Inspire Niagara & Beyond - Spring & Summer 2024

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Venture off the beaten path to explore this “nugget” of Niagara-on-the-Lake. PAGE 6


70 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-468-0800 7500 Lundy’s Lane, Unit C1, Niagara Falls 905-356-0585 DELICIOUS TO THE CORE For decadent treats and gifts for all the special people in your life.

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.


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.

Cover photo courtesy of Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. Martine Welcome to Inspire Niagara Magazine’s Spring/Summer issue! TO ADVERTISE PLEASE CALL 289-397-0258 SPRING/SUMMER 2024 3


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Photos courtesy of Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.

round table discussion: off the beaten path

A Sit-Down with the Ladies of the Niagaraon-the-Lake Museum

Of course, the natural inclination for visitors to the Niagara Region is to associate the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake with two things: The War of 1812, AND wineries. Then, they realize that there are also great restaurants to be found and excellent shopping, and they think, well, that’s it! We’ve seen it all! But if they were just to venture a little further off the beaten path, they would find the most amazing “nugget.”

Situated at 43 Castlereagh Street, is the “Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.” In 1895, The Niagara Historical Society was established to foster an appreciation of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s rich heritage. Within a year, the Society had amassed a significant collection of artifacts, so the decision was made to open a museum in the local courthouse. In 1907, under the leadership of the Society’s president, Janet Carnochan, Memorial Hall was opened and history was made with Ontario’s first purpose-built museum.


I had the opportunity to sit down with the three most charming ladies who are the brains and beauty behind this amazing place – Sarah Kaufman, Managing Director and Curator; Amy Klassen, Director of Finance and Marketing; and Barbara (Babs) Worthy, Community Outreach Coordinator. I can’t forget to mention the furry mascot of the museum, Louis, who greeted me with happy barks.

“We are celebrating 130 years, and we’ve been collecting since 1895,” says, Sarah Kaufman. “Our collections are so varied – we have pieces from the Loyalist/Colonial time period; pieces from the Indian Council House which honor the early Indigenous history of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Of course, we have War of 1812 artifacts, along with a very unique collection of Laura Secord artifacts. This collection was owned by Laura herself and donated to us by her family.”

What many people don’t realize, both locals and visitors alike, is what a rich history the Town of Niagara-on-the Lake has outside of the obvious things that draw tourism.

The galleries of the Museum host a permanent exhibition, titled “Our Story,” which chronicles the history of the community, and temporary exhibitions which are mounted each year.

With artifacts from Indigenous settlements to the present day, the Museum is home to over 8,500 artifacts, 41,000 documents, 4,000 photographs, and 900 books. It’s easy to see why this place is a treasure trove of history.

“People come to see General Brock’s hat, and our collection of red coats, but they leave here with so much more,” says Sarah. “NOTL is so unique from other small rural towns. It was the first capital of Upper Canada, had the first library, and we have a really great early collection that represents all of that significant history. The War Museum in Ottawa often borrows pieces from our collections.”

The Museum is also a research partner when it comes to archaeological digs happening in the area.

“There are always digs in NOTL,” says Babs Worthy. “We have the King’s Point Collection here which has Indigenous pieces that were acquired during the dig that occurred before the development of King’s Point Condo. Whenever any development plan comes to NOTL, there has to be a dig first. The King’s Point Collection shows Indigenous activity in the area, with a focus on fishing, and the relationship the Indigenous peoples had with the Niagara River as a source for food and for trading with the use of portage as a means of travel.”

Babs goes on to add, “During a dig in Fort Erie, a piece of flint was acquired that is 40,000 years old!”

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The Museum is now in the throes of an expansion project because quite simply, they have run out of space. The three independent buildings it currently occupies, merged, are:

The High School building (1875), Memorial Hall (1907), and the Link Building (1971).

“Our plans for expansion will allow us to be able to tell so many more stories,” says Amy Klassen. “Black history is nationally significant with the story of Chloe Cooley, the history of the Mosby Ride, and all of the major black movements in support of black lives that helped to change the refugee and extradition laws still used today.”

Sarah goes on to say, “And there’s the whole history of the wine industry in Ontario. NOTL is the birthplace of the industry and the start of the VQA with notable families like Bosc and Peller alongside Inniskillin. We are going to focus on how the grape growing industry has changed in our new exhibitions.”

Babs uses the term “undertold stories” as she goes on to say, “There are so many of these to tell that haven’t been revealed – we want to bring to life what happened right here. We would not be the Canada we are today without the significant historical events that happened in NOTL. She goes on to say, “1812 changed everything, and the role of that war and the Indigenous contribution enabled us to be what we are today. People want to preserve these stories and we want to tell them. We have the artifacts to back them

up with enormous contributions coming from the volumes of things written down. For example, few people realize the contribution that the Mennonites brought with them to NOTL. They changed the farming techniques which allowed the wine industry to grow. With good governance, we can keep telling the stories.”

An excellent example of an undertold story comes from Amy Klassen. When asked what her favorite artifact in the Museum is, she points to a beautifully decorated and bespoke travel chest in the collection.

“We have several trunks from girls who came here as orphans from England and stayed at “Our Western Home” run by Maria Rye which was opened here in NOTL on December 1st, 1869. This was a program to get the waifs and strays off the streets of London, to bring them here to Canada, and teach them domestic skills so that they could be sent off to families throughout Ontario. All of their belongings were in their one trunk, each engraved with their names.”

Amy goes on to say, “Some had good stories and ended up with good families, and some ended up being mistreated. The home came under scrutiny but nothing was ever done as there was never any follow-up. NOTL was the foundation for a lot of women who ended up in Ontario and went on to build families of their own.”


Sarah adds, “This is a nugget story! There were literally thousands upon thousands of girls coming here. And now, we get visitors who are coming in to research their genealogy that is attached to this program. Many of these women never spoke of the ordeal they went through as part of this program. It was considered taboo – a deep, dark, secret.”

When asked about her favorite part of the collection, Sarah points to the 1812 collection. “It was the first collection I worked with when I joined the Museum. But I’m also

fascinated with military history in general. We have two German machine guns captured at Vimy Ridge by Canadian soldiers during World War I. We also have an anti-tank gun from WWI and it’s truly a rare piece. Tanks were just in their early emergence at this time so this response to tanks that must have been created so quickly is truly fascinating.” Another historical tidbit that many don’t know about NOTL is that it served as a community training camp for Polish soldiers coming from the United States. Poland wasn’t a country at the time WWI broke out. Before the

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United States joined the war, these young men came to NOTL to be trained by Canadian officers, amongst them, one Indigenous officer to get the skills needed to be able to go overseas and free Poland and help with the war effort. All of this is documented in the historical collection at the Museum.

Babs expands on the story. “The Spanish Flu also hit at that time, as it was likely brought in by the Polish soldiers from the U.S. There is a small cemetery here in NOTL that is actually on Polish land where the boys who succumbed to the flu are buried. Every year, on the second Sunday in June, members from the Polish Legion come to commemorate that cemetery. There is a strong connection to Poland and the Polish community here in NOTL.”

The Museum houses the Polonia Restituta medal, awarded to Elizabeth Ascher, the first Canadian to receive the honor as an outspoken advocate for the restoration of an independent Poland. She also looked after the young Polish soldiers during their time in NOTL.

Now, anyone coming into the town can immediately sense something different about it – sometimes it’s unrest, sometimes it’s peacefulness, but there is definitely something in the air.

“The whole town was a battlefield,” says Babs. “It was burned to the ground following the occupation of 1813. Bodies were buried where they fell – along the riverbanks, on farmland, everywhere. This whole area is just a cabinet of curiosities.”

It’s easy to see that this expansion project is something that is of grave importance to the NOTL community. “Our collections are growing and our archives are stuffed to the brim,” adds Babs. “We need programming and staffing space. We currently offer over 100 educational and entertainment programs which are all about life-learning and animating history. But we can do and be so much more! We are so thankful for our curious, enthusiastic, and eager membership, without whom, none of this would be possible.”

Babs is very grateful as she says, “They come in droves to all of our lectures, and activities, whether in-person or virtual. Then there are the tourists who come for the NOTL that they see advertised and realize the treasures we have.”

With a collection of over 53,000 pieces and growing, the staff of the NOTL Museum has grand plans for the expansion. “We are keen to become fully accessible to visitors and staff with an elevator and access hallways. The plans are for the expansion to happen behind Memorial

Hall with more storage collection, a main floor community space for programming and the main exhibition, and an upper gallery to house the temporary exhibitions, says Sarah. “We would love to expand our workshops and kids’ programs with cooking and for that, we need a kitchen. We have recipe books from the late 1800s for example. One in particular is from a local confectioner. Can you imagine the fun for people to bake something from that book using only the ingredients that were available at that time?”

With the expansion comes the potential to expand kids’ camps along with partnerships with hotels all over the Niagara Region offering conference groups a unique venue for off-site meetings or team-building activities. By reaching out to the community and tourism operators, the staff of the NOTL Museum hopes to revamp programs and exhibits based on what people want to see – those “undertold” stories that need representation too.

“People love after the war stories from the 1950’s,” adds Babs. “They want to hear about the smelly, noisy, unfiltered town that NOTL was back then when it relied heavily on the fishing industry before tourism became the main economy. By telling these stories, we can retain the character of this town.”

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum is a must-stop for anyone visiting the town. It’s an easy walk from the main thoroughfare and a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon, immersed in the beautiful history of the area.

I grew up in the area, was a tour guide during my high school years, and thought myself to be fairly educated in all things Niagara. I was wrong! This is why locals should make the trip to the Museum too.

Anyone who does visit will be greeted with the welcoming smiles and helping hands of Sarah, Amy, and Babs and of course the happy barks of Louis. There is something for everyone!

Thanks to Sarah, Amy, and Babs for the wonderful afternoon that last day of February, the 29th, LEAP YEAR!

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum 43 Castlereagh Street, PO Box 208 Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

t: 905 468 3912 • e: •


FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2024


Oakes Garden Theatre, Niagara Falls

Blackburn Brothers & Sean Stanley Trio

*Rain date Monday June 24, 2024

SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2024

3rd Annual JAZZ PICNIC

The Brown Homestead, St. Catharines

Denielle Bassels



The Hare Wine Co., Niagara-on-the-Lake

Carl Mayotte Trio

THURSAY, JUNE 27, 2024

The STEINWAY GRAND Celebration

Ridley College, St. Catharines

Bryan Eng Trio

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2024


Quincy Bullen Band ft. Michael Dunston on Vocals

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, St. Catharines



Battle of Beaverdams Park, Downtown Thorold FREE Community Event

Various Jazz & World Music Artists, artisan marketplace, Kids Zone, TENT TALKS, food & beverage vendors, and MORE!


JAZZ JAMS and Master Classes




Saturday, August 31st to Monday, September 2nd 10 am to 5 pm

Wainfleet Village Sports Complex Hwy #3 West, Minutes from Port Colborne

ADMISSION (Cash Only Please):

Seniors 65+: $7 on Saturday only

Adults: $8

Children under 10: Free FREE PARKING

Heritage Society Presents featuring
Experience the best of Niagara Falls and its historical surroundings on one of our personalized, comprehensive aerial tours. 468 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Let Us Take You Higher
5200 Robinson Street Niagara Falls, ON L2G 2A2 For Reservations 1.866.221.5056 Visit us at OBSERVATION DECKS SUMMIT SUITE BUFFET REVOLVING DINING ROOM
, 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
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 our table 4600 Victoria Ave., Vineland, ON L0R 2E0 t:289.567.0487 •

A love letter to Canada – Just a 5 minute drive from the falls or an easy ride on the WeGo will take you to this 20,000 SQFT Canadian themed attraction. Enjoy a Maple Tasting in a real maple factory with an expansive souvenir gift shop. Hungry? Maple Leaf Place has you covered – step onto the outdoor patio and enjoy some of Niagara’s best wines, beers, and spirits under the shade of a giant canoe that’s right across the street from the roaring Niagara River. Plus, the best part? Admission and parking are both FREE, so you can take your time to explore and celebrate Canada. Don’t forget to take a picture with one of our giant Canadian icon statues at our own “Sel e Central”! Come to Maple Leaf Place and discover everything that our great country has to o er!




