, a full arcade, laser tag and a full bar with 50-inch HDTV for catching games. This is a great place for any event - a birthday party, a corporate team event, a fun family outing, or a date night.

To book a lane, make a reservation, and to see what’s happening nightly, visit

Café Amoré and The Valley Restaurant


! é r o Am s ’ t a Th

By: Martine Mackenzie with Allan and Nadia Sawatsky

As an Italian, I know my food. Raised on the cooking of my Nonny, I learned from an early age the tricks of homemade pastas and sauces. I learned how to craft the perfect meatball; how to pound the veal and chicken just right to get the perfect cutlet; how to bake the best breads; how to create tantalizing, traditional desserts, and how to choose the best wine to accompany any Italian feast from beginning to end. So many restaurants out there claim to be authentic Italian, when all they do is what most people do at home – open a box of dry pasta from the grocery store and top it all with store-bought jar sauce. You won’t get that at Café Amoré and The Valley Restaurant, both in St. Catharines, Ontario.



Café Amoré

Café Amoré was opened in 1995 and is a family run restaurant with a Mediterranean menu owned and operated by husband and wife team, Allan and Nadia Sawatsky. They are open for lunch and dinner and either menu promises to delight. Lunch menu features homemade soups, quiche, pasta dishes, original sandwiches, pizza and a variety of salads including a homemade Caesar dressing. Dinner entrees include fresh AAA steaks, chicken, veal. There is a large variety of seafood including shrimp, fish, scallops, mussels, and crab. Pasta dishes are made with homemade sauces and include a variety of original and classic preparations and combinations all made to order. The dinner menu also features wood fired pizza and a variety of salad choices. For those with special dietary needs

Images courtesy of Café Amore and The Valley Restaurant.

such as gluten free there are many options available as well as gluten-free dinner rolls. For those who love desserts Café Amoré is the only choice. A showcase filled with cheesecakes, tortes and flans awaits you. The selections are constantly changing with about twenty to choose from at any given time. Café Amoré is a true Mediterranean restaurant with food offerings stretching from Southern Italy and France to Spain and Greece, all infused with the flavours native to the areas from which the dishes originate. The testament to the success of Café Amoré is that it is in its 28th year of operation with no signs of slowing down. Because this restaurant is such a hit with locals and visitors to the region alike, reservations are certainly recommended.


TheValley Restaurant

The Valley Restaurant is actually found in somewhat of a valley on Arthur Street in St. Catharines, adjacent to Lake Ontario. This restaurant unlike its sister, Café Amoré, tends to stick with a menu that is more traditionally Italian. Here you will find delectable regional dishes along with daily creations inspired by the seasonal fare found in the Niagara Region. The Valley Restaurant was opened over 60 years ago by the Chiavarini family who brought their passion for great food and service with them from Italy and used family recipes for their cooking. A meal at The Valley will have you celebrating their passion and love for great Ialian cuisine as all food offered is prepared fresh, from scratch, each and every day. From pasta sauces to breads and desserts, everything that is served is made in-house. The Valley’s recipes include old world staples as well as an infusion of new world influences.


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The Valley Restaurant brings true Italian inspiration to Niagara. With some of the most delicious combinations of ingredients, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Loved by locals and traveling foodies alike, any time is the perfect time for a meal at the Valley restaurant. You are sure to be enchanted not only by the food, but by the atmosphere, both of which were inspired by Allan and Nadia’s frequent travels to Italy and their shared love of cooking. Allan and Nadia are fixtures at both Café Amoré and The Valley to ensure that guests receive the best possible dining experience. Reservations are recommended for The Valley Restaurant to ensure that you are not disappointed.

htps:/ w .american iag n-piza htps:/ w w.american iag

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htps:/ w w.american iag -snack-bar


Wonder EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF WINTER AT NIAGARA PARKS WHILE SAVING WITH THE NIAGARA FALLS WONDER PASS! Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the frozen wonderland that is Niagara Falls!

From the enchanting light displays at the Winter Festival of Lights, to the delicious local flavours of Niagara at Table Rock House Restaurant, and thrilling signature attractions like Journey behind the Falls, the Niagara Falls Wonder Pass is your key to unlocking the ultimate winter adventure. Discover the splendour of Niagara Falls like never before and create memories that will warm your heart all season long.


Hat Brock’s

When Major-General Isaac Brock died while defending Canada from a United States invasion on October 13, 1812, Britain lost the services of an able administrator and skilled military leader. Canada gained a hero. As with any figure of towering stature, items of association take on special significance. Brock’s hat, on permanent display at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, is no different. People are endlessly fascinated with it. “We don’t tend to idolize our military leaders in the same way that Americans do, but Brock is widely recognized as a figure of significance in Canadian history and a source of national pride,” says Sarah Kaufman, Managing Director of the Museum. “His stature was undoubtedly elevated because of the recent War of 1812 bicentennial, and he is particularly well known in Ontario. For instance, we have Brock University, and many towns have a Brock Street.” 36

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By Andrew Hind

His hat represents a tangible reminder of the man, his service, and his death (some would describe it as martyrdom) in the defense of Canada, “The hat has amazing provenance, unusual for an artifact so old,” explains Kaufman. “The first we hear of Brock’s hat is in an 1810 letter that mentions its delay in arriving from Britain.” The letter, dated July 9, 1810, reads in part: “I have a thousand thanks to offer you for the very great attention you have shown in executing my commissions; the different articles arrived in the very best order, with the exception of the cocked hat, which has not been received a most distressing circumstance, as, from the enormity of my head, I find the utmost difficulty in getting a substitute in this country.”

The hat on order was made of felted beaver, which was high fashion at the time. More practically, beaver felt hats were also waterproof. The hat had a linen band trim, a black cockade, a double brass coin chain running to buttons on the top and bottom. Most notably, it was adorned with white ostrich feathers. “For Brock,” explains Kauffman, “the hat was a symbol of status. The beaver felt and most especially the rarity of ostrich feather would have demonstrated his station.” But, not unusual for an item so old, there is some mystery surrounding the hat. It’s possible, perhaps likely, Kaufman explains, that Brock placed orders for two hats, one pre-1810 and the other in 1811, and that the hat in the museum’s possession is the second of the two. Here’s why. When Brock was promoted to Major-General on June 4, 1811, he would have required a change in uniform in keeping with his new rank. At about the same time, new dress regulations were introduced that included “plain hats with the usual Cord and Tassels, with Ostrich Feathers around the brim. This is henceforth the exclusive Distinction of a General Officer.” We may never know whether the hat in the museum’s possession is the first or the second, or indeed whether there was a second hat on order because we have no record of such. For the layperson, this is splitting hairs. In either case, whether the hat on display is the one referenced in the 1810 letter or a later one, it did belong to General Brock. Unfortunately for Brock, he never had the opportunity to wear it. In Autumn of 1812, the United States declared war on Britain and sought to conquer Canada. Brock was shot and killed leading a countercharge in October 1812, at the Battle of Queenston Heights (an act that both demonstrated his personal courage but also a lapse in judgement, as it was unwise for the commander of all British forces in Upper Canada to put himself in harm’s way). Brock was lionized as a hero even as he fell. The hat and tin hat box Brock had ordered arrived sometime after his death, likely in 1813. It was passed on to his closest next of kin, Captain Jack Brock, a cousin serving with the 49th Regiment then stationed at Balls Mills. Captain Brock had grown fond of property owner George Ball and gifted the hat to him for his generosity and hospitality in hosting the regiment (as a regulation general’s hat, George couldn’t have worn it himself, even in the unlikely circumstance – bearing in mind the ‘enormity’ of his cousin’s head - that it fit. Photo courtesy of NOTL Museum

“While General Brock didn’t wear the hat, it was placed on his coffin at two of his four burials – in 1824 and again in 1853 when he was reinterred upon the completion of the second and current Brock’s Monument,” Kauffman explains. There are stories reported that local militiamen passed the hat between them during these reburials, taking turns wearing it and inadvertently causing considerable wear to the hat. A letter dated September 5th, 1887, George Ball’s son, John W. Ball, writes of the hat: “It was in a good state of presentation, until it was loaned, to be placed on the coffin of the late General Brock when his remains were taken from Fort George, to be placed in the first monument on Queenston Heights, when it was completed and again when the new monument was finished, for the removal of the remains thereto….instead of being cared for as promised by the Colonel in charge, it was fingered and tried on by so many people, as to leave it in its present shabby state. The hat was I think loaned a third time, when the Prince of Wales visited the Monument, and was again subjected to the same treatment by hundreds.” Considering the solemnity of these events, this seems unlikely – passing around the hat of a fallen hero and doffing it like some souvenir would have been extremely disrespectful. It’s more likely that the wearing resulted in handling over the course of the decades in which it was in the Ball family possession. George Ball later moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake where he resided in Locust Grove (which still stands) and maintaining proud possession of Brock’s hat until his death. In 1897, George Ball’s children donated the hat to the newly formed Niagara Historical Society. It’s been part of the collection ever since. According to the history books, Major-General Brock never wore the hat on display at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. It doesn’t matter. When we look upon the hat, we see a man courageously leading a desperate charge up the slope of Queenston Heights, out in front of his men, urging them forward with waves of his sword to urge them forward, and then, tragically, being shot in the heart and killed. Inspired by his actions, British and allied First Nation forces prevailed and the battle was won. Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum 43 Castlereagh Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake 37



Ride the Sky

on the Niagara Skywheel By Martine Mackenzie Soar 175-feet above Niagara Falls for the view of a lifetime! The Niagara SkyWheel gives riders a breathtaking panoramic view of this spectacular natural wonder from the vantage of climate-controlled gondolas. Soak in the aweinspiring scene year-round, day and night, in total comfort. The Niagara SkyWheel is a totally unique sightseeing opportunity. As one of Canada’s largest observation wheel, The SkyWheel towers over the Niagara Falls horizon, treating guests to unsurpassed views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River, Niagara Parks and other landmarks. The Niagara SkyWheel’s fully enclosed gondolas are each equipped with heating and air conditioning for year-round 38

Inspire Niagara & Beyond

comfort and enjoyment. The ride duration varies from eight (8) to twelve (12) minutes with spectacular aerial views for miles in every direction. Evening rides offer dazzling views of the glittering lights of Clifton Hill and the surrounding Niagara skyline. The Niagara SkyWheel is located in the heart of Clifton Hill and is open every season. Call 905-358-4793 or visit for hours of operation, ticket prices and group booking information. All hours and operating schedules are subject to change without notice and all attractions or events are subject to closing or cancellation due to weather conditions.

