Any grudges about skirmishes between United States and British forces two centuries ago on the shores of Lake Ontario will be put on the back burner – at least for a couple days – as the 43rd celebration of friendship between Canada and the U.S. kicks off July 19 with the annual Can-Am Festival.
Event co-organizer Cheryl M. Payne said the festival, which features several Canadian and American vendors, local music, children’s activities and old-fashioned baseball games, has been the village and town of Hounsfield’s way of saying “no hard feelings” for over four decades.
“It has evolved over 43 years from battlefield reenactments to the inclusion of the Firemen’s Field Days,” she said. “We now promote it as a free family festival that celebrates our relationship with Canada.”
The festival starts at 9 a.m. Saturday morning with several events including a book and bake sale at Hay Memorial Library and a homespun merry-go-round and children’s activities on the Visitors Center lawn.
Nearly 30 craft and food vendors will sell their goods on the lawn between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and, on Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At 11 a.m., a parade with over 70 floats, marching bands and military units from both countries will march through Main Street.
“The parade is the key thing,” Mrs. Payne said. “That’s what kicks it all off.”
The festival is unique, she said, because it offers activities for both adults and children throughout the entire village.
The Children’s Zone at the Visitors Center will feature King O’Sullivan Irish step dancers, magic shows, storytelling, face painting, balloon character-making and a traveling zoo from the the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park on Saturday and Sunday.
Adults can sample wine slushies and products from five local wineries at the public dock.
For the first time, the Can-Am Festival will focus on all things maple. It is a product Mrs. Payne said is unique to both countries and, in particular, the north country and southern Ontario.
“That is something between the two countries so this year you’re going to see more interspersed maple events.”
Visitors can buy ice cream with real maple syrup from 2-6 p.m. Saturday at the Visitors Center lawn and, starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, the festival’s first pancake breakfast sponsored by the Seaway Trail Foundation will take over the village’s Main Street and Market Square Park.
For $5 or under, individuals and families can enjoy pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee on tables in the middle of the street.
The festival also features a soap box derby Sunday at 1 p.m. on West Main Street with registration starting at noon.
Festivalgoers can also enjoy a handful of bands at the village gazebo and in front of Saturday’s Sundaes & More on Main Street.
“We’ve got two venues of music from jazz to indie,” Mrs. Payne said. “You name it.”
Entertainment includes Mind the Gap, Swag, Ryan Grant, Ocean’s Below and ATLAS on Saturday and Sunday.
A full list of events can be found at the festival’s web site at www.canamfestival.com