Without question the most exciting part of a birthday party, wedding or celebration is the cake. Niti Ruparel, co-owner of Bittersweet Symphony in Niagara Falls, ON understands the magic behind serving delectable desserts for the most important moment of your special day. Ruparel started her culinary journey at the age of 17 in Mumbai, India. “I always wanted to do pastry. I love dessert,” says Ruparel. Her husband, Pawan Lulla, was already studying at Niagara College. “He persuaded me to come to Canada. I left everything I had there to study with my husband at Niagara College,” says Ruparel, who kept her focus on learning all that the culinary experience could provide. After graduating, she began working in a restaurant

in Niagara. On the side, Ruparel kept busy hobby baking for friends and family. “I used to freelance pastry back home and I was doing a lot of baking on the side during Covid. Then I took more training under celebrity chefs,” says Ruparel. “Then, I finally opened my own store.”

Using only high-quality ingredients, Ruparel ensures that her pastries and cakes are baked to perfection. “I love hazelnut and I love to play with tropical flavours like mango, pineapple and passionfruit,” says Ruparel. When Ruparel isn’t baking with tropical fruits, she purchases fruit from Niagara Region farmers. “Strawberries are number one. We do purchase seasonal fruits like peaches, strawberries, and berries locally.”

Named after Ruparel’s favourite 1990s chart toping song by the Verve, Bittersweet Symphony has a wide variety of cakes guaranteed to hit home with any audience. “Our menu is completely customized, and it is always changing,” says Ruparel. “Our cakes are preordered, but we do have some ready to go for walk in.” Strawberry short cake is the most popular menu item. “It is our signature dish. We use real whipping cream and fresh strawberries. It melts in your mouth,” says Ruparel. “Everyone loves that cake.”

Although cakes are her niche, a wide variety of services are provided. “We specialize in wedding cakes, dessert tables, cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, and cheesecakes. We also offer gelato and ice cream in house,” says Ruparel, who is ecstatic about their upcoming ventures. “In May, we will be starting to make breads and breakfast pastries. We haven’t

done it for four years, and it has been a long process. So, we are excited.” Bittersweet Symphony has plans to expand the business. “We have a lot of requests to open up a shop where we can teach,” says Ruparel. “Our next idea is to open a small studio kitchen where we can do workshops, holiday camps and children’s parties.”

From gender reveal and smash cakes to a burn cake that reveals a secret message, Bittersweet Symphony stays current and up to date with baking trends. “New trends excite me and there is something new in the pastry world every day,” says Ruparel who loves to rise to the challenge. “I love new flavours. It’s the ‘How do I get everything in one bite?’ that makes me experiment behind the scenes and keep going.”

Photos courtesy of Bittersweet Symphony.

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Some of the most challenging aspects of creating desserts come naturally for Ruparel. From sugaring to chocolate tempering, there isn’t a situation she can’t mend. Although she admits she is still working on perfecting the mousse filling in an Earl Grey cake, baking is second nature to Ruparel. “I can wake up in the middle of the night and make a death by chocolate cake,” says Ruparel.

Ruparel advises aspiring bakers not to over complicate things or try to mix too many flavours and ingredients together.

“A simple chocolate cake is the way. Eggs, sugar, butter, and flour are always available in your home. You just need to purchase your chocolate or your fruit,” says Ruparel.

“I like Niagara Falls. I come from Mumbai in India which is such a busy life there. We love the peace and slower pace of life here,” says Ruparel who is extremely grateful for the support they have received over the years.” We opened during Covid and that is where we had most of our support,” says Ruparel. “Our customers are local; they are not tourists. But we would love to see tourists come in! Lots of people are baking now and we want to thank our customers for their continued support.”

Whether you need a custom cake for a special occasion or a quick fix for your sweet tooth, Bittersweet Symphony is a bakery like no other. Where high quality ingredients meet exceptional standards, Bittersweet Symphony will make sure the dessert you serve brings joy to your guests’ taste buds.

For more information visit






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.


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

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 25

Benchmark is Back

Back by popular demand, Niagara College’s award-winning on-campus restaurant, Benchmark, is now open for lunch three days per week with celebrated chef Justin Downes leading a team of students in the kitchen.

After almost four years of being closed for regular restaurant service, Benchmark recently reopened, ushering in a new era with a renewed focus on student learning, along with new features including an ever-evolving cocktail list, table-side preparations, one-time additions to the menu, and more!

“Benchmark is something that has a long history with the School of Culinary Arts at Niagara College. The opportunity for our community to come and share the experience and

hard work of our students goes back many decades with different locations and different styles,” said Craig Youdale, Dean, Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies.

“Our entire team is excited to showcase our excellence in applied learning while fashioning a memorable moment for our guests.”

“Every guest can experience a multi-course menu that the students are preparing, from salad all the way to dessert, along with some amazing cocktails, mocktails, wine flights or a beer to enjoy from our talented front of house crew,” said Downes.

Chef Downes, of St. Catharines, is a NC grad who completed a culinary apprenticeship at the College in 2000.

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He noted that he is most excited about working alongside students, being a mentor to them and showing them his passion for the industry.

“Reopening the restaurant has been amazing. Seeing the excitement with the students being engaged in another level of service coming out of Benchmark is very rewarding,” said Downes.

While Chef Downes oversees ‘back of house’ at Benchmark, ‘front of house’ is under the leadership of Victor Oliveira, NC’s Manager of Catering and Special Events, who joined NC in September after working at such renowned institutions as Scaramouche, Sotto Sotto, Pizzeria Libretto, Backhouse, and Leaning Post Wines throughout his career.

“We are really looking forward to becoming the go-to place again – the perfect combination of style, food excellence and experience,” said Oliveira. “I am really looking forward to watching students develop and grow as professionals, and to create a concept restaurant that all culinary and hospitality students would strive to be part of from year one.”

Located at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagaraon-the-Lake, Benchmark’s reputation extends far beyond campus boundaries, as an award-winning Niagara dining establishment popular with the public. Its regular restaurant operations were paused in December 2019. Since 2022, it has been devoted to academic initiatives from the College’s Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies division – including culinary pop-ups, final exam lunches and dinners, and more. Academic offerings from the School of Culinary Arts will continue at Benchmark, as part of the Culinary, Tourism

Photos courtesy of Niagara College Culinary Arts.

and Beverage Studies division.

With Benchmark reopening for lunch service, NC students from culinary and hospitality programs will be employed to work back- and front-of-house, respectively.

Culinary Management student Marcela Alvarez Cardoso is gaining experience as she completes her co-op requirement at Benchmark. The Benchmark kitchen is a familiar environment for Cardoso who has also been volunteering for the Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies division’s Feed the Community program, to prepare meals which are donated to those in need.

“Benchmark gives many opportunities to us to practice for different events in and outside the College and we have the opportunity to enrich our knowledge and learn all we can,” said Cardoso. “I am truly very grateful and happy to be part of this team surrounded by such good colleagues and chef professors who complement Benchmark.”

Benchmark is currently open for lunch service three days a week, Wednesdays through Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Benchmark offers a table d’hôte menu ($40) – a threecourse price-fix menu that will change often. Guests will have the opportunity to add wine flights to pair with their courses for an additional $12.

Lunch service will be open for reservations only to start, and reservations may be made via Open Table.

For information about upcoming events, visit Benchmark on Facebook or visit their website.


Formerly known as The Commercial Hotel, the presentday Commercial Roadhouse is steeped in a history that most people have absolutely no idea of unless they are Stevensville born and raised.

This historic establishment has been handed down from generation to generation, surviving significant eras of history. If only the walls could speak, they would tell you alluring stories of the Peace Bridge being built, of the heroic measures taken by locals with the Underground Railroad, its survival through Prohibition, and of course World War I and II. The Commercial is part of the history of Fort Erie. Built in 1830 as a private residential home, it became a tavern operated by Henry Ort from 1836-1851. At that

time, Mr. Ort sold the building to Mr. George Cease who operated it as an inn until 1873, providing rooms and food and beverage to locals and weary travelers alike. Mr. Joseph Bauer and his family took over the operation of the inn in 1873 and kept it in the family until 1910 when Mr. Andrew Willick purchased it. This is when some of the business’ troubles began.

During World War I, the inn lost its liquor license due to Prohibition which ran federally from 1918 through 1920, and then the Temperance Act which ran up until 1927 provincially. Ever the entrepreneur, Andrew Willick still was able to operate a store from the building, as well as continuing to rent rooms and serve meals. In 1934, the

3752 Netherby Rd., Fort Erie, ON • 289.397.0541 • 28 Inspire Niagara & Beyond

business had its liquor license granted once again and continued to operate successfully under the Willick Family until September of 1948 when it was sold to Mr. Andrew Zuba and went from being known as an inn back to a hotel.

For the next several years it seems that nothing historically significant occurred other than Andrew Zuba running a successful hotel which continued to be frequented by locals. Two of those locals, John Mikitchuk and Roger Featherstone took over ownership in 1974 and ran the business until 1977, when it was then sold to Bill and Andie Warbuck. Overall, The Commercial Hotel was a wellestablished watering hole with good home-cooked food which kept Fort Erie/Stevensville residents always coming back for more.

After a one-year partnership, Andie bought out his partner Bill, and took over operation of the hotel with the help of his wife, Dorothy and their son Andrew. Dorothy was a very warm and welcoming lady who worked hard in the kitchen to ensure that any visitors to The Commercial would leave there well-fed, sated and ready to come back for more the following week as she pumped out home-cooked fare. Everyone in the area knew that The Commercial would always be a welcoming place. Even visitors to the area and first-timers were greeted with the same gusto that the locals were.

Sadly, things at The Commercial took a turn for the worse in the spring of 2022, with Dorothy’s untimely passing. Unsure what to do with the building, and with her family not equipped to take over the bustling business, The Commercial stood empty for some time. This landmark of Fort Erie had survived The Great Depression, two World

Photos courtesy of Commercial Roadhouse.

Wars, Covid-19, the best of times and the worst of times, yet now it stood at a crossroads with no real future.

But things were about to change. Dorothy’s family decided to sell the building and namesake business to 43 North Restaurant Group, a Niagara-born and raised beverage and service company. Who better to take over than Tony Visca and Fern Colavecchia? Founded in 2015, 43 North Restaurant Group isn’t the first venture that the two gentlemen have been involved with. Tony and Fern have actually been business partners since 1990 in the Niagara area beverage and service industry and their huge success managing a variety of culinary experiences across the Niagara Region is based entirely on preserving the atmosphere, and food and beverage of restaurants and bars that they grew up going to.

The Commercial Roadhouse is back up and running, with a menu based on the original ideas of Dorothy along with a few new additions. The patio has been upgraded and live music is a regular thing. Breakfast is served daily from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. offering the classics. The Commercial offers up a good selection of wines and hand-mixed cocktails, along with a great selection of beers both on tap and bottled. On the regular menu, hungry folk can find traditional handheld sandwiches and scrumptious burgers accompanied by hand-cut fries. There’s also pizza, wings and broasted chicken for those looking for items that are shareable. All items are made in house.

Whether you’re stopping in for a bite to eat or just a quick pint, this landmark and legend offers up the same hometown hospitality that it has for close to two centuries.


Say the name “Matty Matheson” anywhere in Fort Erie and you will hear nothing but positive things. In fact, say his name just about anywhere now and you will get nothing but rave reviews – from his talent in the kitchen to his talent on the big screen, Matty Matheson has become both a culinary and entertainment force to be reckoned with.