Content and Images courtesy of Niagara SkyWheel and HOCO Entertainment.

Fun Facts The Niagara Skywheel...

Is 175 feet in height — that’s 175 Large pizzas high! Weighs 280,300 lbs — that’s 56,060 5-pound bags of potatoes! (106 Honda Civics)! Travels at 1.5 R.P.M — that’s 90 rotations per hour!

Canada’s only giant observation wheel is a marvel of technical engineering. Specifications: Height: 53 m/175 ft. Diameter: 50.5 m/165 ft. Main axle height: 27.5 m/90 ft. Base width: 25 m/82 ft. Base depth: 20.5 m/67 ft. Number of spokes: 21 Ride weight (when empty): 127,142 kg/280,300 lbs Performance: Year Round Operation Revolutions: 1.5 rpm maximum Maximum speed: 4 m/s (13 ft./s) Maximum wind speed (operating): 45 mph Ride duration: variable 12 to 15 minutes Direction of travel: clockwise and counterclockwise Motors: Total 200 hp (144 kW) Number of gondolas: 42 Fully enclosed with Air Conditioning and Heating Maximum capacity per gondola: 8 passengers Loading: 6 gondolas simultaneously Average passenger weight per gondola: 78 kg/170 lbs=624 kg/1360 lbs Maximum total passenger weight: 26,208 kg/57,120 lbs Minimum passenger height: 42 inches (unaccompanied by an adult)

Festive Foliage:

Poinsettia Showcase at Niagara Floral Showhouse By Andrew Hind



In the summer, the Niagara Floral Showhouse is surrounded by extensive rose gardens, a spectacular water feature embellished by water lilies, and a fragrance garden where plants are identified in Braille for people who are visually impaired. It’s a stunning display of floral brilliance. But just because summer gives way to winter, frost chills the air, and a blanket of snow covers the ground doesn’t mean the Floral Showhouse is any less vibrant. The colours just move inside for a series of spectacular floral shows that fill the gap until the blissful warmth of summer returns. For over 75 years visitors have come to this this lush oasis, a spot of serenity just a short walk from the Falls. Collections of orchids, succulents and other tropical plant species are on display throughout the year, while tropical birds flitter to-and-fro amongst the greenery, chirping merrily as you admire the exotic cultivars. In November and December, poinsettias take center stage. “There’s always something new and exciting, but the Poinsettia Showcase is one of our most popular events,” explains Charles Hunter, Director of Horticulture at the 42

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Niagara Parks Commission. “It represents a dose of cheer while the rest of Niagara Parks’ extensive gardens are covered in snow.” Except for the Christmas tree itself, perhaps no plant is more representative of the yuletide season than the poinsettia. A native of Mexico and transplanted to California and the Canary Islands, the flower became attached to the holiday through the legend of an impoverished young girl walking to church on Christmas Eve, ashamed she had nothing but weeds to give baby Jesus. Moved by the child’s piety, Jesus miraculously transformed the weeds into beautiful blooms, known forever after as Flores de Noche Buena, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’. The legend and the flower were brought back to the United States in the 19th century by Joel Poinsett, American ambassador to Mexico. In time, the poinsettia became as much a part of the North America holiday season as it has traditionally been in Mexico. But Hunter hastens to point out poinsettias aren’t merely a Christmas flower. “The poinsettia is iconic to that time of

year in general, a season when so many cultures hold sacred celebrations,” he says. “It’s a time of year for reflection, hope, kindness, and gentleness in a season that can be hard for so many. The poinsettia symbolizes these ideals even when its dark and bleak outside.” Perhaps this emotional connection explains the enduring popularity of the Poinsettia Showcase, which dates to 1946 and a time when poinsettias were just becoming universally popular in North American homes. “We were sort of ahead of the trend,” explains Hunter. “Although its hard to imagine, poinsettias weren’t a fixture of holiday décor at the time. They only became iconic to the season in North America in the 1950s.” The Poinsettia Showcase has been held every year since, beginning the week after Remembrance Day to give due respect to that solemn event. As many as 1,500 poinsettias emblazon the greenhouses in festive colours—the traditional reds and whites of course, but also purples and pinks and other, more exotic shades. In addition to unusual colours, there are also unusual varieties on display, such as double-red and curly bloomed, as well as spectacular exhibition poinsettias with a single bloom atop a long stem. Mixed among the poinsettias are other holiday flowers like cyclamen, narcissus, paperwhites, and Christmas cactus. The design changes every year, with planning beginning several years in advance. The design is always rooted in a ‘sense of place’, meaning it is informed by important anniversaries or events that the community or the wider nation is celebrating. But no matter the theme, the Showcase always includes nods to the traditional celebrations of the time of year. “Designing the Showcase is a creative expression that we really enjoy. The challenge comes in getting the poinsettias to bloom when we need them to,” explains Hunter. “Poinsettias are a short-day plant, meaning they bloom Photos courtesy of Niagara Floral Showhouse.

when days are short and nights long. They won’t bloom if exposed to light, so about ten weeks beforehand we need black out the greenhouses from every source of illumination, including interior lights and streetlights.” Poinsettias are also sensitive to extreme low or high temperatures. The greenhouses are maintained at consistent and ideal temperatures, ensuring the most stunning of blooms. The sight of hundreds of poinsettias creating a sea of cheerfulness is spectacular, but the designers always include a showstopper that captures the imagination. In some years it’s a towering Christmas tree made up of 150 poinsettias. Other times it’s an arch composed of poinsettias. Hunter is conspiratorially mum about what this year holds. “You’ll have to come and see,” he laughs. But what he can guarantee is that you will experience the magic of the holiday season and will leave with those familiar warm embers—the kind that only come around once a year—in your stomach. Even as the weather outside is grey and dreary, wind chilling you to the bone and frost hanging off every breath, Niagara Floral Showhouse remains bursting with vibrancy. Like an oasis of colour in a desert of snow and cold, it’s a welcome reprieve from the long winter months. The greenhouse casts an enchanting spell. “The Poinsettia Showcase,” says Hunter passionately, “represents a sense of wonder that seems so fitting during the holiday season.”

7145 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON 905-353-1721• Admission: $8 (13+years), $5 (3-12 years), FREE (2 & under) Seasons passes are available to enjoy year-round. Open 10am - 5pm (last ticket sold 30 min. before closing) 43



Haunts of a National Historic Site In a community famed for its history, Fort George National Historic Site stands apart as perhaps the best-known and most visited. It’s a treasure. But what is less well known is that the fort’s palisades and earthen parapets contain more than just historical re-enactors and recreated buildings. Echoes of the souls of men, women and even children who resided here two centuries past linger within these walls. There are so many restless spirits that Fort George is considered one of the most haunted places in Canada and its ghost tours a perennial favorite among tourists. “There’s an unusual amount of ghostly activity in the fort, “says Kyle Upton of Ghost Tours of Fort George, which for the past two decades has been entertaining tourists with lantern-lit forays into the darkened fort. “Powerful, emotional experiences happened here—including fighting and devastation during the War of 1812—and that taints the area, staining the earth with that psychic residue.” “There are spectral horses, a door that appears at night but doesn’t exist during the light of day, shadowy soldiers, 44

Inspire Niagara & Beyond

By Andrew Hind

and an ethereal cat,” says Upton. “The fort is awash in spectral energy.” Turn down the lights and read on as we meet some of those spirits who are tethered to Fort George for eternity.

Sarah Ann The ghost of Sarah Ann, a young girl, is the most active and precocious of the spirits at Fort George. Over the years, Sarah Ann has been seen numerous times. Like a typical child, she’s cheerful, mischievous, innocent, and eternally playful. She’ll engage in games of peek-a-boo, hiding under beds and behind pillars, and giggling quietly to herself. Sometimes Sarah Ann will playfully tug on someone’s clothes and then run away so that the victim of the prank only sees a momentary glimpse of a bare-footed girl with shoulder-length curly blonde hair and a flowing white dress before she disappears. High-pitched giggling is frequently heard in the barracks, where Sarah Ann seems to spend most of her afterlife hours.



Upton believes he encountered Sarah Ann himself one rain-soaked night. He and his tour were in the subterranean tunnel located at the back of the fort. “I remember looking over everyone’s head and seeing the small figure of a girl silhouetted just outside the tunnel entrance,” he recalls. “Occasionally the sky would be lit up by lightning and the tunnel entrance illuminated with a flash of white and I could see that there was nobody there. But as soon as the lightning flash had faded, she would reappear in the gloom.” It’s now well-established that a little soul lingers in Fort George. But just who is this child, and how did she come about haunting a place associated with soldiers and war? A tombstone in St. Mark’s Cemetery may provide the answers. There, under the canopy of ageless trees, stands a tombstone to Sarah Ann Tracey, a child who was only seven years old when she died in 1840. She lived at Fort George with her mother, Hannah, and father, Thomas, the troop sergeant major with the King’s Dragoon Guards. Sadly, the manner of Sarah Ann’s death and details of her life are Photos courtesy of Ghost Tours of Fort George.

unknown; the parish death records for 1840 have been lost and there is no record of her parents in the parish marriage, baptismal, or death records. The coincidence between the historical Sarah Ann and the spectral girl at Fort George are too eerie to ignore. Many people familiar with the story, Kyle Upton among them, have no doubt that these two children are one and the same.

