Friday, September 27, 2013, 7:30pm, a refreshingly cool evening at Montebello Park in St. Catharines for the Niagara Wine Festival. The smell of food and wine is in the air and a buzz of excitement is coming from the attendees of the event. Set outdoors, this festival has been happening in Niagara for 62 years, previously called the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival; it is a celebration of Niagara wines and wineries as well as some local restaurants. There are many tents set up forming a half circle around the main area where tables are set up for the attendees, along with some tents for cover from the elements. Within the outer tents you will find the different wineries as well as food vendors all set up for your eating and drinking pleasure. At one end of the park is a large stage, as well at the other end you will find private lounge that is set up under the gazebo for those who choose a more private (elitist) setting.
With around 200 people in the park, and many more entering on an ongoing basis, the park is slowly but surely filling up. Demographically we have all ages, but the mainstay seems to be the mid to late 30’s to late 40’s, with some older and some children in the mix as there are some families at the event. The setting is very social for the most part, not many small tables, generally most tables have 8 to 10 chairs, which encourages people sharing and sitting with others, thus to cause a more social setting for sitting while others are walking around the park sampling wine from the different wineries. We seem to have people from all cultural, social and economic backgrounds present, but really this is hard to tell as just observing doesn’t allow for a strong case for this. Most people seem to be dressed comfortably for the weather, light jackets, jeans, while some, mainly the 20 something’s are a bit more dressed up, probably heading out for a night on the town after the event. Within the park, groups seem to be forming, most seem to be age specific, not in all cases but the majority. With most of the groups, the park seems to be the meeting place, as they did not all come together but have met up with friends, old and new, with the same common goal, to enjoy some of Niagara’s wine and socialize with friends while watching the bands and enjoying the company of good friends. With the opening act (Scotty Shannon and the Hotstones) just finishing up, the buzz in the crowd is now getting ready for the headlining act (The Caverners) a Beatles tribute band.
As the entire park has become more crowded, the aura around the park is the same, people are still situated in their groups, talking amongst themselves, laughing and enjoying the atmosphere. As this is a long standing tradition in St. Catharines, many of the attendees have probably been to the event in the past and this is a yearly tradition for them, thus the casual atmosphere and dress by many of the groups. For some this is a night out, thus the greater attention to detail when it comes to their dress attire. No matter the dress, or the size of the group, all attendees are seemingly happy, interacting with not only the people that they have come with but also the vendors as well as others at the event. Although no relation in a structured way, all attendees relate to one another casually, interaction amongst the different groups, although small, is present as in any crowded area; there is no choice but to talk to those around you.
Being a long time resident of St. Catharines, I have attended the festival on many occasions, some when I was younger and also as an adult. Being an observer however is a different situation all together. When watching the crowd from afar one notices the how people interact with each other and others around them, not necessarily directly but also indirectly. The Niagara Wine Festival is a great example of Popular Culture, as it is an event that is well liked by many…