Matthew James Matheson, born February 7, 1982, in SaintJohn, New Brunswick, is a Canadian chef, restaurateur, actor, and internet personality. When he turned 11, Matty’s family moved to Fort Erie, Ontario, a place still near and dear to his heart, and which he still calls home.

Matty’s interest in cooking and food began at a very young age. His grandfather was a restaurateur from Prince Edward

Island, where his family has roots dating back to the 1700s. Matty spent his summers at his grandfather’s restaurant, “The Blue Goose,” in DeSable.

After finishing high school in Fort Erie, Matty moved to Toronto in 2000 to attend Humber College’s cooking program. Not one for the traditional classroom, Matty didn’t last long at Humber and chose to go on tour as a roadie for one of his friends’ heavy metal bands. But the lure of the kitchen was too strong, and with his talent for butchering meat, Matty continued his culinary career by handing out resumes to random restaurants until he was offered a job. Matty began working at Le Select Bistro in Toronto in 2003 under the tutelage of chef Rang Hguyen, where he gained

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French culinary techniques. From there, Matty moved to La Palette in 2006. In 2010, he became Executive Chef at Parts & Labor Restaurant where he remained for 9 years until it closed in 2019.

Matty’s adventures in the culinary world of Toronto are vast, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, in the summer of 2020, he brought his love of barbecue back home to Fort Erie and created a pop-up restaurant called Matty Matheson’s Meat + Three, a take on the southern American meat plus 3 specializing in American barbecue. The Meat + Three pop-up closed in 2022.

This could have become a tragedy to the locals who just love Matty and his food. But in November of that same year, he opened Rizzo’s House of Parm, a restaurant serving old-school, Italian-American fare, in Crystal Beach, a stone’s throw from Fort Erie. He named the restaurant after his first daughter and second child, Rizzo.

Rizzo’s House of Parm offers a menu of traditional

Italian foods, with the specialty on dishes prepared “al parmigiana,” consisting of chicken or veal cutlets, or for the vegetarian, eggplant – all breaded, deep-fried until golden brown, then smothered in Matty’s homemade tomato sauce, all topped with the best grade of a blend of mozzarella, pecorino Romano, and Parmesan cheese.

The pasta lover can indulge in traditional spaghetti and homemade meatballs, penne al vodka, and rigatoni carbonara, just to name a few. The mozzarella sticks as an appetizer are renowned, and the salads are all fresh and hearty. Portions are huge and very easily shareable. If anything, this writer encourages any newbies to Rizzo’s House of Parm to save room for dessert. All desserts are made in-house and worth every calorie as is the Espresso Martini – one of the best I’ve ever had. Add to this an extensive wine list and a great cocktail menu, and you have a prescription for a great night out. And maybe, just maybe, you will catch a glimpse of Matty himself.

Photos courtesy of Rizzo’s House of Parm.

Get unprecedented access to the iconic Niagara Parks Power Station + Tunnel after dark with an all-new nighttime experience - the illuminated Falls await!

Behind the Scenes at


Safari Niagara is a privately-owned and operated accredited nature park that is home to more than 1000 species of wildlife, many of them endangered in their native habitat. The park, which supports multiple conservation efforts, was founded with the vision of providing visitors with the opportunity to meet animals up close. The hope is that such interactions will inspire visitors to share Safari Niagara’s goal of conserving biodiversity.

Important to realizing this ambition is Safari Niagara’s behind-the-scenes tours, which offer patrons a more intimate experience with the animals. Each of the four distinct, 45-minute tours highlights one specific species: giraffes, lions, rhinos, and bears.

“Our behind-the-scenes tours help people make personal connections with our animals and inspire a love for wildlife. We do our best to encourage actions that will help protect and conserve our natural world,” explains Safari Niagara’s general manager, Taryn Hipkiss. “We have a lot of guests with specific questions who are seeking one on one time with our zookeepers.”

“A percentage of proceeds from our behind-the-scenes tours is donated,” Hipkiss adds. “Through proceeds raised for the International Rhino Foundation, Safari Niagara sent 20 investigative kits to help India’s forest guards investigate wildlife crimes and secure evidence for convictions against poachers.”

Conservation goals aside, these tours are just plain fun. The giraffe tour is arguably the most popular of the four. Safari Niagara’s giraffes are an endangered subspecies native to the Horn of Africa known as the reticulated giraffe. “Accredited zoos work together to maintain healthy, sustainable populations under expert care. Giraffes, as a

whole, are ,classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and their numbers are decreasing,” explains Breah Sovegjarto, Safari Niagara’s educational programs developer. In the case of the reticulated giraffe there are approximately 16,000 remaining in the wild.

Part of maintaining a sustainable captive population is ensuring animals have a healthy environment in which to live. Accredited facilities work hard to ensure the animals in their care are afforded the proper space, nutrition, and choice.

“Tour participants have the opportunity to feed our giraffes, which people always love,” says Sovegjarto. “In the wild, giraffes will typically eat acacia tree leaves and branches. During the Behind the Scenes tour, participants can feed specially formulated grains and fresh produce like lettuce.”

Like giraffes, African lions are threatened in the wild. During the Behind the Scenes lion tour, keepers will discuss the plight of these majestic felines and the importance of maintaining a sustainable ex-situ population. Moreover, participants will learn intimate details about the social dynamics of the Safari Niagara pride.

“Rather than a feeding experience, says Sovegjarto, “we set out an enrichment for our lions so we can watch them emulate natural foraging and hunting techniques. It’s an amazing experience to see up close.”

Safari Niagara boasts two species of rhino, White and Indian. Rhinos are powerful giants. Participants in the rhino tour can stand next to one of these massive creatures, putting their size and strength into perspective. White rhinos, the larger of the two species, can stand almost 6’ at the shoulder, measure up to 13 feet long, and weigh more than 7,000 lbs. The smaller Indian rhino species, although not as tall, is still a force.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Hind and Safari Niagara.
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A highlight is the opportunity to gently rub a rhino’s famously thick hide. “The skin of an Indian Rhino looks like armour, as many people think, but those deep folds in the skin are actually quite sensitive,” explains Sovegjarto. These folds play an important role. Indian Rhinos love to spend time in the water. Moisture is retained in these folds which helps to keep them cool.

Safari Niagara is home to 2 species of bears: the American black bear and the Syrian brown bear. In the case of the Syrian Brown Bear, habitat fragmentation has seen the species extirpated in Syria. Currently, scattered populations remain in Turkey and the Caucasus. The Syrian Brown Bear is larger than the American Black Bear that we are all familiar with, yet it is a smaller subspecies of Brown Bear.

The Animal Care team at Safari Niagara was excited to launch their Behind the Scenes Bears tour in 2023 and hopes that discussions about the current status of the Syrian Brown Bear population might encourage participants to think about human and wildlife coexistence. “Conflict with animals like bears, and this applies equally to other species such as the Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake here in Ontario, are often the result of misunderstanding,” says Sovegjarto. “People might worry about coexisting with such wildlife, but we need to remember that these species are important to biodiversity. We need them.”

Sovegjarto stresses that an additional challenge arises when people want to get close to wild animals to pet them or get a great photo. This can put them and the animal at risk.

“Accredited facilities like Safari Niagara offer opportunities to get close without putting people or animals in danger,” she says. “That’s one of the appeals of our behind-the-scenes tours. The experience is intimate, educational, and safe for everyone – animal and human.”

Tickets for behind-the-scenes-tours costs $60 per person, reservations are required. For more information or to book a tour: visit



Museum Secrets:

Fort George’s Powder Magazine

Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a superb reconstruction of the War of 1812 era structure that defended the Niagara frontier. Impressive in size and strength, few people realize the historic significance of a rather modest building within the fort’s walls.

The officer’s mess or perhaps the barracks are the highlights of most visits to Fort George. Yet they are 20th century replicas. The powder magazine, often overlooked, is the only original building. More than that, it is the oldest surviving military structure in Ontario.

Until 1796, Britain occupied the east side of the Niagara River and, with it, Fort Niagara. When Britain ceded this side of the river in Jay’s Treaty, they began to build a new

fortification at the mouth of the Niagara River and opposite Fort Niagara. Built on a rising bluff, Fort George was intended to protect the river’s mouth, the village of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), and the maritime installations at Navy Hall, a key supply depot for British forts on the Upper Great Lakes.

Construction began in 1796 and went on for several years. When it was complete in 1799, Fort George was an expansive fortification. It consisted of an irregular rectangle earthwork with six earth-and-wood bastions where artillery pieces were emplaced, with a ditch outside and a stockade enclosing the work. As the main base of British forces in North America, the fort’s large interior was intended

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to accommodate significant numbers of troops, stores, and artillery. There was a large and comfortable officer’s mess, three barracks that could also function as defensive blockhouses, a guardhouse, hospital, storehouses, and a stone powder magazine built in a lower dug-out area. The powder magazine was the most protected structure within the fort, and for good reason. At any time, there were as many as 800 barrels of gunpowder stored within the building. Should a fire break out – by accident or enemy bombardment – the resultant explosion would level every building within Fort George and kill or maim the entire garrison. As a precaution, the magazine was constructed of stone rather than wood as with the other buildings and was situated in a lower dug-out area with high earthen banks. Further, there were strict regulations in place to ensure there were no accidental explosions. Only spark proof materials were used during construction, including floorboards that were secured with wooden pegs rather than of iron nails. Soldiers working within or around the building had to wear special smocks and shoes with no metal fastenings.

Long predicted, war finally came to Fort George with the outbreak of the War of 1812. News of the declaration of war arrived on June 18 during a dinner hosted by the British officers of Fort George for their American counterparts at Fort Niagara. Dinner was finished cordially, both sides wished each other best wishes in the coming conflict, and the officers parted ways as friends. By the next morning, they were enemies and would remain so for nearly three years.

For several months the fighting seemed far removed from Fort George, save for occasional harassment by American gunners on the opposite side of the river. That all changed on October 13 during the Battle of Queenston Heights,

when a large American force crossed the Niagara River to invade Canada.

As the invasion downstream was unfolding, American gunners began bombarding Fort George from Fort Niagara across the river. The Americans scored a lucky direct hit on the powder magazine with an incendiary shell. The burning red cannonball penetrated the magazine’s roof and started a fire. The vast store of gunpowder was in danger of catastrophic explosion.

“I met a crowd of militia with consternation in their countenances, exclaiming the magazine was on fire,” recalled Major Thomas Evans, left in charge of Fort George that day. “Knowing it to contain 800 barrels of powder with vent side walls, not an instant to be lost. Captain Vigoreux of the Engineers therefore, at my suggestion, was promptly on its roof, which movement was with alacrity followed by the requisite number of volunteers.”

Under the inspired leadership of Captain Vigoreux, the militiamen and Royal Artillery gunners tore off the roof to gain access to the burning timbers beneath and managed to put out the flames before they could reach the gunpowder. The actions of Captain Vigoreux and his men was one of the most heroic, if little remembered, acts in the War of 1812.

Unfortunately, there was no saving Fort George in May 1813 when a massive bombardment destroyed all the buildings within the fortifications. The only structure left standing was the powder magazine.

Fort George was abandoned after the war and the powder magazine largely forgotten, at least until the 1930s when the entire fort was rebuilt to look as it did in the 1812 period. Thanks to reconstruction and the present-day interpretive programs and historic signage, the significance of the stone powder magazine as the oldest military structure in Ontario is no longer obscured.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Hind, Bob Linsdell and Fort George, Parks Canada.

The Alfred Memorial of Queenston

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With its many historic buildings, the village of Queenston doesn’t feel too far removed from the War of 1812 when a fierce battle raged atop the heights towering over it. It’s not hard to imagine British soldiers and Canadian militiamen gathered here, faces etched in fear, as they prepared to storm the American forces ensconced on the heights.