Restless Officers Wealthy, well-bred junior officers would have resided within the Officers’ Quarters (more senior officers assigned to Fort George would have been able to afford their own homes within town). Accommodations were quite luxurious, as befitting their status Instead of the spartan furnishings found in the enlisted men’s barracks, you find plush feather beds, fine furniture, and luxuries the average soldier could only dream of. For some souls, it seems that the comforts continue to appeal even after their mortal bodies have been laid to rest. 45

Apparitions and bizarre phenomenon are frequently reported within the building. Voices whisper in the ear, spectral hands shove the living, and cold blue spheres hang in the air. Long dead officers are seen, going about the routines of their previous lives. Sometimes these men are wispy figures, transparent and foggy, sometimes they wash the room with a pale glow, and at other times they seem flesh and blood, as real as you or I. Many times, staff and visitors alike have reported hearing the haunting beautiful sounds of the piano forte playing by itself and witnessing keys moving as if by graceful invisible fingers, and more than one person has heard a late-night party in progress within the Officer’s Quarters - music and singing, the sounds of heels clicking on wood as women are twirled by suitors, and the hum of conversation. A common phenomenon involves the canopy-draped bed. Staff members entering in the morning often find the blanket and mattress indented with a man-shape, as if someone had been sleeping on it not long before. The perplexed staff member tightens the springs, fluffs the bolster, turns over the mattress, and finally, tucks and smooths the sheets and blankets. Its picture perfect, just as a 19th century military man would have left it. Staff will recheck the bed at the end of the day, ensuring its ready for the morrow. By the following morning the dent has inevitably returned. “The sagging bed is a real mystery because it looks just like someone has been lying on top, although anyone entering 46

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the building would set off the alarm,” says Ron Dale, retired from Parks Canada. “The only explanation that most come up with is that the ghost a former British officer has decided to rest his head on this bed, leaving his mark behind for staff to discover.”

An Army of Ghosts There are many, many more spirits at Fort George – a veritable battalion of the undead. Most are harmless, even playful. There are even one or two, so the stories go, that are malevolent, sipping of the fear they induce like we would savour a fine wine. That’s what makes evenings with Ghost Tours of Fort George so engaging. The guides have an endless array of stories to shares, and one never knows if a ghost will make a spine-tingling appearance.

Ghost Tours of Fort George • Fort George National Historic Site 51 Queen’s Parade, NOTL • Further Reading Ghosts of Niagara-on-the-Lake by Andrew Hind and Maria Da Silva (Dundurn) Niagara’s Ghosts 2 by Kyle Upton

Hernder Winery: Rising From The Ashes By Martine Mackenzie with Hernder Winery “The passions that govern us are to grow the finest grapes, to produce superb wines, and to perpetually expand our horizons…better wines, improved varieties, and spectacular places to showcase them in; to share with new and old friends alike.” Hernder Winery Hernder Winery holds an established spot in the viticulture history of the Niagara Region. Well into its third generation of grape growing, the Hernder family has transformed a love of viticulture into one of the largest family Estate winery operations in Canada. 48

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A natural progression of events began after Gottfried Hernder emigrated from Germany to western Canada. In 1939, the family moved to the “Grapeview” area of St. Catharines, Ontario, to a mixed fruit farm that included acreage of indigenous grapes. “Fred” Hernder’s boyhood chores would become the foundation for future skills. After the passing of his father, Fred purchased the family farm in 1968, and began the acquisition of others. His success was heralded when he was crowned as the youngest Niagara “GRAPE KING” in 1977. Forever the entrepreneur, Fred began selling not only grapes



& juice, but also winemaking supplies to the growing home market as well as wineries. With the advent of the free trade agreement between the United States and Canada in 1988, local wine producers faced the very real threat of dramatically declining percentages of Ontario grape juice in Ontario wines to imported grapes. This prompted Fred to make two important decisions: to replant his acreage with classic Vitis Vinifera & French Hybrid varieties and also to purchase the Victorian cattle barn (circa 1867) on 8th Avenue Louth to launch his newest endeavor, that of his own winery. The first vintage in 1991 consisted of 7,000 bottles of Vidal. Two years later, on September 17, 1993, Hernder Estate Wines officially opened to the public. Since its humble beginnings, Hernder Estate Wines has expanded its operation five fold to presently producing more than 25 varieties of VQA wines from its 500 acres of land spread between St. Catharines and Beamsville. Since its very first international recognition in 1995, Hernder Estate Wines has gone on to achieve many more domestic Images courtesy of Hernder Winery.

and international awards adding special recognition to the Hernder legacy. Hernder Winery became a “must see” destination which featured an entrance through Niagara’s only covered bridge, and stone walled patios surrounding the original post and beam structure. With this most picturesque setting, Hernder Estates became known as Ontario’s “Wedding Winery” with over 125 receptions held annually in rooms that hosted up to 500 in total indoors, with 150 accommodated on the two patios. However, in March of 2022, tragedy struck! A fire destroyed a portion of the St. Catharines winery. The fire was contained to the original barn building and luckily, there was no damage to the warehouse or production facilities. At the time, the Hernder barn had been host to the Mom Market Collective, a large consortium of women-owned small businesses that had taken up shop at the winery for a weekend of selling their unique wares to a never-ending crowd of arts and crafts connoisseurs. Luckily, the fire 49

occurred during the night so there were only minimal injuries to some on the scene. However, all those vendors participating in the Mom Market lost all their handmade inventory. Since that tragic day, Hernder Winery has begun its rise from the ashes in true phoenix form. Two months after the devastating fire, in May of 2022, the Niagara winemaker hosted a musical for its return to business. The production, which had been in the planning for more than two years, was able to take place in an adjacent space at the winery that was spared by the fire. While no one from the family-owned Hernder Estate Winery in St. Catharines has forgotten the devastating fire that gutted their banquet hall-barn at the end of March 2022, they continue to look ahead. In a Facebook post, Angel Hernder Fusarelli spoke on behalf of the family to say the local community’s “encouragement, loyalty and support was a huge driving force for us to lick our wounds and move on.” Construction to rebuild was slated to begin this past summer, pending permits, as the family is eager to restore the banquet hall that before the fire saw three to four weddings every weekend. “It was more than a barn, it was a family effort and a place where people came to taste wine, take photos, a location for their weddings, proms, graduations, anniversaries, birthdays and even celebrations of life.” 50

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The Hernder family is ready to have some fun again. They had a very successful and fun packed spring and summer at the winery and the calendar of events continues to be filled with great entertainment. Check it out! And, of course, Hernder’s amazing wines are always available at its onsite store and online.

Largest Selection of Christmas Decorations,

Available Year-Round!

Located in the Fallsview Casino, 6380 Fallsview Blvd, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 7Y6 (905) 354-1185




nbvncmgjjgiih@ By Martine Mackenzie



Who doesn’t like a treasure hunt? Who doesn’t like the thrill of exploring for hidden gems and relic after relic. There is something to be said for exploring the past through tangible items like antiques. The Niagara Region is most certainly a haven for vintage enthusiasts and antique hunters alike as it offers so many amazing vintage shops that cater to just about everyone. As the summer tourist season dies down, Niagara’s antique shop owners can often be found offering great discounts on their wares to entice locals and visitors alike into popping into their humble abodes during the fall and

winter seasons. Of course, supporting locally owned and operated businesses is always at the forefront of ensuring that Niagara’s small businesses continue to thrive in this economy. The establishments that you will read about in this story will give you that local feel and vibe as the shopkeepers/owners are engaging and passionate about the stories behind each and every one of their items. You are sure to receive a truly personalized experience regardless of whether you are an experienced antique collector or just someone looking for that one-of-a-kind piece for yourself or as a gift for that someone special.

Old Emporium Antiques & Collectibles, also known as “Niagara’s Most Interesting Store,” can be found on Victoria Avenue, in part of old downtown Niagara Falls. To say that what you will unearth here is cool, is an understatement. Old Emporium’s fascinating stock takes you into the world of the weird and wonderful. It features vintage Harley Davidson memorabilia, Theodore Ziegler artwork, a collection from the ancient TV show, “That’s Incredible,” and the pièce de résistance, the Evel Knievel Snake River Sky Cycle Exhibit. Definitely worth popping into this place!

With over 25 years of quality antique collecting, Bartlett House of Antiques can boast in both its work and its shop. Each piece that enters the shop has been hand-picked and carefully curated with great pride. The treasures found within, often European, are distinctive pieces of the past with the focus on antique furniture, especially fine examples of constructed oak, mahogany, and walnut.

Images courtesy of: Old Emporium Antiques & Collectibles; Bartlett House of Antiques; Lundy’s Lane Antique Mall; Retro Mike’s Antiques; Niagara Coin & Collectibles; Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures; The White Whale.


Lundy’s Lane Antique Mall Lundy’s Lane Antique Mall, at 6853 Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, is a gateway to a world of vintage treasures, antiques, and collectibles. Here, you will find an impressive array of pieces from over 30 unique vendors that are showcased across three expansive floors. There are unique pieces, big and small, which can cater to any taste or budget out there. It’s worth a visit just to see the vintage curiosities and enticing variety of collectibles. There’s lots to look at and buy! Welcome to Niagara Coin & Collectibles, your ultimate destination for a diverse array of collectibles. Their extensive collection includes coins, paper money, precious bullion, exquisite jewelry, vintage watches, antique cameras, military relics, sports cards, and memorabilia, along with historic artifacts. If you find yourself in Niagara Falls, Canada, don’t miss the chance to visit their store on Victoria Avenue and explore their treasure trove of collectibles and discover unique items that will captivate collectors of all kinds.

Retro Mike’s Antiques A visit to Retro Mike’s Antiques will get you exactly what you are thinking – a trip back into the 1960s and early 1970s. Here you will find a world of Mid-Century Modern elegance. Retro Mike’s offers an extensive collection of furniture, lighting, wall art, and home accessories. You can elevate your living space and transport it back in time with sleek and stylish pieces of kitchenalia, glass, china, and vinyl. Retro Mike’s also has quite a selection of toys and games and an impressive range of sports memorabilia. He also hosts an extensive selection of retro barware for anyone looking to add a Mad Men vibe to their entertaining.

