Article and photos by Jason Setnyk | Photo of Jane McLaren courtesy of Choose Cornwall
Cornwall Ontario – The second annual Cornwall Food Fest takes place on Saturday, August 20th, 2016. Pitt Street (between First and Third Street) will come alive with delicious food, live music, vendor sales, artist demonstrations and much, much more! The event takes place from 10am to 8pm.
For only $2.00 a person (children free), event goers can enjoy tasty eats prepared by local restaurants and gourmet food trucks as they shop the downtown, checking out sidewalk sales set up by participating merchants and the outdoor vendors market where local artisans will be selling their handcrafted goods.
The event, which benefits the program Beyond 21, is being presented by Scotiabank Investment Specialist Kayla Di Giosia, Jason Dilamarter, and Emily D’Alessio.
The Cornwall Food Fest will also celebrate local musicians with live music starting at 11am in the Entertainment Tent. This year’s line-up is as follows: Eric and Grace Willison (11:00am – 12:30pm), Steph McAlear, Nick Seguin & Marc Muir (12:30 – 2:00pm), Campbell Trio & Guests (2:00 – 3:30pm), Kathleen Sauve (3:30 – 5:00pm), Night Hawks (5:00 – 6:30pm), and Bang on the Ear (6:30 – 8:00pm).
Families can enjoy child-friendly activities and attractions in the Kinsmen Family Zone, which will be held in Pommier Square. There will be face painting, balloon animals, crafts, games, live magic (from David Jans), drumming circles (with Jody Marsolais), dance demonstrations (Shifting Creations), Creation Workshops, and special guest like Princess Belle (from Dream Birthdays). At 6pm, the Kinsmen Family Zone will turn over into an eating area with live music by Pamela Cumming.
There truly is something for everyone at the Cornwall Food Fest. Not only is it an opportunity to get together with friends and family to celebrate and enjoy the downtown and what our incredible city has to offer, it is for a great cause as well. All proceeds from this event benefit The Hub for Beyond 21 Foundation (Beyond 21).
Beyond 21 operates a support program for adults, 21 years of age and older, who have a developmental disability. They serve the city of Cornwall as well as the counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry and Akwesasne. As a registered charity that does not receive any government funding, they are reliant on grants, donations and fundraisers, such as the Cornwall Food Fest, to sustain and expand their services.
“As a charity we are always looking for new ways to fund-raise. Key to this are opportunities that are unique, add something to our community, and respect the other events and fundraisers that are happening in our community. And key to Beyond 21 is to come up with ideas that truly have community at heart. Coming up with those ideas is quite the challenge,” said Beyond 21 Program Manager Jane McLaren.
The Food Fest generates much needed funds for Beyond 21, but it also creates awareness so the public can learn more about Beyond 21 and what the organization does.
“The Food Fest is a major event for Beyond 21. It is a key fundraising event for us bringing in much needed funds. And it is a key awareness event. Doing a community wide event helps to reach people and let them know who we are, what we do, and how we are here to help! And that is important to us! It is also a key event where our participants are able to volunteer and fit in just like anyone else. They get to be a part of community and they love helping us as volunteers” Jane McLaren explained.
Jane McLaren has fond memories of downtown Cornwall, and remembers the downtown as being the heart of the community. Food Fest taps into that nostalgia, and it helps bring a lot of people downtown.
“Having grown up in Cornwall I remember many fun times in the downtown where the streets were filled with people and filled with things to do. Downtown used to be the heart of Cornwall’s community. And though that has changed over the years, to some extent we are starting to see that come back. Anyone who knows our downtown knows that there are many true gems in our downtown stores and restaurants and that local artisans are featured in several of the downtown stores. Bit by bit downtown is starting to become community again. I’d often see Street Festival’s in other communities but not here in Cornwall. So when we were talking about fundraisers and what would be a unique idea, I suggested the idea of a Street Festival,” Jane McLaren added.
Organizing the first Food Fest took almost two years of meetings, planning, and co-ordination. One of the biggest changes from conception to reality, was the change in name from Street Fest to Food Fest.
“The Food Fest was almost 2 years in preparation before last year’s event. We met with downtown merchants, the DBIA, restaurant owners. And we met with organizes of similar events in other communities for advice and direction. Our concept from the start was food, artisans, music, children’s activities in the heart of our community – our downtown. It was named the Cornwall Food Fest because we quickly learned there were many obstacles to overcome before this event could take place. The city was a bit lost with many of our requests and often that first year we didn’t know if we were going to get the Food Fest into the downtown or not. So we went with “Food Fest” instead of Street Fest for the title. But we persevered, and with the help of many the street festival called the Cornwall Food Fest was born in August of 2015,” Jane McLaren explained.
According to Jane McLaren first Food Fest was energetic and it had a festive vibe to it. The thousands in attendance last year would probably agree.
“The thing I remember most about last year the energy and joy on the street. I have been to many amazing events in our area but the vibe on the street was incredible and different to any other. Filling the downtown with artisans, music, food, and fun brought something into the heart of the city that I haven’t seen in a long time. I also remember the street starting to fill an hour before we opened and people saying ‘can I buy this’ before our vendors were finished setting up”.
Many downtown businesses stayed open late because the downtown was so busy during the first Food Fest. The pedestrian traffic was enormous.