A memorial stands sentinel here, at the point where Sir Isaac Brock’s infamous attack began. But the monument doesn’t pay homage to any man, general or private soldier. Instead, it is dedicated to the memory of General Brock’s horse, Alfred.

In 1811 the ailing Governor General of the Canadas, Sir James Craig, who had served as colonial administrator since 1807, bequeathed the horse to General Brock prior to departing for England to recover. Lt. Colonel Edward Baynes, adjutant-general of forces in British North America and a man very close with Craig from having served as his long-time aide-de-camp, apparently penned a letter to Brock on behalf of the grievously ill governor general. He was said to write that Craig, “requests that you will do him the favour to accept, as a legacy and mark of his very sincere regard, his favourite horse Alfred.”

“The whole continent of America could not furnish you so safe and excellent a horse,” Baynes adds. “Alfred is ten years old, but being a high bred horse, and latterly but very little worked, he may be considered as still perfectly fresh.”

Brock was moved. And the gift came none to soon, because in 1812 war broke out between the United States and Britain and Brock, commander of all British and Canadian forces in Upper Canada would need a good steed to race from one trouble spot to another. It’s reported that Brock was riding Alfred when he accepted William Hull’s surrender of Detroit on August 16, 1812.

Two months later the inevitable American riposte came. On October 13th, 1812, Brock, headquartered in Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) woke to the news of an American attack on Queenston Heights. The alarm almost

Photos courtesy of Brock University.

certainly came by messenger rather than the oft-told story of being awakened ‘by the sound of guns’, as others in Niagara at the time reported hearing no sound of battle. Hurriedly dressing, Brock mounted Alfred and rode for the village of Queenston. He pushed his mount as hard as he could, racing along a rain-soaked road to arrive about an hour later. What Brock found concerned him terribly.

Chaos abounded. There had been much fighting atop the Heights, and the strategically vital artillery battery there had fallen to the enemy. Brock, always a man of action, now made a foolhardy decision to personally lead a counterattack with whatever troops he had on hand rather than delegate the task to a more junior officer.

Brock dismounted Alfred, tethered the horse near a stone wall, and advanced up the hill at the head of his troops. Brock was shot and killed, and the attack faltered.

In the years since there has been much commentary on why Brock had dismounted rather than lead the attack on horseback. There were likely several reasons. First, after racing seven miles along muddy roads, Alfred would have been jaded. Second, the slope up the Heights was broken by a stone wall and brush, and the top of the plateau was wooded, hardly ideal terrain for a horse. Finally, Brock may have been brave to the point of recklessness, but he was no fool. Attacking atop a horse but at the pace of marching troops would have made him an even more conspicuous target than he already was. For all these reasons, Alfred was left tethered while his master climbed the hill and into legend.

Alfred’s fate after Brock is killed becomes rather uncertain. The memorial suggests that Alfred was the mount ridden by Lt. Colonel John Macdonell, a militia officer and Brock’s aide-de-camp, in another counterattack. A musket ball hits the horse, which reared up, while a second ball felled its rider. Macdonell would later die of his wounds. This version of the story says Alfred suffered the same fate.

But credible sources suggest that not only did Alfred survive the battle, but he lived a long life after. Major John Glegg, another of Brock’s aides, writing on Brock’s October 16, 1812, funeral procession, said that: “The Late General’s horse was fully caparisoned and led by four grooms.”

There is even some evidence to believe that Alfred survived into the 1830s. He may have spent his final years in Goderich as the possession of Reverend Francis Campbell. Alfred’s monument isn’t merely a memorial to General Brock’s mount. It also served as a tribute of sorts to all the horses that served in the defense of Canada during the War of 1812.



Please don’t be alarmed by the title as this is definitely a family-friendly article! However, now that I have your attention let me share a suggestion for something you should consider giving a try. Something that is FUN, FREE, involves FRESH AIR, FITNESS and FRIENDS! For an increasing number of folks an activity that checks all those boxes is playing disc golf. Whether you are a visitor to our area or a local resident, you’ll likely agree that there are hidden gems in a city or region that many people don’t always hear about or have yet to explore and this article is intended to shed some light on one such place here in Niagara Falls - the free, public disc golf course at Firemen’s Park! (for myself, and several of my family and friends, Firemen’s Park has also become one our favorite F-words due to the many great times we’ve enjoyed together on the course).

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If you have never heard of disc golf or experienced the game first-hand, it is an amazing way to enjoy the outdoors in a beautiful setting while making memories, sharing laughs, and getting some exercise. Interest in this sport has exploded worldwide in recent years and it continues to grow at an incredible pace.

Here are some fun facts published by (the most popular website/app for disc golfers):

• Canada has the 3rd most disc golf courses in the world (over 700) behind the United States (over 9,000) and Finland (over 1,000)

• Finland has ranked #1 in the World Happiness Report several years in a row and in 2022 its’citizens played more rounds of disc golf per capita than any other country! (I can’t guarantee a correlation there, but I don’t think it’s just a coincidence!)

• There are now more disc golf courses in the United States than Dunkin’ Donuts shops!

UDisc also publishes a yearly summary of statistics for each course. Keep in mind that the actual numbers are much higher than what is shown below since these statistics are only based on participants that record their games on the UDisc app with their phones and there are many that play without it or who come out without keeping score. With that in mind, check out these impressive stats for the Firemen’s Park course in 2023:

• Over 1,000 different players (from 9 countries) scored rounds on the course, including 641 for the first time

• Just under 7,000 rounds of disc golf were recorded at Firemen’s Park

• Players who used the UDisc app took a total of 31,479,401 steps on the course, totaling up to 23,987 km!

Have I piqued your curiosity yet? I hope so! If you are looking to discover what all the fuss is about then you will

be happy to know that as luck would have it, Niagara Falls is home to one of the best public courses in the entire region. Several locals have dedicated countless hours to maintaining the course as well as helping to educate and inspire others to become involved. Eric Conlon is one of those passionate and committed volunteers who make up the Greater Niagara Disc Golf Association. With almost 500 members in their Facebook group, they are on a mission to help spread the good news about the increasingly popular pass time. In speaking with Eric recently he was quick to praise the many others who serve as ambassadors to help grow the sport and increase awareness about it.

Besides organizing tournaments, leagues, and social events they are building a culture of encouragement and inclusivity so that people of all ages and skill levels get to join in on the fun!

The game itself is similar to the concept of a round of golf where you have 18 holes, and you are trying to get your disc thrown into a metal basket on each hole in the least amount of throws. Official discs that are designed for the game can be purchased at local retailers Sport Chek or Canadian Tire and of course there are many options on-line. Beginners could even use a regular frisbee to start or purchase a starter pack of 3 official discs for under $30. There are three main categories of discs (drivers, mid-range and putters). As you progress in the sport most players experiment with different discs that vary in their flying characteristics and quality.

Jim Diodati, the Mayor of Niagara Falls, posted a great video to showcase the Firemen’s Park disc golf course and to introduce the basics of the sport. It will give you a quick overview of how the game works and what the local course looks like.

The latest statistics on Disc Golf’s popularity worldwide can be found in the 2024 Disc Golf Growth Report.

Photos courtesy of Sean Hilliker and Bond Lake Course in Western New York.

Fun Things

For Families to do in Niagara Falls, Canada

We are calling all families! Are you looking for a funpacked family outing? The beautiful city of Niagara Falls, Canada has many fun activities for kids and parents to experience and enjoy.

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On River Road Street, there is a lovely place called Bird Kingdom. Bird Kingdom – a fantastic place to visit! It’s a large indoor aviary where you can walk around and see breathtaking birds up close and personal. Bird Kingdom has all different kinds of habitats and pretty scenery. In some parts of the aviary, you can interact with the friendliest birds and feed them right from the palm of your hand. Bird Kingdom is not only a beautiful tropical paradise, but it is also an interactive and educational experience for kids. Another amazing place to visit in Niagara Falls is the Niagara Zipline, located near the base of Clifton Hill. Let go of all your worries as you soar through the fresh air and take in all the beautiful views of our waterfall on the Niagara Zipline. Even the locals say that the WildPlay Mistrider Zipline is one of the best activities to try in Niagara. It’s a

nerve-racking yet thrilling experience you and your family will never forget.

The Butterfly Conservatory, located on Niagara River Parkway, is a great place to visit with your family. The Butterfly Conservatory is a breathtaking enclosure where you can see all kinds of different colourful butterflies. Kids can learn about a butterfly’s life cycle and have them land on their hands or even heads. This conservatory is a fun and educational experience that will show your kids the beauty of nature. You can also explore the pretty gardens at the end of the walk-through.

On top of that, here in Niagara Falls, we have Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. The tour is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a very short drive from the Falls. It’s a thrilling adventure where you can ride in powerful jet boats through the large

Photos courtesy of Bird Kingdom, Clifton Hill, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, Niagara Parks Commission Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Parks Commission Zipline, Niagara Parks Commission Wildplay.

rapids getting very close to the whirlpool in the lower river. Some locals describe it as the “rollercoaster of the water.”

Kids would love this attraction because it’s an exciting experience that will get their adrenaline pumping. Visiting the Whirlpool Jet Boats is a great way to see the beauty of the lower river from a new perspective.

Wild Play Niagara, located on the Niagara River Parkway, is a fun place where your kids can climb, run, swing, and zipline fast through the tall trees. It’s a large outdoor playground with fun and challenging obstacles. Kids can test their bravery and adventurous abilities while having fun at the same time in the great outdoors. Wild Play Niagara is a great place to see if you and your family want outdoor activities.

Clifton Hill is also a fantastic spot to visit. It’s a fun-packed street that is perfect for families. The street is bright with colour. It’s like a giant playground with many fun things to do! There is the SkyWheel, a grand ferris wheel that gives you the most amazing views of the beautiful falls. There is also Ripley’s Believe It or Not! where you can see all sorts of weird and crazy exhibits. And let’s not forget about the Movieland Wax Museum, where you can take many selfies with all your favourite celebrity wax versions. Another great stop is the Midway which boasts rides, video games, interactive games, and bowling, all adjacent to Boston Pizza. Clifton Hill is also home to the most delicious treats. You can indulge in mouthwatering fudge and cool down with a scoop of ice cream or dip and dots. At Clifton Hill, there’s always something for everyone in your family, whether you’re into thrilling rides, exploring sights, or enjoying delicious snacks. Make sure you check it out!

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Lastly, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is an absolute blast for families, and it’s worth a visit! It’s the ultimate family fun zone in beautiful Niagara Falls to splash and swim. This waterpark has all different kinds of exciting water attractions. They have massive water slides that will get your heart pumping, slow, lazy rivers where you can sit back and relax, and a huge wave pool that makes you feel like you’re at a sunny beach. There is so much to choose from. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is open year-round, so you can always enjoy splashing in the water, no matter the weather. Isn’t that amazing?

Niagara Falls has many fun activities and beautiful sights to see with your family, from the breathtaking beauty of the Falls to the thrilling adventures on Clifton Hill. If you visit Niagara, there will never be a dull moment. Niagara Falls is a place where lifelong memories are made. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your fun visit to Niagara Falls now!


In Canada, we call them chocolate bars, while our neighbours to the south call them candy bars. Read on and you will find out why!

Beginning with just one location, Rocky Mountain Chocolate has since grown to include over 45 locations throughout Canada and is proud to be one of the most recognizable chocolate brands within the country.

This was part of the lure for Bruce and Laura Cochran, the proud owners of 3 franchises in the Niagara Region.

“We started at the Outlet Collection of Niagara in Niagara-on-theLake,” says Bruce. “Now we have a store in downtown Niagara-onthe-Lake and at the Canada One Outlets on Lundy’s Lane.”