The White Whale Nestled in the heart of wine country, just a stone’s throw from historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, lies Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures. Established in 1996 within the former Tobe’s Seed Limited warehouse (once belonging to the John H Tobe Firm from 1954 to 1966), this charming establishment houses 16 dedicated dealers. Within the welcoming space, you’ll uncover a diverse array of antiques and vintage treasures that span the ages. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a casual explorer, there’s something here to pique your curiosity and capture your imagination. Visit the place and embark on a journey through time, discovering unique pieces that hold rich stories and enduring appeal.

Welcome to The White Whale antique store, a haven for all things vintage and retro. Conveniently situated at 4544 Queen Street downtown Niagara Falls this shop is a treasure trove of nostalgia. Step inside to explore a diverse collection of retro and collectible items, ranging from classic vinyl records, video games, and comic books to vintage furniture and clothing. Whether you’re a vinyl enthusiast, a comic book aficionado, or a collector of unique treasures, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. The White Whale is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 12 noon until 5 pm. The White Whale awaits your visit, ready to immerse you in a world of vintage wonder.


Brilliance of


By Martine Mackenzie

“Dopamine Dressing” is defined as wearing clothes/accessories you love that will boost your mood. There aren’t any official studies that can conclude that we release dopamine when wearing specific types of clothing or kinds of accessories, but some experts believe there’s something to this trend. Dopamine acts on the brain to give feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation and anything that makes us happy causes us to release dopamine naturally. So, why shouldn’t the way we look when we dress a certain way makes us feel great?



I subscribe to “dopamine dressing,” and so does Sylvia Dief-Atallah, the brilliant and super-talented artist behind the jewelry line, Ketoora. Handcrafted locally in Niagara, each piece is an extension of Sylvia’s imagination. Fourteen years ago, Sylvia began to dabble in making earrings. “I’ve always loved fashion and accessories, and making a statement with what I’m wearing,” she says. “When I was looking through magazines, I’d see these great pieces, but I could never find them. I saw that there was something missing in the market, so I started creating my own pieces, for me.” Having lived through the fashion of the 80s and 90s, Sylvia was no stranger to big statement earrings that sadly, weighed a ton and were just so uncomfortable to wear. “I love big earrings, so I started looking for lightweight materials to create beautiful and unique pieces.” She started with the Tagua nut from South America but found it wasn’t always easy to get. So, Sylvia moved onto beadwork, which was a little bit heavier and four years ago, she began working with polymer clay. “I love polymer clay. It’s versatile and lightweight!” she adds. Polymer clay is also Sylvia’s favorite medium to work with as it can be molded, creating a 3-D effect, however, it’s not without its issues. “Polymer clay can be challenging as it’s not easy to replicate the same color and shape when baking. I’m a perfectionist, and this can be a problem. I won’t sell pieces that I’m not satisfied with.” But challenges mean nothing to this lady! Sylvia recently amped up her jewelry game by acquiring a laser machine which has allowed her to create in two new mediums, acrylic and wood, also both extremely lightweight. Photos courtesy of Ketoora Jewelry and Clee Images.

Each season, Sylvia creates! When asked what inspires her art, she thinks and says, “Mostly my travels. I take inspiration from architecture, textiles, colors, fabrics, and I try to incorporate these inspirations into each season. I pick a palette and start drawing them out on paper and digitally. But what was in my head or on paper doesn’t always translate when I make the pieces.” Sylvia laughs as she adds, “I get bored easily, so things are always changing.” Ketoora’s Fall/Winter 2023/2024 collection is a testament to how Sylvia’s creativity is brought to life with her pieces which are literal labors of love. “It’s all a learning process. I love what I do and I’m really enjoying working with the laser and seeing the results I’m getting. Although I love polymer clay, the laser does allow for more consistency.” When asked where she sees herself and Ketoora in 5 years, Sylvia is very reflective – “I’ve been tremendously blessed to get some very good exposure. Keetora has been featured in several international publications – British Vogue, Bazaar Vietnam, Glamour Bulgaria, etc. But in 5 years, I’d like to be in more boutiques, and I’d like to scale up into a wholesale business model.” As we were wrapping up our time together, I asked Sylvia about the name of her business, and where it came from. When she told me, I asked if I could share as it is deeply personal, and Sylvia quietly said, “Of course.” “I’m a proud Canadian, born of Coptic Egyptian parents. My faith and spirituality have always been such an important part of my life. In the Bible, Keturah is the wife of Abraham. I took that name, and attached it to my love of couture, hence the name, KETOORA.” There is indeed a spiritual connection to each and every piece that comes from her hands. I own upwards of 20 different pieces myself and will continue to add to my collection. Sylvia Dief-Atallah continues to see her mission be realized as she creates pieces that are wearable art. She helps her clients find and express their own unique style with pops of color, or bold, statement pieces. Ketoora is – Fearless, Outspoken, Empowering Statement Jewelry for All Bodies. 59
















M o s c a t o FROM

By Jill Tham

Stepping into the perfect outfit can have a profound effect on the individual wearing it. In his November 2020 interview with Vogue, Harry Styles stated, “Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit.” Styles Fonthill, named after Harry Styles, is a haven for women aged 35-75.



When she lost her retail job during covid, Trina Moscato set her sights on something different. “I decided to have my own store and bring clothes to Niagara that I know aren’t here and that women need,” says Moscato who is also a make up artist and hairdresser and with 40 years of experience selling women’s clothing has earned the title “Style Expert.” Moscato decided to open a store front in Fonthill instead of in a shopping mall to ease the pressure on shoppers. “The nice thing about a boutique is that you can pop in and grab something. The shopping mall is a huge store and can be overwhelming: a small boutique takes that away,” says Moscato. Moscato employs a small team of experienced staff to assist shoppers. “We have honest women here to help find the best choice for you,” says Moscato who strives to take the stress out of shopping. “We are in the age group, and we can relate to each other and know what is best for your body type.” Photos courtesy of Style Fonthill.

Ninety-five percent of the items in the store are imported from Europe. “I bring quality clothes that will last in their wardrobe for years to come,” says Moscato. “Everybody has a budget and are watching their pennies as everything is so expensive now. I want to make sure I bring good clothes to these women.” The team at Styles Fonthill is always on the forefront of fashion trends and women’s needs. “Fashion is all over the map. You can wear whatever you want,” says Moscato. “After covid all the designers thought it would pan out like the roaring twenties and being in their track pants for so long women would want to get dressed up in heels and sparkles and go out,” says Moscato. “Women are looking for nice clothes that are comfortable.” Moscato says comfort is still the number one priority for shoppers. “The dress down vibe is still happening. They want to be comfortable and look great,” says Moscato.

“Denim is still going strong,” says Moscato who suggests wearing a white button-down shirt and blazer with your jeans. “Blazers can be oversized or structured and big shoulder pads are still in.” A pair of cargo paints and maxi skirts are also big trends for the fall along with a cozy sweater. “Bold colours are still going strong for the fall as well as pastels and neutrals. Black and white is having a huge comeback,” says Moscato. For a night out Moscato recommends the following, “There are a lot of options right now. Nice fitting jeans paired with a beautiful satin ruffled blouse or a cool white cotton blouse or a blazer. A pair of vegan leather pants with a nice sweater or a sweater dress with boots,” says Moscato. Moscato gives this advice to individuals about to embark on a closet clean out. “What is in the closet from last year is still good. I don’t recommend wearing something for one season then throwing it out. Never get rid of those investment pieces because the quality is always there, they will come back in style. Even if it is not the latest trend you can always update it,” says Moscato who suggests updating a pencil skirt and button-down shirt with a new pair of shoes. Styles Fonthill has an environmentally friendly policy when it comes to business. “We order from responsible companies that are environmentally conscious. They are not cutting lots of the same print that will end up in a landfill somewhere,” says Moscato. “Especially right now with what is going on in the world.” Moscato also sells a small lot of simple classic jewellery. “Everything is hand picked by me and made by local artists. 62

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They are unique pieces you will not find in any other boutique,” says Moscato. After a successful year in business, Moscato is pleased with the progress she has made. “I have been really blessed. We sold out of our first season and our fall and winter seasons,” says Moscato adding that she is almost sold out of her summer stock. First impressions mean everything to Moscato as the store is decorated with a wall of inspirational fashion icons. “I have Coco Chanel, Rhianna, Cher, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and of course Harry Styles, who the store is named after,” says Moscato. “My daughter is a huge fan and Harry is a style icon.” What’s next for Styles Fonthill? “We are working on a website where customers can shop online and I am hoping to have it launched by October,” says Moscato who is already shipping items across Canada through the success of the store’s Instagram page. Moscato enjoys seeing the satisfaction that her clothing brings to women. “It doesn’t matter if a woman is a size two or 14, women are never happy with their bodies,” says Moscato. “The term retail therapy is for real. Women come in here to feel good, and we have a good time in the store. I look at them as they are my friends coming into my closet.” 10 Highway 20, Fonthill, Ontario t: (905) 414-4784 • e:



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Where Skill and Fun Meet By Jill Tham

When Ashley Gauthier opened the Acro Academy in 2016, she was surprised at the outcome. “I had no intentions of being a massive studio, I just wanted to offer a safe and fun program, but the demand was there,” says Gauthier who was aiming for twenty registrations and received one hundred. “As soon as you say the word acro everyone asks, ‘What is acro?’” says Gauthier. “Acro is a form of dance that incorporates tumbling, contortionism, and partner stunts. You are merging a dance and a gymnast into one of the most creative forms out there,” says Gauthier. “This includes friendship, self obedience and accomplishments,” says Gauthier. “In acro you are part of a team you can rely on.” When children train consistently, an improvement in 64