“Last year was truly a time of proving ourselves. The downtown was definitely on board with the idea, but some merchants were cautious. We were new. They didn’t know what to expect. So we worked hard to create an event that didn’t just take up space in the downtown. We wanted to celebrate our community and celebrate our downtown core. To achieve that meant that the downtown merchants and restaurants had to have a successful day too. And they did. Big time. More than one merchant said they ‘might’ stay open late ‘if it was worth it’, and at 8pm they were still open,” Jane McLaren reflected.
The second annual Food Fest will have more food trucks, more live musicians, and just more of everything.
“We are staying with what works and bringing in more of it! – local foodies, gourmet food trucks, local musicians performing live, artisans showcasing their wares for sale, local artists demonstrating their skills (Focus Arts), downtown merchants with sidewalk sales and in store specials, and the DBIA hosting a special draw for $200 downtown dollars. We are adding 50/50 draws and a raffle,” said Jane McLaren.
This years food vendors include: Bytown Bayou Louisiana Smokehouse, Sula Wok, Kono Pizza, Weenies on Wheels, Stella Luna Gelato Café, the Merry Dairy, Mr. Churros, Big D’s Dog House and Poutine Empourium, Rico Peru Food Truck, Mi Cocina Catering, Love Love Food, Moutache Joe’s, Esca Gourmet Pizza, Plantanos, Laser Advanced Spa (foodcart), and Beyond 21. Vendors include: Scentsy, Sophias Healthy Choices, J. R. Watkins, Miss D’s Artsy Accessories, Elegance In Wood, She’s Got Leggs, Crazy Knitter’s Creations, Du North Designs Ltd, Knot By Design, La Dame Du St. Laurent, Greetings To You, Lambros Quality Products, The Incredible KC Cloth & the Amazing KD Mop, Dlastpillow, Be Charmed, Cindy’s Custom Jewellry, Faumagerie Zengarry, Lee Ann Lynn Creations, Trees To Treasures, Jambel Cuisine, 31 gifts, Partylite, Simply Country, Love, Love Montreal, We-B-Jammin, Skull Cap Art, and Coal Fire Forge. There are a few more vendors on the waiting list too.
In addition to more food vendors there will also be a greater variety of foods including vegetarian and gluten free options. There will also be a larger seating area. There will be picnic tables at Pommier Square.
“This year we have increased participation on all fronts. Our food vendors have increased (there will be 15 on the street this year) with a greater variety of foods including increased vegetarian and gluten free options. We have increased participation from artisans as well. We will have picnic tables on the street for people to relax and eat. And as the evening comes we will be turning Pommier Square into a picnic area with live music. That means two areas with live music to close out the evening! Our Kinsmen Family Zone (new sponsor) will have many more children’s activities throughout the day as well,” added Jane McLaren.
Coticon also takes place on August 20th at the Cornwall Civic Complex. The two events will be partnering up.
“New this year we have partnered with CotiCon and they will be doing a parade through the Food Fest with the 501st Battalion Storm Troopers at 11:30am. We will also have Beyond 21 Ambassadors this year helping to share information on Beyond 21, what we do, and who we serve. And of course our presenting sponsor, Scotiabank investment specialists! They will be on hand throughout the day as well with free water and other surprises,” said Jane McLaren.
Coticon founder and organizer Annie DeRochie is excited about the partnership with Beyond 21 and Food Fest.
“We are super excited about our partnership with Beyond 21 and Food Fest! Its an organization I fully support and with our events on the same day and close by it makes a lot of sense as a partnership. And the walkabout parade will hopefully be a highlight for both events. We’ve got members of the 501 who have agreed to take part as well as attending cosplayers who will be walking through the Food Fest event. It will be a great way to mix the events together” Annie DeRochie added.
This second annual Food Fest hopes to attract over 10,000 people and raise over $20,000 for Beyond 21.
“We are expecting over 10,000 people this year and hope to raise well over $20,000. It’s a huge goal and we are working hard to achieve it! The funds raised come from the $2 bracelet fee (required to purchase food from the on street food vendors), sponsorships, registration fees, as well as from donations that are made from our vendors at the end of the day. Funds go directly into supporting the participants we work with. These funds go towards program supplies, food for meals, cost of services (swimming, bowling, community events). For every $100 we raise – and that is just 50 people purchasing the $2 entry bracelet, – that pays for groceries for a week in our program. And for that one small $2 fee that one person purchases, we are able to provide lunch for one participant in our program … and have change to spare. It doesn’t seem like much, $2, but with good planning, good budgeting, and a good cook every person who attends and supports Beyond 21 at the Food Fest is, in their own way, directly helping one of our participants to chase their dreams for the future. And that is why this event is so special. It is about community, celebrates community, is at the heart of our community, and allows our community to share their hearts with a wonderful group of people who call this community home,” Jane McLaren concluded.
For adults with developmental disabilities, there are few options for involvement in meaningful programs and activities once they reach the age of 21, at which point they must leave the school system. Navigating this major transition, from school to life as an adult in the community, often leaves families feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. In 2011, Beyond 21 was created by families, in partnership with the school boards and community agencies, to fill this gap between school and community. The vision of Beyond 21 is to enable adults with developmental disabilities to live connected, respected, and contributing to the community. Beyond 21 partner with their program participants to identify their dreams and help them learn the skills and build the connections they need to achieve them. The money raised at Food Fest will help achieve those goals.
For more information on Beyond 21 and Food Fest visit their website.