For Bruce and Laura, the transition from their regular jobs into the world of chocolate wasn’t a difficult one.

“I was going through the Saturday paper and saw a franchise available. That weekend we met up with some friends over breakfast and the topic came up. We made a list of pros and cons, and the pros won. That Monday, we called the head office in Vancouver and by the following Saturday, we were on our way.”


“We were both always hard workers and decided that we wanted to work for ourselves instead of working for others,” adds Laura. Coming from a background in health care with the Niagara Health System for 18 years, Laura welcomed the change from mental health to chocolate.

Bruce owned a business in Burlington at the time the Cochrans purchased their first store. He then sold that business and joined Laura full-time in the chocolate business. Shortly after, they purchased the two other locations, and the rest is history.

Being around all of that chocolate all day every day, one would think that it would be difficult to choose a favorite product. For Bruce, it’s actually easy. “I love the pecan mogul which is pecans layered with handmade caramel then drenched in chocolate.” Laura doesn’t like anything coffeeflavored. “It has nothing to do with the chocolate. I just have an aversion to anything that tastes like coffee and combining the two flavors for me is not good,” she laughs. “It’s easier to say what I don’t like because it’s just that. I love the candy apples, especially the apple pie candy apple which is rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon after being drenched in white chocolate.”

Looking around, one might expect to see an Oompa Loompa or two. Of course, that’s only in the movies and at Rocky Mountain Chocolate’s Lundy’s Lane location, you will find Wes Atkinson, the master chocolatier, and the antithesis of an Oompa Loompa standing at well over 6 feet tall.

“Wes came with this store when we bought it,” says Bruce. “He was the only employee we retained and that’s because he’s the best!”

Wes began his career in the kitchen from an early age when he found himself baking alongside his mother. “I started out as a bread baker and enrolled in Niagara College’s Bakery and Pasty Arts program because I’ve always been passionate about any and all sweets,” says Wes with a big grin.

What separates Rocky Mountain Chocolates from the competition is that 75% of its products are made in-house, using only the highest quality of chocolate. Here is where Wes goes on to explain the difference

Photos courtesy of Rocky Mountain Chocolate.

between a chocolate bar and a candy bar, which few people actually realize is a big one. “A true chocolate bar is made of tempered chocolate, while a candy bar is not tempered, contains less than 18% chocolate and is often filled with wax.”

Wes goes on to give a quick lesson in the history of chocolate. “Before World War II, true chocolate was reserved for the elite. After World War II came the ability to mass produce a chocolate product using fillers to be economical. This is where candy bars come from.”

Wes does indeed love all things sweet, but he enjoys making ‘Sea Foam’ (sponge toffee) and brittle. What he finds most challenging in the candy-making business is fudge. “It’s all about the temperature being the key. One degree off one way or another is the difference between whether the fudge stands or not.” Laura adds, “Baking of any kind, is a precise science.”

“Once your palate has experienced the real thing, it’s impossible to go back. I can taste chemicals in a candy bar,” says Wes.

Another tell-tale sign of a premium chocolate product is the sound a bar makes when snapped. “You actually hear the snap of tempered chocolate,” says Laura. “Candy bars are more pliable because of the fillers used in them, like wax.”

Wes’ favorite thing to snack on at Rocky Mountain is the chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick. “I could eat those all day long.”

Products at Rocky Mountain are never mass-produced either. “We can never call the popularity of our products from day to day. We play it by feel as to what gets produced on a daily basis, because it all depends on the clientele we are serving at that time,” says Wes.

There is one product that you won’t find on any shelves other than at Rocky Mountain in the Niagara Region. “We make the most delicious ice wine bombs at all three of our locations and we are the only ones in the country that make them,” says Laura.

Whatever your preference is, you will find something to treat your tastebuds when you visit Bruce, Laura and Wes at any of the 3 locations here in Niagara.


Simply White Interiors

Making Spaces Come to Life

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As a little girl, Bren Petrunick worked alongside her mother in her store in Niagara-on- the-Lake. “I learned the most important lessons in business from her: treat all your customers equally and with care and compassion,” says Petrunick, owner of Simply White Interiors. “Those values are still at the heart of what we do today.”

We believe that great design begins with a conversation “ “

For over 15 years, Simply White Interiors has been focusing on their priority of delivering exceptional customer service. In the process, the company has made a name for itself in the industry as expertise in fabric design. “Whether it is precise pattern matching on an intricate print across pillows, chairs, or drapes, or creating a cohesive collection of prints and weaves to make a design pop,” says Petrunick. “The entire Simply White Interiors team relishes the opportunity to incorporate lots of pattern and colour through fabric as a means of delivering high-quality, innovative designs.”

Photos courtesy of Simply White Interiors.

“We believe that great design begins with a conversation, so naturally this is where our creative process begins. We value the time we spend with our clients, and we seek to make every interaction intentional, meaningful, and productive,” says Petrunick. “Every project is as unique as the people we have the pleasure of working with, so we will get to know our clients and what they envision for their home, and how we can deliver the design of their dreams.”

Although Simply White Interiors uses various tools to complete the job, the skill comes directly from the team of designers, seamstresses and project managers. “Our on-site workroom gives our design team unparalleled access to every stage of the production process and the ability to closely monitor your project from start to finish,” says Petrunick. “We take great pride in this cohesive and cooperative process that enables flawless execution of all our custom work.”

In Petrunick’s experience, design projects are inherently challenging, “That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced and trustworthy team at your side. Managing a full-scale design, from concept drawings to selections to installations, is a major undertaking involving countless decisions, moving parts and players,” says Petrunick. “Our role as project managers and designers is to make the process as seamless and successful as possible by forecasting challenges and delivering solutions,” says Petrunick, who also communicates to the client the ups and downs of a major renovation or new build. “We manage expectations, offer sound advice, and support through those challenging times.”

Petrunick is observing a shift in style from minimalist to maximalism. “We’re seeing bold, heavy patterns and an abundance of colours and layering, as well as eclectic collections for an aesthetic that is warm, inviting and full of character,” says Petrunick. “Shades of green are perennial favourites, but they are even more enviable in spring as they create a connection to nature and the lush colours of

nature we love about spring and summer in Niagara,” says Petrunick, who states green is the current colour trend.

“We’re seeing an infusion of green in everything from fabric to wallpaper, and an overwhelming trend toward green cabinetry, especially in kitchens and mudrooms.”

Petrunick believes that design doesn’t have to cost a great deal of money. “A few carefully curated updates can make an extraordinary impact in a space. By adding colour to interior doors, trim or a few statement furniture pieces, you can make a dramatic statement on a limited budget,” says Petrunick, who also recommends simple and costeffective updates like new cabinet hardware, light fixtures, or artwork. “Consider décor items such as toss cushions, throws and area rugs,” says Petrunick.

“Simply White Interiors is also an active member of our local community, raising awareness and support for causes close to our heart,” says Petrunick, who is committed to giving back to the community. “Most recently, we ran a holiday appeal to raise funds for ‘No One Goes Hungry,’ a Niagara-based organization that delivers regular, nutritious meals to school children.”

Born and raised in Niagara, Petrunick can’t imagine running her business anywhere else. “I feel privileged to help the people of Niagara bring their design visions to life. I am also very proud to partner with so many talented crafters and suppliers in the Niagara Region,” says Petrunick, adding that she and her team are very active in many restoration projects in the region.

“Every time we’re invited into someone’s home, I remind myself what a privilege it is to receive that invitation and to have the opportunity to help them make that space their own,” says Petrunick. “We can deliver a level of customization that takes a space from ordinary to extraordinary.”

For all your design needs visit

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second stories

The Quest to Find the Best 55

The Top 5 Thrift Stores in Niagara

As a longtime sustainable shopper and reseller of second hand and vintage items, I’ve visited plenty of thrift stores over the years. My Instagram followers will often ask “What’s your favourite thrift shop in the Niagara Region?” and I never have a clear answer, because it all depends on what you’re looking for and what’s important to you in a thrift store. I recently decided to take the question to task and in my quest to find the best thrift stores, I first asked my followers what kinds of things were important to them, then I created a list of the 31 Niagara based stores and visited every one of them over a six week period, armed with the goal to evaluate each one based on the following criteria:

VALUE - Does the thrift store offer merchandise at fair prices? A good thrift shop will find a balance between affordability and profitability. Is the pricing consistently fair? Does the shop offer special discounts, sales or something pleasantly unique?

MISSION & PURPOSE - Is the store a not-for-profit charitable organization or a for profit company? Do they support the local or global community or shareholder’s pockets? Do they offer food and clothing bank services, education, supportive counselling and outreach?

MERCHANDISE - Is there a wide selection of quality items to choose from? Are there new, used and vintage items for sale? Clothing for men, women and children, accessories, footwear, decor, furniture, electronics, housewares, books, linens, jewellery, hardware? Are the products clean and organized?

ACCESSIBILITY & ATMOSPHERE - Is the location convenient and do they have ample parking? Are there public restrooms and change rooms? Is the parking and store accessible? Is it well designed, clean and organized? Are the staff members helpful?

In my quest to find the best thrift stores in Niagara, here are my top five:

1. Port Thrift Shop

12 Charlotte Street, Port Colborne Monday - Saturday 9:30am to 5pm

Port Thrift Shop is part of the Mennonite Central Committee, an international charity that supports urgent needs around the world and the needs of their local Niagara not-for-profit partners and school breakfast programs. Port Thrift recently updated their floor plan and their store is very clean and organized. Great selection of quality merchandise (the only item they do not accept is furniture) that is consistently priced fairly. 10% discount coupon for donated goods, weekly coloured tag sales and some items are marked down to 50 cents (regardless of original price). Library/books room, vintage clothing rack and a silent auction, change rooms and a public restroom. Very kind and helpful volunteers.

2. Grimsby Benevolent Fund

40 Elm Street, Grimsby Monday - Saturday 10am to 4:30pm. Thursdays 10am to 8pm.

The Grimsby Benevolent Fund is locally operated and supports the Grimsby community with vital social services programs including a food bank, housing program, clothing and necessities. A large and busy store with a wide variety of new, used and vintage items including a large furniture section. They also have a section of the store where they sell new and used brand name clothing, shoes and handbags. Jewellery counter and a locked cabinet area where they display more expensive items for sale. Good value as well as regular coloured ticket sales, 50% off days, fill a bag days, etc. A public change room and restroom are available and parking is plentiful.

SHOP NIAGARA ONLY IN NIAGARA 56 Inspire Niagara & Beyond

3. West Lincoln Community Care

2660 Industrial Park Road, Smithville

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am to 4pm. Thursday 10am to 7pm.

West Niagara Community Care is a community based notfor-profit, charitable organization that offers food, clothing, emergency assistance and a variety of programs to residents of West Lincoln. Store is very clean with a good turnover of merchandise, a good selection of furniture and home goods that are all very clean and nicely displayed. Prices are consistently very fair and they feature different sales every week (ie: 50% off all clothing, $2 racks, games at checkout for further discounts). Small silent auction, public restroom, change room and lots of parking.

4. Value Village 21 Seaway Drive, Welland Monday - Saturday 10am to 9pm. Sunday 10am to 7pm.

Value Village is a for-profit public company owned by U.S. parent company Savers Value Village. This is a large, organized and clean store with excellent selection and quick turnaround of merchandise. 30% seniors discount (60 years) on Tuesdays, 20% off coupon when donating items and a Savers points club. Self serve checkout kiosks. Store credit refunds available. Pricing practices are questionable, however sometimes negotiable. Restroom available. No change room.

5. Newark Neighbours Thrift Shop

1534 Regional Road 55, Niagara-on-the-Lake Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am to 4pm. Thursdays 10am to 7pm.