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strength and flexibility is noted by Gauthier. “They develop new skills and core strength without even knowing it.” says Gauthier. “When I develop a program, I create a structure so their body can sustain the activity,” explains Gauthier. “They come back stronger every week because of the way we structure our program and after the 8 weeks they are a whole new child with skills and accomplishments they never thought they would have in a year.,” says Gauthier. “The learning is endless.” Gauthier attributes the growth in the students to her small class sizes and structure of the program. “A dance class could have 30-40 students in it and a lot of standing around,” says Gauthier. “There is never a stagnant moment, you are always moving and engaged. My classes have a ratio 10:2 for students aged six and older and 8:2 under the age

of 6. Younger classes are 6:2 ratio,” says Gauthier who focuses on smaller class sizes to ensure skills are learned in a safe environment. Gauthier offers recreational and competitive programs for individuals between the ages of 3 and 18. “The recreational program is one to two hours a week for eight weeks and students in this program are often involved in other activities outside of the club,” says Gauthier. “Our competitive runs for ten months. The competitive team trains as a group for ten months in preparation for competition in the spring,” says Gauthier. The competitive program starts with two to four hours a week and can progress from there depending on different activities participants wish to attend. “We do limit hours to 6 a week. I remember growing up I was in the gym and had no life outside of gymnastics.” “We also teach students with special needs, and this can help with their core development and focus,” says Gauthier, who works with the Niagara Children’s Centre. “A lot of the parents describe it as physiotherapy bootcamp. Students get the physical activity and the fun of the environment with various children with challenges,” says Gauthier. The Acro Academy also provides coaching opportunities for seasoned athletes. “By offering a teacher program, it gives them the next level, growth, and a paycheck. I will do everything I can to keep older students engaged, but I draw the line at sleepovers,” laughs Gauthier. Gauthier is always adding new programs to meet the needs of various abilities and interests in the community. “We just opened up a show case team for students who aren’t desiring the competitive level, but want to showcase their skills,” says Gauthier. This year the club is offering different styles of dance including jazz, hip hop and lyrical, and contemporary. As a life coach, Gauthier brings these teachings into the studio to help develop young minds. “Music and movement are physiotherapy for the body and mind. We give them a Photos courtesy of Acro Academy.

safe environment to try and fail and achieve. I want them to come up with their own sense that it is not a failure if we keep trying,” says Gauthier. “We create an environment that they want to come to and they feel better when they leave.” Miranda Beam’s daughter, Ashton, has been positively impacted by the program. “Her confidence is the number one thing I have seen really grow,” says Beam. “Until she joined acro she hadn’t found something that made her feel special. Ashley saw the potential in her.” When Ashton had difficulty learning the choreography, Gauthier immediately stepped in. “Ashley came in on her own time and went through the whole dance with her to make sure she understood the routine and it made a huge difference for Ashton.” Beam also appreciates the welcoming environment at the Acro Academy. “The staff are positive, kind and patient. The older girls are such good role models for the younger girls,” says Beam who is grateful for the lifelong friendships her daughter is making through the club. “Her competitive group talk together all the time outside of the studio and they all get along so well.” Acro Academy is in their new location on Montrose Road in Niagara Falls. “It’s a 3500 square foot industrial unit with the possibility to expand. There is also a comfortable parent viewing area, soft tumbling floor and a harder dance floor to merge the two,” says Gauthier. Beam greatly appreciates the open-door policy at the Acro Academy. “At other studios parents weren’t allowed to watch. Ashley lets parents watch and that makes it a lot of fun for the parents. It is a transparent facility to be a part of,” says Beam. The Acro Academy is not your typical dance studio or gymnastics club. “We go against everything,” says Gauthier. “But we do so in a safe and fun environment.” For more information visit 65

Stay a While … and

Listen By Rob Blom, PhD (c)

The recent pandemic has not been kind to our divine nature of selflessness, service, and sacrifice. We had little choice but to confine ourselves not only physiologically, but emotionally and mentally too. As we slowly return to the hustle and bustle of modern living, it is time to regain our loving touch with ourselves and the natural world around us. The call of the wild remains, inviting us to reconnect with Mother Earth and explore the depths of our inner selves when we enter into our sacred space of silence. Hiking in the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail provides not only an opportunity to experience the breathtaking beauty of the landscape but also serves as a spiritual journey, urging us to slow down, be present, and listen to the whispers of the Earth. As Deckard Cain, the wise character from Diablo II, would say, “Stay a while and listen,” for there is much to learn from the intersection of spirituality and hiking in these majestic Canadian trails. The Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail offer a vast 68

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network of interconnected paths, weaving through lush forests, rugged cliffs, and tranquil streams. The grandeur of waterfalls cascading down ancient rock formations, the serenity of tranquil ponds nestled amidst the woods, and the majesty of rugged cliffs standing tall against the winds inspire awe and wonder. These natural wonders beckon us to pause and reflect on the magnificence of the world we inhabit. They teach us the value of stillness and observation, as we witness the ebb and flow of life around us. I have personally walked all 1,000 kilometres in a 35-day span. The act of hiking became a meditative practice for me, where each step guided me closer to self-discovery and spiritual revelation. While much has changed within and since the pandemic, Nature largely has stayed the same: ever-present, and ever supportive. Mother nature has a unique way of grounding us, both energetically and figuratively—drawing our attention away from the superficial and immersing us in the simplicity of existence. As we walk along the trails, we




can let go of our worries and anxieties, leaving them behind with each footfall. In return, Mother Earth offers a sense of peace and belonging, reminding us that we are an integral part of the intricate web of life. Connection to people, place, and purpose can once again guide our actions. Through hiking, we learn the art of patience and perseverance. The winding trails and steep ascents challenge our physical abilities, pushing us to confront our limits and embrace the strength within. Similarly, our spiritual journey demands endurance as we delve into the depths of our innermost thoughts and emotions. Yes, the path may be exhausting, but the outlook, especially in Grimsby, is a feast for the eyes: the window of our soul. We feel most alive and connected when we are most active. The beauty of spirituality and hiking lies in the intimate connection we forge with the natural world. Walking meditation has been a staple of core Buddhist training with regards to mindfulness. Walking barefoot through the vibrant foliage, feeling, and hearing the gentle rustling of leaves, the slight cracks beneath our feet, and the slight mud that lifts between our toes, are all calls to a more connected way of Being. And who can forget the hawks circling the enclave of forests amidst the sweet serenade of birdsong as our companions to our ear? Perhaps the greatest discovery is when we find solace in simply being present, Photos courtesy of Robert Blom.

that there exists a harmony within the universe, and that we are more than simply what we observe from day-to-day. We are within a grand unity. Each hike, then, becomes a sacred communion with nature, an opportunity to cultivate gratitude and humility for the gifts it bestows upon us. Each hike allows us to let go of our expectations and worries that congest our mind. Hiking in the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail transcends mere physical exercise and becomes a spiritual pilgrimage, offering a transformative experience for those who embrace its call. As we explore the trails, we learn to be present, to listen, and to connect with the world around us and within us. Nature serves as a mirror, reflecting our true selves and guiding us on a path of self-discovery and growth. So, let us heed the call of the wild, walk these sacred paths, and, as Deckard Cain would say, “Stay a while and listen” to the wisdom that awaits us on our journey of spirituality and hiking.

Rob Blom has intellectual and contemplative interests in ecology, complexity, permaculture, and metaphysics. He dedicates his life to mathematical, philosophical, and metaphysical teachings. He runs a mindfulness academy in the Niagara Region. 69


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War of 1812 in niagara By Frances Macdonald

Historians know these facts about the War of 1812, but most lay people don’t. The most significant battles of this notorious war between the now two closest allies and trading partners took place right here in the Niagara Region. The first significant engagement of the war and certainly the best known to Ontarians was the Battle of Queenston Heights, 13 October 1812, fought near Niagara Falls. The American attack was initially successful. A large force crossed the Niagara River and was able to outflank the British forces on the Heights and force their retreat from the artillery batteries. General Brock arrived with reinforcements from Fort George and launched an immediate counter-attack which was repulsed. Brock was killed in this charge, along with his aide-de-camp Colonel Macdonell. Command was then transferred to General Sheaffe, who was responsible for the defence of the Niagara area. While the U.S. forces increased their strength on the Canadian side of the River, General Sheaffe moved his mixed force of Regulars, Militia and First Nations troops around the flank of the invaders. 74

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The village of Queenston developed in the 20 years before the war along the river’s edge and up the bank to the base of the Heights. Ahyouwaighs (John Brant) supported the British throughout the War of 1812, participating in the Battle of Queenston Heights and encouraging other members of the Six Nations from along the Grand River to fight the American Invaders. Although the next main battle took place in modern-day Toronto, then known as York, which was the capital of Canada at the time, it didn’t take long for the next major battle to work its way back down to Niagara. The Battle of Beaverdams could have been catastrophic for the British/Canadian troupes had it not been for Laura Secord. Despite being forever affiliated with a well-known brand of Canadian chocolates, Laura Secord is actually a war hero and is credited with providing the warning to British forces which led to the surrender of 500 Americans troops at Beaver Dams. The story goes that she had overheard a conversation between American troops about the presence of Lieutenant-Colonel C. G. Boerstler’s force in the vicinity.