Newark Food Bank and Thrift store is a not-for-profit that serves hundreds of families across the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. A small, very clean store that sells clothing, footwear, jewellery, accessories, household items, small appliances at very fair and negotiable prices. A great selection of second hand and vintage items with a quick turnaround of merchandise. No furniture except for the odd chair or table. Weekly discounts on selected merchandise (for example, buy one piece of clothing and get one free). Most items are not priced, and the volunteer at the checkout decides what to charge. No public change room or restroom available.

This quest to find the best thrift stores in Niagara was a daunting task, but well worth the effort. I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to sharing more information and tips along with the entire list of thrift stores via my instagram.

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.

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Wild Style Wild Daisies Consignment

Affordable indulgences – those two words are a true oxymoron – unless you are shopping at Wild Daisies Consignment in Ridgeway, Ontario.

Wild Daisies Consignment, affectionately known as ‘The Daisy,’ is owner Christine Trombley-Davis’ passion. “My lifelong dream was to own a clothing store,” says Chrissy, “especially a high-end consignment and vintage clothing and accessories store.”

Chrissy took the helm at The Daisy as the Covid-19 pandemic was winding down in the summer of 2021. “I’ll be celebrating my 3rd anniversary this June.”

With over 850 consignors and a waiting list, Chrissy has the luxury of curating the best possible products to bring to her clientele, which is made up of not only summer residents and tourists but also locals. The Daisy has a loyal following. “Think of it as shopping over 850 closets where you only get the best. I have high standards.”

The boutique is beautifully appointed and filled with vintage and modern clothing, shoes, handbags, and accessories. “We cover a lot of bases here – we can accommodate 16-year-old girls in 00 sizing all the way to clients who wear a 4X. We price all of our pieces accordingly to get our product in and out quickly.”

Consignment pieces are on 90-day contracts with price drops occurring every 30 days. After the 90-day period any pieces that haven’t sold are returned to the consigner or donated to charity.

Photos courtesy of Wild Daisies Consignment.

Because the pieces at The Daisy are so unique, the indecisive shopper could be easily disappointed. Humming and hawing over a blouse might result in it disappearing within minutes if you put it back on the rack.

Chrissy carries a wide range of labels in The Daisy from Joe Fresh and George, to Gucci, Armani, and beyond. “The Ridgeway community tends to be upper-class casual dressy,” Chrissy goes on to say, “and we service people from the United States to Toronto. I also carry European brands but primarily, The Daisy sells boutique items.”

There is no rhyme or reason to which pieces move more than others in the shoppe. “It’s hard to nail down and forecast what’s going to trend because there’s a market for everyone.”

Chrissy and her staff do a great job of advising clients looking for that something special to wear. “The general rule of fashion, is that you should have three tops to go with one bottom, which is your basic piece. So many different looks can be achieved with just a few pieces. And when we shop, we really do tend to have moods over style,” Chrissy adds. “A woman can be feeling bohemian one day and then be looking for a long formal dress the next day.”

Regardless of what one’s fashion quest may be, it’s fair to say that Wild Daisies Consignment has the best selection of consignment and vintage pieces in the Niagara Region.

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Aquarium of Niagara

From inspiring marine mammals to colorful clownfish, the Aquarium of Niagara is home to more than 120 species of animals including rescued/non-releasable marine mammals, penguins, and more than 1200 fish and invertebrates. A visit to this attraction will have you getting to know its aquatic ambassadors as well as being immersed in their incredible stories.

Located in downtown Niagara Falls, NY, the Aquarium of Niagara is a short distance from the famous waterfall and just a quick trip over the Rainbow Bridge from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Through its living collection and educational programming, the Aquarium serves the community as a nexus for learning through exploration, a cultural destination, and a tourist attraction.

Founded by a small group of chemists and scientists in 1965 as a privately-owned organization, the Aquarium served as an important test site for a new, artificial seawater

formula. This technology would become crucial to the success of inland aquariums, which had traditionally transported seawater directly from the nearest ocean. That practice was expensive and inefficient, and the new formula, known as Instant Ocean, would prove to be revolutionary. It is now used at most inland aquariums around the world.

After more than a decade of operating as a for-profit institution, ownership of the Aquarium was transferred to the Sea Research Foundation, a nonprofit, in 1977, and again then to the Niagara Aquarium Foundation in 1994. The Aquarium currently operates as a 501(c)(3) organization and revenue generated from admission and paid programming goes directly back into the care of the animal collection.

In recent years, the Aquarium has made significant improvements to both the facility and its operations. By implementing stringent industry standards and best

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practices, the Aquarium earned accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2018. This recognition is considered the gold standard of the industry, and accredited institutions are known for providing the highest quality of animal care among zoological facilities.

The Aquarium has also made important strides in its efforts to improve the guest experience, adding exhibits that support the organization’s mission while keeping visitors engaged and intrigued. Since 2018, the Aquarium has invested more than $10 million in capital improvements that can be seen at Penguin Coast, the Aliens of the Sea jellyfish exhibit, and the shark and stingray touch pool, M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay.

To complement the exhibits, the Aquarium offers a variety of daily scheduled programming. These presentations create opportunities for inspiration through discovery and deliver important conservation messages to more than 200,000 visitors annually.

The Aquarium also serves as the only provider of interactive educational programs and experiences that feature marine life and aquatic ecosystems in the region. Through the Aquarium’s field trip and outreach programs, the education team delivers hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, English, Math) related experiences to more than 200 groups every year.

Some of the amazing exhibits you can visit are:

Penguin Coast

Penguin Coast is home to a colony of 16 Humboldt Penguins. These little creatures are highly socialized animals and watching them interact is like watching a sitcom play out in front of you!

Seals and Sea Lions Steal the


The Aquarium is home to nine non-releasable and rescued marine mammals and is proud to provide a second chance at life for these individuals who would not be able to survive on their own out in the ocean. There are three different species of pinnipeds, and the group of flipper-footed marine mammals that includes seals, sea lions, and walruses.

From Scales to Shells

At the Aquarium, you will find more than 100 species of fish and invertebrates. Whether you are interested in beautiful, sunny reefs or cold, dark waters, you’ll find these animals thriving in all types of aquatic ecosystems.

At Home on Land and In Water

The aquatic world doesn’t just apply to what’s below the surface. The Aquarium is home to several reptiles and amphibians who depend on the water around them to survive.

Also available are the following programs:

1. Aquarium Tours

2. Sea Lion Snapshot

3. Lead the Feed: Sharks and Rays

4. Lead the Feed: Arowana and River Ray

5. Lead the Feed: Clownfish and Coral

6. Trainer for a Day

7. Seal Encounter

Photos courtesy of Aquarium of Niagara.

8. Penguin Encounter


Cave Winds The of

Over a century and a half ago, what we know now as The Cave of the Winds was discovered. It was 1834, and the natural cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls in Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls, NY was then named Aeolus’s Cave, after the Greek god of winds. In 1841 guided tours began through Goat Island, descending a staircase to a cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls. A rock fall closed the tour in 1920 for four years. It officially reopened in 1924, bringing visitors to the front of the Bridal Veil Falls instead of behind it. A series of decks and walkways were constructed to access the area. The cave itself was obliterated in a massive 1954 rockfall and subsequent dynamiting of a remaining dangerous overhang.

It’s indeed a thrilling experience very different from the Journey Behind the Falls, which is the attraction on the Canadian side of Niagara. At The Cave of the Winds, you can experience tropical storm-like conditions, as winds sometimes reach up to 68 mph or 109 km/h underneath the

falls. An elevator takes sightseers 175 feet or 54 m deep into the Niagara Gorge at the base of the American Falls. Here, excited faces clad in bright yellow ponchos and special footwear provided, follow a tour guide across a series of redwood decks and platforms that allow them to walk right up to the base of the Bridal Veil Falls and be a mere 20 feet or 6m from its billowing torrents where water crashes down on them and flows beneath the decking. Rainbows are often visible from this point, and everyone can experience this attraction as a special deck has been built 150 feet from the base of the Falls designed for handicapped individuals and adults with children in arms.

Each fall, with the end of the tourist season, the decking is removed due to the potential damage caused by the ice buildup that occurs at the Falls during the winter season. Each spring, busy park crews re-install the decking for sightseers from all over the world to access and enjoy the phenomenal experience. Contrary to most engineering

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practices, the decking itself is not secured to the rocks below by bolts or other construction materials. Instead, the wood beam supports are simply wedged into the rock crevices.

Located on Goat Island at Niagara Falls State Park, The Cave of the Winds is easily accessible by car or even on foot from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Parking is readily available on Goat Island and a simple walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the park takes mere minutes. Just remember to have your passports ready as you will have to cross from Canada into the United States.

Most visitors to The Cave of the Winds will average 45 minutes to an hour and a half during their time at the attraction where the rushing waters looming above, douse them with a generous spray as they face the thundering Falls head-on.

Photos courtesy of Niagara Falls State Park.

Misty Blue

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The Maid of the Mist

It used to be that a visit to Niagara Falls, Canada always included a trip on the world-famous boat, The Maid of the Mist. What an exhilarating experience for people of all ages! Over the years, The Maid, as it is affectionally known, played host to Hollywood stars, political dignitaries, famous musicians, and even British royalty. The Maid also played a significant role in the rescue of young Roger Woodward after he accidentally went over the mighty Horseshoe Falls in July of 1960, by picking up the young lad as he bobbed in the lower river. Featured prominently in television shows and movies, The Maid is still the biggest draw that Niagara has to offer.

However, in the changing times and changing political climate, The Maid of the Mist lost its long-held place in the Niagara Falls, Canada tourism business.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that people still can’t take that phenomenal ride.

Just a quick walk over the Rainbow Bridge will find you at Niagara State Park. From here, an elevator ride down the Observation Tower at Prospect Point leads you to history –The Maid of the Mist.

The original Maid of the Mist was built at a landing near Niagara Falls on the American side of the border. The boat was christened in 1846 as a border-crossing ferry with its first trip on September 18, 1846.

Named after the Iroquois myth of Princess Lelewala, today’s Maid of the Mist has grown by leaps and bounds from the barge-like steamer of the 19th century.

Let’s take the trip to see how The Maid got to where she is now!

Photos courtesy of Maid of the Mist.

Local Niagara Falls, NY boy, James V. Glynn was bussing tables in a restaurant in the city as a young teenager. The owner of The Maid was a regular customer, and according to Jimmy’s son, Christopher M. Glynn, President of the Maid of the Mist, “My father pestered the owner for a job and because he was such a good worker at the restaurant the owner hired him on as a ticket seller when he was just 15 years old in 1950.”

Jimmy Glynn worked his way up the ladder at The Maid and in 1971, the opportunity was presented for him to buy the corporation, an opportunity of a lifetime, to which he jumped, becoming President, Chairman and CEO of the company.

The Maid of the Mist is a true family operation with Jimmy’s only son, Chris, now at the helm. “My four sisters and I all worked at The Maid in some capacity growing up, from the grassroots level down on the boat dock, to working in the head offices at Buffalo Avenue,” adds Chris.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Niagara University, Chris continued to work in the family business, taking over the position of President 15 years ago.

Under Chris’s leadership, The Maid of the Mist has transitioned into an entirely different entity. “Obviously, every season is a start-up,” says Chris, “but coming out of the pandemic pointed out just how seasonal a business this is.”

Chris goes on to say, “Before the pandemic, we had plans to replace the fleet and go electric. Niagara is the largest supplier of hydroelectric power in the world, so it made sense to pursue electrical boats as an alternative.

We had many discussions regarding the requirements and restrictions with the best professionals available – navy architects and propulsion experts. This was the only system that was pursued.”

In 2020, the ‘James V. Glynn,’ named in honor of The Maid of the Mist Company’s Chairman and CEO was launched, in time to celebrate Jimmy’s 70-year anniversary with the company. Alongside, the James V. Glynn, was launched the ‘Nikola Tesla,’ named for the man who developed a type of alternating current motor.

Before the current two boats, all prior ships had been named Maid of the Mist, dating back to 1846. The first ships were steam-powered; these were replaced by dieselpowered vessels from 1955 until 2019, and later replaced with the current two boats powered by lithium-ion batterypowered electric motors.

These environmentally-conscious ships have only increased the efficiency of the legendary voyage up to the basin of the Falls. “The duration of the trip hasn’t changed,” asserts Chris. “The boats charge to 80% in the 7 minutes between boarding times to go back out for the 20-minute voyage.”

With a capacity of 600 passengers for each boat, one might think that they don’t get as close to the Falls as the smaller versions of days gone by – untrue!

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“As big as they are, they still get as close to the Falls as ever,” says Chris. “We bob around in the basin and even do a dip salute to the mighty cataracts as we turn to head back to the dock. These boats are extremely maneuverable.” So much has gone into the transformation of The Maid of the Mist. It was quite an undertaking getting these beautiful ships built. “Assembly of the boats was a task, as everything was brought down to the river’s edge by crane to be assembled by the water – millions of pounds of counterweight,” says Chris.

The James V. Glynn and the Nikola Tesla are zero-emission vessels which transport visitors to and from the majesty of the Falls. “Our boats operate nearly silently with minimal vibration. It’s a sailing experience with no noise of diesel. The first time I went out, I could hear the birds,” says Chris. With a propulsion split between two distinct hulls, the boats are constructed from 5086 H116 marine-grade, corrosionresistant aluminum alloy and operate exclusively from the onboard energy.

The unique ‘Azimuthing “L Drive” Thrusters are responsible for the innovation of these two boats as they replace a group of equipment, including the main engine, the reduction gear, the main propeller shaft, the main propeller and the steering system.

“This intricate system with the electric motor housed inside the ship with few vulnerable components underwater, eliminates the need for the vessels to have a rudder. They can rotate thrusters 360 degrees, allowing for excellent maneuverability in navigation,” Chris says.

As President, Chris oversees a staff which reaches 170 every season. He works hand in hand with tour companies both local and international. “Oversight is my job,” he says. “We are a successful corporation that has an excellent group of people working within it. You’re never really ‘off-work’ in a close family business.” He laughs, “No light switches turn off until you retire.”

Chris Glynn is a hands-on manager – a typical day could have him at the boat dock, in the office, travelling to promote the business – or just looking at things to make The Maid the best it can be. You might even see him in the wheelhouse as he does like to go for rides. “It’s definitely not a desk job!”

Chris expressed tremendous gratitude to NY State Parks. “We work very closely with the agency and we have a great working relationship. They are a fine team and we are so thankful for their support.”

Chris did indeed have the best teachers – “I learned from my dad and his senior management team. It was all very hands-on. Things are going well and we hope for a great season!”

There is something to be said about the preservation of tradition and the support of locally owned and operated businesses – in this fast-changing society, we seem to have lost sight of the two.

But, have no fear. Just grab your passports, and walk or drive over the Rainbow Bridge to experience the tradition of “The Maid of the Mist.” You won’t be disappointed.

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Celebrate Marine Heritage

Learn more about Port Colborne’s nautical heritage with activities for all ages at the Port Colborne Historical & Marine Museum Take a tour at the lighthouse, or come aboard one of the marine vessels docked along West Street. You can even pre-book a cruise on the Empire Sandy.

Attend Free Concerts

Music takes centre stage at the Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival, with three days of free concerts rocking H H Knoll Lakeview Park and buskers showcasing their talents in a licensed area on West Street.

Join in on Family-Friendly Fun

From the Kids Zone to the Midway to the Recreation Zone, there’s activities for everyone, including a classic car show, craft show, fireworks and even a boat parade of lights to entertain young and old.

Enjoy Food Trucks & Delicious Local Cuisine

Food vendors from near and far will be set up on the West Street festival grounds and in the H.H. Knoll Lakeview Park concert grounds to cook up a variety of tasty choices.

Crystal Beach, Ontario, once home to the renowned Crystal Beach Amusement Park is a fun, eclectic village conveniently located less than 90 minutes from Toronto, 25 minutes from Niagara Falls, and 15 minutes from Buffalo, NY. The area boasts a growing number of restaurants and bars. There are shops and amenities all within a short distance, including a world-class public white sand beach which is less than 400 meters away with over $3 million in recent upgrades.

Crystal Beach is next door to the charming and historic Village of Ridgeway, which also offers many restaurants, shops, services, and even a brewery! In addition to the world-famous Niagara Falls but a short distance away, the Niagara Region is home to countless wineries, breweries, and exciting things to do.

So, with all of this within such proximity, why would anyone want to stay anywhere else than the unique Hotel Philco while visiting the area?

This inimitable family-owned boutique hotel is located in the lakeside community of Crystal Beach on the sunny shores of Lake Erie in the historic Derby Square building.

Initially built in 1907 and taking up a whole block directly across from the former Crystal Beach Amusement Park, Derby Square has been lovingly renovated over the last few years by Crystal Beach resident, Phil Smith into a mixture of artisan shops and services, apartments and of course Hotel Philco!

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Photos courtesy of Hotel Philco.
PHILCO crystal 80 Inspire Niagara & Beyond

PHILCO crystal beachRETRO

Hotel Philco offers a boutique experience featuring twelve themed rooms, all on the second and third floors overlooking the historic Derby Road, known locally for generations as Hot Dog Alley! When Phil Smith took over the gargantuan task of turning the building into Hotel Philco, he and his team carefully and thoughtfully designed each room for the enjoyment and comfort of their guests. These rooms have something for everyone!

The Bicycle Room has been designed with all bicycle lovers in mind! From the bicycle-themed furniture, hardware, decorations, and pictures, there is certainly something for all two-wheeled aficionados to enjoy!

The Black Room is a vibe! There’s nothing quite like it. With wall-to-wall black, the room focuses on different textures and shades to make it an unforgettable experience for anyone who enjoys the color black.

For the beer enthusiast, The Brewery Room features keg furniture, hop lighting, and a beer-themed décor. You can sit on the balcony overlooking Derby Road and enjoy a few brewskis!

The Cabin Room will transport you to a classic up-north cabin vibe but, on Canada’s South Coast. This room has been outfitted with everything you’d expect to see on a northern vacation, with an obnoxious amount of pine and natural wood. The only thing missing is the sound of a loon in the distance!

Who says Christmas can’t be celebrated year-round? The Christmas Room is a winter wonderland for lovers of all things Christmas. You’ll be immersed in an array of all things to give you that Christmas morning feel during your stay.

In The Football Room, everything is about The Buffalo Bills of course! With flooring of football field grass, and complete with a 75” TV, a wet bar with a stand-up pub table, a large sectional couch, a reclining massage chair, and even original seats from Rich Stadium, this room offers an awesome experience for any football fan.

boutique HOT DOG ALLEY

Surround yourself in a boho floral chic atmosphere, complete with a 1960s record player and floral touches. The Garden Room has been outfitted with all the amenities you’d expect during your stay.

The Glam Room is a sea of pink and gold meant for anyone who enjoys being just bit “extra!” From the pink walls to the pink furniture to the pink décor and neon, there is no shortage of photo ops for any aspiring influencer.

The Golf Room is a tribute to those who enjoy a day on the course, complete with a putting green flooring and two holes. Oak-paneled walls add a country-club atmosphere. Perfect for any aspiring Captain, The Nautical Room has been outfitted with all the amenities needed for the ultimate Crystal Beach high-seas adventure.

The ‘70s was a wild era! Bell bottoms, rock n’ roll, peace, and love! The Retro Room will take you back to that time! Featuring a delightfully tacky sea of orange, golden yellow, avocado green, and brown, along with wood-paneled walls, shag carpet, 8 track player, lava lamps, and dozens of photos and posters you will feel groovy all over again!

The next best thing to being in the Caribbean or the South Pacific is The Tropical Room! With a wall-to-wall sunny vibe, this room is filled with lots of beachy touches.

Saving the best for last -- The Crystal Beach Room! The Crystal Beach Amusement Park is synonymous with Crystal Beach and entertained millions of tourists from 1888-1989. This room is full of pictures, memorabilia, and artifacts from the park!

The staff at Hotel Philco has tried to think of everything that one might expect at a boutique hotel, from fully stocked mini kitchens to comfortable Serta beds, to white noise machines, Nespresso machines, heated towel warmers, irons, hair dryers—all the way down to umbrellas! They also provide free guest access to bicycles and beach wagons, available on a first-come, first-served basis and used at the guest’s own risk.


Matt Finlin


Nothing can be more powerful than sitting in front of the big screen: the smell of the popcorn, the dark theatre, and the anticipation of the film you are about to see. Director, Matt Finlin, was a young boy the first time he stepped into the Highland Cinemas in Kinmount, ON: the heart of cottage country. It was a memorable experience that brought him back more than 20 years later to direct The Movie Man, a documentary based on the life of Keith Strata, the owner who built the five-theatre complex in his back yard.

Finlin’s experience at the Highland Cinemas was one of many that helped shape his love of film. “The cinema itself inspired me to do what I do,” says Finlin, who unknowingly

began his career filming reenactments of Star Wars with his parent’s camcorder. “When I was 13, a teacher took me to see Apocalypse Now. I learned that movies are more than just adventures in space.” Years later Finlin would have the pleasure of working with the lead of Apocalypse Now, Martin Sheen. “He was one of the first people I showed it {The Movie Man} to,” says Finlin.

Finlin aspired to be a teacher, however life would once again push him towards directing. “When I was going to teacher’s college, I made my first film. I got the bug,” says Finlin. After graduation, he travelled abroad to help pay the bills. “When I was in Taiwan, I made a film and

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thought I wanted to pursue it seriously.” Shortly thereafter, Finlin and his wife moved to New York City where he was employed by a production company making documentaries: a passion of his.

After five years in the United States, Finlin and his family moved back to Ontario. He began working with a colleague, Karen Barzilay, producing philanthropic endeavors. Finlin and Barzilay co-founded Door Knocker Media, a full-service production company with a client list of heavy hitters like Selena Gomez and Tom Holland. “We focus on social impact and that is where we found ourselves and, in the

meantime, we make documentaries,” says Finlin.

Finlin describes his directing style as verité. “It’s a tough approach, but I like being a fly on the wall and sitting back watching things unfold,” says Finlin. “It’s about capturing real life without inserting ourselves into it and finding the beauty and the life that is happening around you.” This approach served Finlin well when directing The Movie Man Although Finlin is careful not to spoil the film, he describes his favourite verité moment in the film where Strata sits in reflection. “Keith sits down in one of his own cinemas to watch his favourite film, the original Time Machine,”

says Finlin. It’s in this moment, the audience gains a better understanding of Strata’s struggle for existence. Over the years, the cost of the big screen has continued to rise. “Movie theatres were designed for a family with a few dimes to their name that could escape in the dark,” says Finlin, who hopes his documentary will shed light on the history and importance of small cinema. “If you want them to stick around you have to go to them, but if you can’t afford to go to them then they won’t stick around,” says Finlin. “Keith speaks to that in the film and part of what he has tried to do is give that experience through affordable ticket sales. He has done that for 40 years and he shows first rate movies.”

Finlin gives the audience an appreciation for what Strata has accomplished with his endless commitment to film. “Small cinema is dying. I try and take my kids to the movies, so they develop a reverence,” says Finlin. “It’s not just about the movie going experience and why we should cherish it. Time is limited and what we do with it and choose to do with it is important,” says Finlin.

Produced by Door Knocker Media and with Executive Producer, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, The Movie Man premiered at the Santa Barabara International Film Festival and despite sharing a time slot with Martin Scorsese, the film had an excellent turn out and positive reviews. “There was a lot of laughter and tears. Which was great, that is what movies are about,” says Finlin. The film also appeared at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and Finlin and his team are working on a theatrical release.