So, early on the morning of June 23rd, 1813, she left her home and walked cross-country from now Niagaraon-the-Lake to now Thorold, some 32 km, in territory fraught with the enemy, to warn Colonel Fitzgibbon and his company of 49th Foot about the approach of American forces. It was only on June 24th, 1813, that the exact location of the American troops was discovered by scouts. Firing began around nine o’clock and the Americans surrendered after three hours. The summer of 1813 brought many skirmishes to the Niagara Peninsula, as the American forces holding Fort George attempted to push out for supplies and to attack British outposts. Beaver Dams is the best known of these engagements, but the skirmish described by Thomas G. Ridout was more typical of the indecisive nature of the fighting. The role of the western and Grand River First Nations in the campaign is also well illustrated in this extract. Their capture by this small force of First Nations, British regulars and militia at Beaver Dams influenced the American decision to withdraw into their defences around Fort George. The only original structure in Fort George, Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to survive the War of 1812 is the powder magazine. Most of the buildings were destroyed when the fort was captured by the United States in May 1813. A smaller post built on the site was burned by the Americans when the region was evacuated in December, along with the Village of Niagara. In 1814, a new fort was started on Point Mississauga and Fort George was abandoned. The current reconstruction was built in the 1930s. In December of 1813, the British reoccupied Fort George and captured Fort Niagara. This set the stage for the battles of Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie in the summer of 1814, the largest and hardest fought battles in Upper Canada. The Battle of Chippewa was a bloody one but not the bloodiest yet for both sides. American forces again crossed the Niagara River in 1814, rapidly capturing Fort Erie and advancing northward along the Niagara River. They met a force of British regulars under General Rial just south of the Chippewa Creek, now Images courtesy of Government of Ontario Archives.


the Welland River. The British forces suffered heavy casualties and fell back to Queenston Heights. The skill shown by the American soldiers and commanders at Chippewa showed that the poorly motivated and trained militias seen at Detroit and Queenston in 1812 were being replaced by professional soldiers. The American forces continued their advance along the river, leading to the next engagement at Lundy’s Lane. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was the defining battle of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada and can be summed up in few words – it was the bloodiest. With fewer than 3,000 men, the British had 878 casualties, 84 of whom were killed; the Americans suffered 853 casualties, with 171 killed. Both sides claimed victory; both lost heavily. The American forces withdrew the next day and expanded their defence lines at Fort Erie. Following the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, the British army under the command of Lieutenant-General Drummond pursued the enemy towards Lake Erie and eventually established siege lines near Fort Erie, a Canadian fort under American Control. The American defences at the fort were extensive and it was manned by more than 2000 defenders. The British built a series of trenches and artillery batteries to support a siege of the American position, but they did not 76

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have heavy enough guns to destroy the defences or enough men to establish a full blockade. Further, the United States Navy dominated Lake Erie, so it was impossible to cut off communications with the America side of the river. After several days of artillery bombardment General Drummond ordered an assault on three points of the fortifications, which had been extended and strengthened by the American troops. Two of the columns were repulsed, but a third managed to enter one of the bastions and attacked the stone buildings inside. This near success was wiped out when a magazine under the bastion exploded. A few weeks later the Americans attacked the siege lines, destroyed a battery, and withdrew. The bad weather and heavy losses convinced Drummond that a withdrawal was necessary, and the British pulled back to Queenston to see what the United States forces would do. This was followed by inconclusive skirmishing until the United States evacuated the Canadian side of the Niagara River in November. When the United States forces evacuated the Niagara area in November 1814, they blew up Fort Erie. It was not rebuilt after the war and remained in ruins until its restoration by the Niagara Parks Commission in the 1930s.



Death on the Ice By Andrew Hind

Eldridge Stanton held his wife close, knowing there was nothing he could do to save her. The ice floe they huddled upon swept down the raging Niagara River, the whirlpool in its path. What was revelry a few minutes ago had turned to horror. Eldridge gently wiped tears from Clara’s eyes, caressed her face, and awaited the inevitable end. Eldridge and Clara Stanton died that day, Feb 4, 1912. Dying with them was a century-old tradition of partying on the so-called Ice Bridge of the frozen Niagara River. The ice bridge, usually appearing in January and lasting until mid-February, is dependent upon specific climatic conditions to form. It’s created when a mixture of ice and slush flows down from Lake Erie, drops over the falls, and is forced up alongside the shores. The frozen morass jams with more and more ice and slush, gradually increasing in size and density. Eventually, the mass builds up to such an extent that the river becomes encased in a thick layer of ice, creating a ‘bridge’ that reaches across the Niagara River, in places as much as sixty feet thick. Throughout the 19th century, locals would venture out onto the ice to view the Falls from an exciting new perspective. Eventually, word spread and by the beginning 78

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of the 1880s the ice bridge became a popular attraction that lured thousands every year from across the United States and Canada. Businessmen, eager to exploit the opportunity, even set up concession shanties on the ice where one could buy drinks, hot dogs, and souvenirs. There was dancing to live music. Tourists could even get a tintype picture taken of themselves on the ice bridge. That all changed after Feb. 4, 1912. Eldridge Stanton, 36, a confectionary company executive from Toronto, and his wife Clara, 28, ventured out onto the Ice Bridge on a bright and clear, though bitterly cold day. They were among 25 or so others. Everyone was in a joyful mood, despite the chill. Suddenly, a loud and horrible cracking sound echoed through the gorge. The ice began to shake underfoot. Moments later, there was another rumble, followed by the shriek of ice buckling. Cracks began to appear in the ice, tearing jagged fingers across the frozen sheet. The ice bridge was breaking up. Everyone raced to the shore, and most made it. Clara and Eldridge had the farthest to run. Clara struggled, and Eldridge desperately tried to urge her on. Not far away,

facing the same desperate race to shore, were 17-year-old Burrell Hecock and his friend Ignatius Roth, both of Lorain, Ohio. None made it. The entire mass broke free and began to move down river. The four were in serious trouble. William “Red” Hill Sr., a well-known river man who would later rise to fame for saving the crew of the scow stranded above the Falls, was also on the ice that day. He reached shore safely and then began crying out instructions to the trapped foursome, directing them around hazards and yelling words of encouragement. The Stantons and the two boys made it to within fifty feet of the riverbank when they suddenly encountered a wide, slush-filed channel filled with angry, freezing water. It seemed hopeless. Paralyzed with fear, Clara couldn’t bring herself to go on even though Hill promised them the gap could be crossed. Clara collapsed in exhaustion and despair. She begged her husband to go on without her, but he refused to abandon her. Instead, Eldridge shouted to the two youths for help as he struggled to lift his wife to her feet. The boys looked back, but only one, Burrell, returned to help. Ignatius kept running. The decision saved his life. He managed to get close enough to shore for Hill to throw him a rope and pull him to safety. Meanwhile the massive ice flow carrying the three remaining victims was racing ever faster down the river. Their last chance at rescue would be ropes that had been lowered by police and firemen from the Cantilever Bridge. Just before reaching the bridge the ice floe broke in two, separating the Stantons from Burrell. Burrell was the first to reach one of the dangling ropes. Cold and near frozen, he grabbed hold of the rope and hung on for dear life while rescuers tried to pull him up. His hands were so numb from the biting cold that he hadn’t been raised far before he began to lose his grip. Desperately, Burrell tried to hang on with his teeth. He was 40-feet into the air, a third of the way to safety, but his strength was failing rapidly. Finally, as if Photos courtesy of Niagara Falls History Museum.

knowing it was hopeless and exhausted by the fight, Burrell let his head fall back and released his grip. Rescuers on the bridge above watched in horror as he plummeted towards the frigid waters. Now the ice floe carrying Eldridge and Clara approached the bridge. Selflessly, he raced to tie it around his wife’s waist before they were swept past the bridge. But as the men above pulled, the cord broke. The river swept the ice flow past the Cantilever Bridge toward lines hanging from the last bridge above the whirlpool. Eldridge grabbed one and again tried to tie it around Clara, but with the ice moving so quickly and with his reflexes slowed by the cold it proved impossible. The rope slid from his grip before he had a chance to secure it. He could have held on. Perhaps he had strength enough in him to be pulled to safety. But he chose to remain with Clara. There was no hope for the Stantons now, and they knew it. An eyewitness described the final moments of the unfolding drama: “He raised the woman to her feet, kissed her and clasped her in his arms. The woman then sank to her knees. The man knelt beside her; his arms clasped close about her. So, they went to their death. The ice held intact until it struck the great wave [the Whirlpool]. There it shattered; there the gallant man and the woman at his side disappeared from view.” News of the tragedy was startling enough to make the front pages across North America. The community of Niagara Falls was still grieving that October when a memorial tablet was erected in Queen Victoria Park to honour the heroism of young Burrell Hecock. In the aftermath, the Canadian and American governments agreed that they could not, in good conscience, allow the practice of venturing out onto the Niagara Ice Bridge to continue. The risk of a repeat was too great. And so, the joyful tradition of ice parties beneath the Falls came to a sudden and tragic end. 79


Harriet Tubman Worshipped Here:

Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church By Andrew Hind Salem Chapel in St. Catharines is an old church, dating back two centuries. But its true value lies with the legacy of the people who worshipped within, including abolitionist Harriet Tubman. From the early to middle 1800s, enslaved African Americans who had escaped bondage sought sanctuary in Canada. Many settled in Ontario’s Niagara peninsula, forming ‘Coloured Villages’ within communities like Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines. 80

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In 1820, former slaves in St. Catharines established a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) and built a small chapel to serve the faithful. Over the next three decades the congregation would grow slowly but steadily, necessitating two moves to successively larger churches. The Black community is St. Catharines, and indeed in many towns in Canada, saw its numbers swell after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in the United States in

1850. This law stated that escaped slaves who had been living in the northern United States, where slavery had been abolished in 1804, could be legally captured and returned to enslavement in the South. The Act led thousands of freedom-seekers to take refuge in Canada, trusting that international borders would guarantee their safety. As a result of the Fugitive Slave Act, most AMEC members in Canada were fearful of attending the the AMEC Conference in the US. This, and a desire to identify themselves more closely with the country that granted them their freedom and equal rights, led to AME Churches in Canada to separate from their American brethren and establish the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BMEC). Among the flood of desperate humanity fleeing the United States during this turbulent period was Harriet Tubman. Born in enslavement around 1822, Tubman escaped and became a vocal abolitionist and a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad that spirited slaves to freedom in the North. At risk to her own life, Tubman led thirteen missions to rescue slaves, including her parents. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Tubman was living free from slavery in Philadelphia. Knowing she would no longer be safe in the United States – especially considering her high profile - she made the difficult decision to flee to Canada in 1851. Harriet brought her family and other formerly enslaved people with her, and together they settled in St. Catharines. St. Catharines was considered one of the northern terminuses of the Underground Railroad. In 1855, there was 500 blacks living in the community, representing almost 10% of the total population. Many of the former slaves, Harriet and her family included, attended Salem Chapel British Methodist Church. It was a place a place of worship, of identity, and of social support. The church was, in a very real sense, the glue that bound the black community together. Tubman was a highly respected, perhaps revered, member of the community. She campaigned for the end to slavery in the United States, sought to ensure the well-being of Blacks living in Canada, and was a ‘conductor’ on the clandestine Underground Railroad that spirited slaves from servitude to freedom. Though she felt safe in Canada, Harriet’s elderly parents struggled to adjust to the cold winters. In 1859, Harriet decided to return her family to the United States, where they finally put down permanent roots in Auburn, New York. Salem British Methodist Church, the oldest existing Black church in Ontario, remains little changed from the time Photos courtesy of Salem Chapel.

when Harriet Tubman worshipped here and undoubtedly prayed for a time when slavery had been relegated to the dustbins of American history. In 1999, the church, now known as the Salem Chapel, received a National Historic designation by the Government of Canada. Six years later, Harriet Tubman received the same designation. Pre-booked tours for groups of 30 or more are available April to the middle of November.