Finlin’s passion for film has grown immensely since he first walked into the nostalgic Highland Cinemas. “It became a love. I am very lucky to do what I do, the experiences that I’ve had and the ability to make films,” says Finlin, who encourages others to pursue their dreams. “Don’t give up on it because nothing worth doing is easy.”

Photos courtesy of Matt Finlin – Door Knocker Media.


Carrie Lee

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Carrie Lee is diminutive in stature. But that’s it!

Everything else about her is larger than life.

She goes by Carrie, and she goes by Clee. “When I returned to my photography, I was looking for a catchy name. So I took the first letter of my first name, and added it to my last name, and got CLEE. My friends call me Clee, and I’m known as Clee professionally so obviously, the brand is working.”

Clee always knew she wanted to be a photographer. “I went to Sheridan College for commercial photography, but there, they gear you for portrait. Back then, it was film, not digital and the aim was to work in a studio or do product photography. Doing wedding photography and family portraits wasn’t my bag, although I did work in a portrait studio at first.”

Clee says, “There was no mentor available, I had no life experience, so that was the route I took but I knew it wasn’t for me. It was just too typical. Then, I fell out of it.”

Next came a career in real estate sales. “I was a good producer and spent most of my career working for REMAX. But the creative was always calling out to me. And one day, I decided that real estate just wasn’t enough.”

Ironically, Clee got the push she needed to take the jump

back into photography on her way to finalizing a real estate deal. She ran into a friend who had a Ray Bradbury quote on his computer – “All of my life, I’ve jumped off the cliff and built my wings. It works every single time. It never fails.”

Those words were all that Clee needed to take the leap and to follow the instinct she had always had for documentary photography and photojournalism.

“It was a little bit of a transition going from the financial world to the creative world where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know how to get started. So, I did some freebies at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) to get started and I was told I was good. I found my own style and went from there.”

Clee is all about following her heart and her passion –which is “creative stuff.”

“I’m an artist and I like to take photography and make it different! My style is social issue based stuff.

Clee’s focus is a trifecta -- celebrating women, animal life, and diversity.

“As women, we’ve come so far from the suffragette movement to where we are today, but I also want to put the lens on how far we have yet to go – women all

Photos courtesy of Carrie Lee of Clee Images. View her portfolio on Substack.

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over the world are dealing with domestic violence, human trafficking…there’s child brides, and female circumcision, and acid burning…in Iran – women have no rights! BUT, my projects are about celebrating and then acknowledging the flip-side.”

When we start talking about animals, Clee is especially passionate.

“I never try to push my views on others, but with animals, it’s all about their beauty up against commercialized animal agriculture and the inhumanity these animals face. For diversity, it’s not just about sexuality or race – it takes all kinds to make our world -- what makes us different – diversity is great and we should embrace it!”

Clee is driven by love and kindness. The purpose of her projects is to use her lens as a “weapon” to become a “visual” activist.

“It took a while, but I found my groove. I threw a lot of shit on the wall and saw what stuck. I learned from the tons of mistakes I made and have come out on the other side as a better woman, person, and photographer.

Clee credits a lot to the website, Substack. “It sat in my inbox for a while before I explored this platform and I fell in love with it. It’s a place I can put all of my

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photography. From here, my publication, ‘Behind the Lens’ was born.

Through all of this journey, Clee admits that she has been affected by her photography and the stories of the people she has photographed.

“I’ve shot and spoken to residential school survivors, a human trafficking survivor with an unbelievable story, and a 3-time breast cancer survivor. Substack gives me a place to tell their stories through my photography. There is no censorship of the human form here so I’m able to use tasteful nudes that I’ve photographed.

Clee has gained great momentum on Substack and has made many milestones on the platform. “There is a great built-in community here and we all support each other.”

Travel is something that Clee is looking forward to in the

near future. “My favorite places so far are South Africa and Thailand. I’ve been so privileged to visit a game reserve by Land Rover in Africa and be at arm’s length from a herd of elephants showing up. It’s amazing to see them in the wild, but they are still terrifying in that they will chase. For some reason, they don’t recognize the human form in a Land Rover, so as long as we are in the truck, we’re safe,” she laughs.

Clee has her eye on Uganda as the next stop in her travels.

“I’ve got a thing for gorillas and I’m really looking forward to going to Uganda. Through the Substack community, I’ve also received invites to Sweden and Australia, so who knows where I’ll end up next?”

One thing is for sure – this is one strong, powerful, and larger than life lady who is on the move!

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Cherries in Niagara Tea in India vs.

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My first experience of being out of my home country of India was Niagara Region. Where were the people? I could walk without bumping shoulders constantly. The space between one person and another was like floating in air. The trip from the airport to my friend’s home in St. Catharines captured my attention to the landscape. It was clean! There were no gatherings of thin plastic bags lining edges of grass or field or between rocks. No moldy eyesore abandoned buildings.

Let’s back up and describe what kind of place I am from first. Believe or not, I can see my breath in winter where I live. I’m at 3,000 feet in the little village of Rajpur north of Delhi in what some describe as the foothills of the Himalayas. This elevation attracts both tourists and locals alike for summer retreat from the heat of the south of India. One can buy a cigarette for a couple of rupees, tea stalls serve sweet milky tea in glasses for you to sit roadside and enjoy. Roadside in Rajpur stills means sitting with meandering cows, noisy buses and a constant stream of villagers traipsing by. Buses groan as they approach the village from its uphill climb from the bigger metropolis of Dehra Dun. A surge occurs each and every time to board the bus, somewhat like I have heard occurs when exiting a stadium in your country except with extreme urgency. I eyed two westerners looking pensively for something, I’m not sure what but obviously in need of information. Long

Photos courtesy of Janice Opie

story short, they became my neighbour and thirty years later we are still friends. So friendly in fact, they offered to fly me to Canada secondly to visit them but firstly to see my daughter graduate from Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver. What joy! What generosity!

Having departed the Toronto airport, I found myself uncomfortable driving in the car with the windows closed up. My rides were always open windowed in India and my friend acquiesced my request. The onslaught of wind was not expected causing me to lean away from the window. She explained we were travelling over 100 km/hr which is not done in my surroundings of hills and crowded traffic conditions in larger towns. I understood this and she decided to take the side roads instead, allowing us to enjoy the breeze at a slower speed.

This new route introduced me to road side fruit stands, certainly not uncommon in India but it was cherry season. This delicacy was not in my village and not part of my household. She pulled over to a “pick your own” and I followed her instructions. This was another first and a delightful one at that.

The rest of the ride for me was awesome. Houses with grass, no fences or cement walls, flowers growing in gardens, commercial areas that still felt clean and spacious. I think I was really going to like it here.


Home sweet home, I unpacked in the guest room while she made tea and we later sat on her deck viewing a lovely yard with water feature and quiet. Absolute quiet. That night, her husband brought out the telescope and I viewed the moon… another first. I was in my element when they decided to have a late fire after. Fire was one thing just about every Indian knows how to make. I quickly took over the endeavour and within minutes I had a healthy fire we sat around on this summer night. I scanned my surroundings and was appreciative of privacy, silence and safety which to have all three at once continually is a treat in my village. It’s either noise, nosy people or intruders at one time or another, a vigil to maintain, especially as a single woman in India. Niagara! I was taken to lock two of the Welland Canal. At that time, you could actually stand close to the boats that grind along the wall as it entered the lock as one did when I was there. Later, I played what was called Bingo at a Lions Club event and won!! I was told “yell BINGO”. Money was handed to me. Now that was not something I experienced in India. I liked it.

But best of all, I found myself very still, face raised to the sky, and allowed the mist from Niagara Falls to cover my face. My friend was patient. She knew I was experiencing and embedding in my mind this most incredible feeling. Niagara Falls was coming home with me somehow and this was it. A physical interaction of mist and a roaring in my ears. How fortunate to live near here. And I stood some more. I reminisce my visit after all these years. The beauty of the Niagara Region, the bounty of its orchards and vineyards, the life style of peace and tranquility. You are a lucky people. Enjoy it as I drink my hot sweet milky tea and swish the cow away.

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There’s a legend amongst the Niagara river eels about their very own black hole. An underwater vortex that once dragged in, it was a one way trip to a sudden “thwack” against a 2” square mesh of a flat bar filter. This black hole was a water intake, jutting out hundreds of feet into the Niagara river from the break wall in Fort Erie. The captured water was then forwarded by one of three pumps to fill a water tower. Gravity did the rest to supply Fort Erie residents with water.

These pumps were housed in a bump in the landscape. This bump, since torn down, was my husband’s workplace. Within an approximate 14’ x 25’ cement space, cigarette in one hand, coffee in another, my husband sat in one of

those old solid wood office chairs with a curved back, castor wheels and a spinning seat. He said he never spun to see how many times he could do a 360. I find that hard to believe. A 150-watt light bulb lit up the minimalist decor which sported a matching roll top desk. The washroom facilities resembled an outhouse but with a real toilet. A hole was punched in the wall to keep an eye on anyone approaching. He was officially a Water Treatment Plant Operator in the 70s.

Some mornings, at 5:30 a.m., proved a chilling challenge for the fishermen trying their luck from the break wall. These fishermen were mostly Americans taking advantage of a shale plateau that was only on the Canadian side.


This made a nice hang-out for the fish. Instant coffee was made in cups and my husband would take them out to the fishermen. One such fellow kept looking around and questioning my husband…me?…you made coffee for me?… me? And the best way for keeping awake…a dose of Buffalo 92.9 FM rock and roll with no commercials. It was good reception as he could see the broadcast tower across the river. He brought “Dobie ”, his Doberman/Dane once for company. It faithfully ran full speed towards a car that had driven up and parked near the pump house. “I’ll save you master!” TWAAAAAAAANG. Dobie just about wrenched his head off when he reached the end of the 30’ rope. The driver kicked up pebbles scrambling back to his car, drove off, never to be seen again. It was the last time Dobie was brought.

But there really was work to be done. There was a monitoring of the pump along with seals needing adjusting when necessary. The underwater flat bar filter was raised and hosed down to rid the lamprey eels. A rotary clock driven chart with a red pen showed the water pressure in the lines on a paper graph. No slacking or the boss would notice by the chart. And then there were the “Women of Fort Erie”. Oh yeah, they put that pump house to task. A second pump was engaged and a third pump ready to be put to work to keep up with these formidable women for it was washday!!!!!!! The water tower was a drainin’ washing dirty diapers, soiled shirts, doilies, aprons, and a mess of linen. There was no spinning in the chair wash day. My husband was suddenly somebody keeping those pumps functioning correctly, monitoring and adjusting the seals, lugging chlorine cylinders about. Looking out the punched hole was a welcome break.

Photos courtesy of Janice Opie.

Did I mention danger? Chlorine fumes? One shift worker found hanging halfway over and out the screen door unconscious from fumes? A regularly scheduled phone call to the pump house ensured someone was still conscious to answer as a safety precaution.

Washday over, back to needing only one pump, cigarette, coffee, and rock and roll in place, my husband picked around the shelving. He came across a dusty yellowed logbook that was brought from a previous pump house. This previous one is now the Fort Erie Underwater Recovery Unit. Skimming through the names, he came upon his grandfather’s cursive signature. He went from looking for a way to stay awake to being suddenly immersed in nostalgic feelings of joy. An image of himself as a young boy washed over him of watching excitedly as grandpa walked towards him to visit. Grandpa had worked until his retirement at the previous Pumphouse.

Shift over, he gathered his belongings, made sure the hot plate was off and greeted the next shift worker. He drove past people washing cars and clean laundry flapping. The pump house was unfamiliar to most residents, but it was part of his world, and he did his best. Some eels survived that day, some didn’t.

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.

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