Salem Chapel is small, but its historic importance outweighs its modest dimension. 92 Geneva Street, St. Catharines, Ontario


the emotions of


Real Estate By Trisha Opie Sassi

To say that emotions are involved in real estate transactions is an understatement. For some clients, emotions consume them during the process. Investing in real estate is a big deal - it is a huge investment; most times it is the largest and most important one you will ever make. Having doubts and anxious thoughts about the process, the current market conditions, and nostalgic ties to a property all play a part in what a person feels; and consequently, the way a person acts and reacts to these transactions. Fortunately, a good Realtor® will help you with this roller coaster of emotions and myriad of questions and concerns. As a third party to the transaction, whether you are buying or selling, a Realtor® will look at the facts; the reality of the current market, and they will rely on their professional knowledge of the industry. They will be your voice of reason in the mix of emotions you are feeling. This is a great 82

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advantage to you, as realistic information from an outside source is needed advice in this process. Buying a property can be daunting. There are so many options to choose from; or maybe there aren’t. “What is the best neighbourhood? What are the best mortgage terms available? Do I use a bank, private lender or mortgage broker? What if the house inspection doesn’t go as anticipated? Can we back out of an offer once it’s been accepted? What if my financial situation changes after we close on the house?” On a brighter note, you may finally be able to afford the house of our dreams! In that case – you may feel like you need to make a hasty offer, so you don’t lose out on your dream property. You may want to ignore the red flags of a home inspection, or end up settling on a higher price than you need to. Selling your house also comes with a lot of unknowns. Is it

really the best time to put the house on the market? Will the market improve if I wait? What if I wait too long and prices go down? What type of services will I receive from my Realtor®? Do we have to accept every offer? As a Realtor® I advise my clients that the current market will always dictate the value of your home. Let’s face it, we don’t always have the choice of when to sell or purchase a home. Your job may require a transfer, you may find yourself in the midst of a divorce, or need to sell your parent’s home as they are aging and can’t keep up with work that comes with owning a house. It’s really not worth thinking about the “what ifs” – you are here and now and require a purchase or sale. It’s essential to think positively and work with your Realtor® to sell/buy the property that will benefit you the most. Through all questions, anxious thoughts and unknowns, your Realtor® can help navigate these feelings with you. We can assure you of the facts, provide you with current data and take the emotions out of the transactions for you and look at the situation logically. Finding a Realtor® that you are comfortable with is a big part of this process. Take time to get to know your Realtor®. Do your goals align? Will they be available when you need them? Will they go the extra mile for you? Do you feel like they will go to bat for you when the negotiations get tough? All of these things need to be considered prior to signing a contract to work with a Realtor®. Photos courtesy of Trisha Opie Sassi.

A good Realtor® will get to know you, your situation and your reasons for buying and selling. Your goals should be your Realtor®’s goals. That is true for me. As I am working for my clients, it is their needs that must come first. The best part of being in real estate is meeting new people and helping them to achieve their dreams. Whether it is their first rental, purchase of a first home, selling the generational family home, or finding rental investments for seasoned investors, meeting and helping people is the best part of my job. Each and every transaction is different and brings new challenges and successes. What worked for one transaction may not work for another one, and being flexible and creative in how to market a property is also important. If now is the time for you to move forward with a real estate transaction, I encourage you to reach out to a Realtor® and discuss how they can help you. Having a registered professional by your side during the process is a support that will help you keep your emotions in check and will allow the voice of reason to prevail. Trisha Opie Sassi is a Realtor® with RORE (Royal Oak Real Estate) Real Estate Brokerage. Trisha can be reached at 289-707-6797 or



Niagara Falls Public Library: Serving the Community Beyond Books By Jill Tham Traditionally, libraries are filled with books and quiet spaces perfect for reading and studying. The Niagara Falls Public Library (NFPL) provides the community with an experience that goes beyond books. “It doesn’t matter if you like reading a lot or a little or you don’t like reading at all, we will find you something else that you are interested in,” says Kaley Stewart, Communications Associate/Community Engagement for the library. “The library has more than just books! We have a huge collection of non-bookish items available for customers to borrow at no cost,” says Stewart. “You can have up to 60 items on your card for a few weeks and usually renew them if someone is not waiting for it,” says Stewart. In addition to books, the library lends out musical instruments, picnic games, light therapy lamps, outdoor equipment and Parks passes, board games, movies, and video game consoles (Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite). Ukulele lessons are also offered. Borrowing items and utilizing the services has never been easier. “You don’t have to have a library card to attend some of our programs,” says Stewart who finds a balanced approach to programming works best for the community. “Some programs require registration, and some are drop-in.” One of the new changes in the library is the elimination of late fees. “Fines were a huge barrier. We do want our books back, but we don’t want anyone to feel ashamed,” says Stewart. The library conducted a pilot program where a reminder call or email was sent to the patron after the item was overdue. “We found that after the first reminder most items came back,” says Stewart. The library’s fall programming is off and running. “Our next block session has something for everyone. It begins in October and registration opens in mid September,” says Stewart. The always popular baby time and family story time programs are still on the agenda along with several programs geared for specific ages and literacy abilities. “Our DIY homemaking program, which just finished making soap, and ‘Crafternoons’ one of our drop-in adult programs are fun social experiences,” says Stewart. Photos courtesy of The Niagara Falls Public Library.


Book clubs are a great way to share interests, meet new people, and participate in discussions. The NFPL has different book clubs for community members to choose from. “We have two at the community centre, one at Stamford, and ‘Beer and Books’ at Taps bar on Queen Street,” says Stewart. “Our year-long book clubs allow for customers to read a book they may not have otherwise picked up and have the chance to discuss it with other book lovers.” Author and public speaker, Darcy Patrick, has worked with the library for many years with great success. “His wildly popular ‘Managing Wellness Series’ runs for four weeks,” says Stewart who adds that every program is listed on the library’s website. Stewart works hard to ensure new programs entice a variety of age groups. “Our teen advisory group that meets monthly online to help us know what teens want in the library,” says Stewart. “In the summer we had an art exhibit of teen work. They put it together and all the high schools had students display their art in our Rosberg Gallery. “Other adult programs of note happening this October and November are Digital Drawing, Managing Wellness series with author and speaker Darcy Patrick, Service Canada for newcomers’ presentation, art classes and Computer Basics,” says Stewart. 86

Inspire Niagara & Beyond

Stewart boasts about the recent changes in the different sites, “We make sure everything we are doing works for the customers,” says Stewart. “The library is good for connecting people with the information they need whether that is book or other type of information.” For those that need a quiet space, partner offices can be reserved for Zoom, in person interviews or short meetings. “Rooms can be booked on the website,” says Stewart. “The library houses a wide variety of information about the history of Niagara Falls. Our records can help with research, particularly those looking for their family history. We have microfilm available and over 1500 vertical files full of newspaper clippings on various topics, including biographies, the tourist industry, crime, schools, clubs and societies, and businesses,” says Stewart. A plethora of digital resources that include magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, eBooks, movies, music, book recommendations, crafts, and learning can be accessed by the community. The library provides its members online access to cloudLibrary, hoopla, kanopy, pressreader, Creativebug, LinkedIn Learning and NoveList. Stewart is looking forward to the reopening of the newly renovated Stamford Centre location in Niagara Falls which inhabits two store fronts and includes a large community room. “The McCall-MacBain Foundation donated $300,000

Fall 2023


Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World

The Circle by Katherena Vermette

by Naomi Klein

to the renovation which is a huge help. Our community also stepped up to donate funds,” says Stewart who stresses the appreciation they have for community donations. “Our need for donations and sponsorships is now greater than ever due to budget constraints, inflation, and rising costs,” says Stewart. Stewart expresses the importance of inclusion at the library. “Every single person is welcome regardless of the age, background, and circumstances,” says Stewart. Whether you want to visit the library in person or search online, there are thousands of books, movies, and items to choose from. “It’s endless,” says Stewart. “All you need is your library card to access all of that at no cost.”

The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman

Three Holidays and a Wedding by Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley

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Niagara Falls Public Library 4848 Victoria Avenue Niagara Falls, Ontario The Fraud by Zadie Smith


Are Blue Jeans at a Wedding Okay? By Janice Opie

Be at my bedside tomorrow! I’m getting married! Well, that just wasn’t possible, Richard was already married and in palliative care at Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie. It had been five years since his Stage IV cancer diagnosis. We felt it was a request for last goodbyes and hugs all around. He always did have a sense of humor. At the appropriate time, I squeezed into my skinny jeans and being makeup weary, I sported a pair of sunglasses. Last, but not least, I chose my old, white, very comfortable sandals and off we went. “Open the car windows honey and let the wind rip! It’s a beautiful day out there!” In between hair whipping in my face and eating the odd strand, I listened to the husband unit reminisce of high school days he had shared with his dying friend of 63 years. 88

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I stood by the hospital entrance door watching my husband beat up the ticket box. It never spit out the ticket he needed. A draw it was. A minor stream of people passed me by as they entered the hospital and they were looking pretty spiffy, I may say. Very clean white shoes, fresh lipstick, hair combed. I think it was about five seconds before a terrible thought kicked my head. They look good enough to go to a wedding. My husband collected me and in we went. Great timing as a man was pushing Richard down the hall in a wheelchair… Richard indicating with his finger which way we were to continue going and like rock fans, we followed. Out of a doorway appeared Nancy, Richard’s wife of 25 years… with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Sit me down! Give me water! There really is a wedding! I quickly removed my

sunglasses, dragged my fingers through my hair and slipped the sandal straps unto the backs of my ankles where they belonged and entered a room with 19 or so guests. Not a scrap of denim in sight! Darn I hate when that happens! Enough of me. Onto Richard and Nancy. Nancy is cute as a button. Getting a stage IV cancer diagnosis changes your life, your outlook, the life of your partner. An initial year of chemo introduced Richard to the harsh realities of debilitating side effects. Different concoctions of chemo were in the mix and yet, deep down inside, Richard and Nancy looked at each other and they were no longer falling for a hopeful end with sunshine and dancing shoes. No, they embraced their situation and engaged in life, both practical and enjoyable. They moved into a “easy” home, no stairs, an open bright concept for Nancy to live alone in when the time came. They bought an RV small enough for Nancy to handle but big enough for us to drool over. They puttered with the new home, petted the cat and loved each other all the while fighting with chemo as their weapon. Richard stated, one has no choice but to get straight with oneself and one’s spiritual belief. (Blessed is the person who has one at a time like this) There is no escape. As one gentleman apprised Richard, “You will need to be braver and more courageous than you’ve ever been.” After five years of merely delaying the inevitable, and suffering for it, a moment in an oncologist’s office and phrases like “there are no other options”, Richard had a thought. A decision followed. No more chemo. Richard did a 180 and planted his feet, staring at what he had delayed. I am now ready. With throwing chemo aside, the end was now coming at him and it was coming fast. Richard is the bravest and most courageous man I know. Once the priest emptied the cardboard box of candles, bible and implements of sacred rite, it was not too long after, Photos courtesy of Janice Opie.

that we were all teary-eyed listening to Nancy and Richard exchange vows but this time in the eyes of God. The civil ceremony of 25 years ago was now complete. There was an aura that had taken on a life of its own. Richard and Nancy were in a moment together and I was humbled and honoured to be there. A celebration was next, a catered lunch, toasts to the couple and a giving of gifts. Not to the bride and groom but “from” the bride and groom. Truffles to delight one’s taste buds. How sweet. And then Richard begged off, he was tired for sure. Final hugs and whispers on whiskers ensued. I called Richard the next day. We spoke of many things regarding his mindset at different stages of his last five years. When life is good, one wakes up at times, not excited about life, experiencing boredom at times. Initially upon the diagnosis, Richard fell into a deep funk. He milked the concept of chemo and getting better for it. But after frank talks with his wife and himself, he began to live life to the fullest that he was able to. He was never bored again. He changed homes, enjoyed the RV when he could, tied up loose ends and after five years, mustered up a bravado and courage like he never did before. Richard has advice for you who are reading this. “If you are diagnosed with something terminal, do not let it defeat you. Take a look at what is left….AND GO GET IT!!!

Janice Opie is an artist and author residing in Niagara Falls, Ontario. She can be contacted through her website regarding art lessons and her fiction “Bloody Waters”, available through Amazon.


second stories


7 Things You Should Be Buying Second Hand Instead of New! By Jody Vizza

There’s a reason “thrifting” was one of the top google searches in Canada in 2022. What started as a climate-conscious trend to avoid over-consumption, thrifting is now a Gen-Z lifestyle - an accessible, affordable and sustainable way to save and make money, all while building a personalized sense of style. I’ve been thrifting for longer than most Gen-Zers have been alive. My love of hunting at second hand and consignment stores and local estate sales resulted in curating a collection of unique and well made decor items and clothing. There’s really nothing quite like scoring a pure wool Irish cable knit cardigan amongst a rack full of ugly acrylic Christmas sweaters, or an original antique oil painting under a pile of mass produced canvases. It was an amazing time out in the wild back then. Today, I sometimes feel like a middle aged Katniss in the Hunger Games. Lining up in the cold for hours at estate sales, thrifting in pushy crowds and competing for cool finds with resellers is exhausting, but when you’ve spent more time than money finding quality items you love, you begin to value the importance of how consumer products are made, who makes them and the impact they have on our environment. The idea here is that buying previously owned things reduces the pressure on manufacturers to produce items in large quantities and when you shop locally for second hand goods, you’re helping reduce emissions from shipping from overseas. Just think of the negative environmental impact of those Amazon and Shein purchases, not to mention the 98% of textile workers in the

fashion industry who are overextended and held in systemic poverty. Purchasing locally is always better for people, the local economy, and the planet. After 20 years of second hand shopping and repurposing and repairing many of my finds, I’m still always excited when I stumble on a great vintage chair or a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans in my size.There are however, a few everyday, purposeful things that I always intentionally search for when I’m out hunting second hand and vintage for my home and for my closet. The great news is that these are items that are always readily available so there is no need to have to fight and forage like Katniss. 1. Glassware Forgo the expensive and boring glassware sets from retail stores and head to the thrift shop. There is an abundance of it out there and it’s often very inexpensive. You can get lucky finding lovely glassware rummaging around at garage sales and flea markets too. I always find that mixing and matching glassware adds a unique and whimsical look to your table. While smoked and coloured glass is a vintage collector’s favourite at the moment, you can find plenty of interesting textured and depression glass as well. Keep an eye out for drinking glasses, candlesticks, dishes and vases too. 2. Original Wall Art Purchasing original wall art can sometimes be expensive and intimidating. I always look at art as an investment in your soul, style and story. Never buy art to match your decor. Buy art to match a mood, evoke a feeling, or inspire 91

you. Your art choices are a means of personal expression and this reflects your individual personality and your style. Some people express themselves through what they wear, while others collect interesting things that reflect who they are. Buying original art always beats purchasing mass produced prints. As factories produce more art, the quality of that art deteriorates and the environment suffers. Poorly made, trendy art is quickly added to the already overflowing landfills. The low cost of mass production is destroying true craftsmanship. Check out your usual second hand spots like garage sales and thrift shops for original art. Estate sales are also a great place to find original vintage art, usually with some great stories. I collect a lot of original paintings and most of my favourites are from amateur artists who have created beautifully unusual, sometimes quirky pieces that make a real statement in my home. Original art can really humanize your space by giving it character and warmth, transforming any space into one that is uniquely yours. 3. Kitchen Linens There are beautiful new and nearly new vintage linens out there so don’t sleep on this tip. Vintage 100% cotton or linen tea towels are probably one of my favourite items to thrift. First off, the designs are gorgeous and the quality is bar none. They wash up beautifully and look and absorb even better with age. The best ones are usually made in 92

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the U.K. or Europe. Check out the cloth napkins too.. they’re sometimes sold in sets and in brand new condition. I use linen and cotton napkins every day. They’re a lovely and sustainable option to paper ones. Never buy new tablecloths. There are plenty of nearly new ones out there and you’ll often find designer brands and gorgeous vintage options too. 4. Food Storage Vessels Keep your eyes peeled for glass storage containers, jars and bottles when you’re out thrifting. Look for pretty vintage ones with corks or old canning jars. Use them for storing dry goods in your cupboards, leftovers in your fridge, freezing soups and stews and for takeaway containers. Regarding durability, longevity, and its ability to be recycled, glass far outperforms plastic in environmental impact. When it comes to health benefits and safety, glass is better than plastic. Even BPA free plastics are prone to releasing toxic chemicals if heated. Glass is heat-tolerant and can be microwaved and placed in the dishwasher. Since it’s non-porous, glass materials do not absorb or release any harmful chemicals. 5. Plastic Clothes Hangers This is a no brainer. Did you know that plastic coat hangers are an environmental menace so serious they could soon outstrip the damage caused by plastic bags, bottles and straws?

Most plastic hangers (including the ones that you buy with baby clothes and underwear) are made from a complicated mixture of toxic materials which are impossible to separate at the recycling stage. They all end up in landfills and as the plastic degrades, a hanger leaks substances such as benzene and BPA which claim to contribute to breast cancer and affect fertility. You really never have to buy plastic clothes hangers because thrift stores have aisles and aisles of them. 6. Denim Jackets If you’re still contemplating the idea of buying and wearing second hand clothing, denim jackets are a great place to start. From the vast quantities of water needed to grow cotton to the toxic chemicals used to dye and finish denim, the production of denim clothing has the most significant negative impact of all clothing on our planet. 3,780 litres of water are used to produce just a single pair of jeans. This includes the water needed to grow cotton, which is a very thirsty crop, and the water required to process the fabric. Denim production also involves harmful chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers, dyes, and finishing agents including formaldehyde which poses a risk to workers and the environment. Hit up any thrift store and you’ll find racks and racks of denim. Not everyone is keen on wearing second hand jeans, so start with a denim jacket. They’re usually hardly worn and their lifecycle is quite frankly, and unfortunately, eternal.

Photos courtesy of Second Stories Niagara.

7. Books With global paper shortages, new books are very expensive. If you’re someone who loves to read, consider hitting your local Niagara area used book store or thrift shop. I’ve curated a lovely library of second hand art books through the years and it’s always a joy when I stumble on that perfect book for a loved one. Opting to purchase used books over new also prevents the consumption of 153 billion gallons of water each year, along with an estimated 329 million books being sent to the landfill. It’s also just fun to browse through old books on lazy Sunday afternoons. If you take anything away from these tips, please just take time to be a little more conscious about what and how you buy and how it affects people, the planet and your pocketbook. Ultimately, by choosing second hand, you’re creating a circular economy by re-distributing discarded products and giving them a second story.

Jody Vizza is an ex-marketer who lives in Fenwick Ontario and now rescues and restores useful second hand and vintage items along with original art to relove.

Visit @secondstoriesniagara on Instagram. 93




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