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Virgil Stampede offers three full days of rides, entertainment

A Kids Pavilion and large assortment of games and rides provide fun-filled activities for all ages at the family-friendly annual Victoria Day long weekend event.

When the gates for the Virgil Stampede open Saturday, May 18, at 10 a.m., there will be more in the way of entertainment than ever before.

That’s a promise from Richard Wall, president of the Virgil Business Association, organizer of the popular event.

Last year Wall assured us the entertainment would be the best ever, but this year he believes the stampede can top that, with Albion Amusements, long-time ride provider, having recovered from their pandemic problems to bring more rides for all ages.

The Virgil sports park is home to what has become a three-day event, with many volunteers working to prepare for the crowds that have grown along with the event itself.

The VBA was formed in 1963, but without a specific purpose at first, Wall says, until members decided to make their mission the building of an arena, a project that would be part of Canada’s centennial celebrations. The fundraising campaign the small business group initiated, which included the first Virgil Stampede, “was such a great success,” says Wall, “they decided the stampede, which was intended to be a one-off, would become an annual event that would raise money for local projects. The rest, as they say, is history.”

The VBA has contributed more than $1.5 million to a large number of initiatives over the years, and is currently considering adding a three-season pavilion at the Virgil sports park, replacing the covered, open area there now, if the town approves the project.

In 1964, the annual event was just one day, then called the Victoria Day Celebration, including a parade and fireworks. It grew to include a horse show, and in 1966, officially became the Virgil Stampede. The horse show was for many years “a really big deal,” Wall says, part of a province-wide tour, with an MC he recalls being “the Don Cherry of hockey.”

But over the years the horse show’s popularity declined, “and the writing was on the wall. Nobody was watching it,” says Wall, and eventually it was replaced by other entertainment, including the popular mud run for many years. Then, when the organizers changed, there was stunt car racing for a short time, but “the crowds weren’t coming.”

Wall’s memories of the origins of the stampede are a little fuzzy, based on the stories told him by his late father Dave Wall, one of  local businessmen and the founder of Walls of Virgil. He, along with the late Dave Dick of Niagara Motors, established the VBA — Richard was too young to have memories of the earliest days, although he does remember helping out at the stampede as a youngster, and has been involved in its organization for decades.

With an increase in entertainment, the popular food concessions and Albion rides attracting crowds that grow each year, the VBA has had a special challenge, he says — to ensure they can continue to offer a safe, family-friendly event. There were some incidents last year making them realize security must keep up with the size of the crowd, and the VBA has upped it to what Wall calls “typical security protocol for events in 2024.”

One new initiative is that backpacks will not be allowed on the grounds, as recommended by police and the security company that has been hired. Diaper bags and purses will be allowed but checked by security guards at the gate.

Preparations are underway for the food booths, with prices the same as last year, providing food at good value, he says.

The nickel sale will be open in the Mary Snider Room, inside the Centennial Arena, with a large selection of great prizes from local businesses, and ticket prices that have remained constant for many years.

The rides are also still great value, with ride-all-day bracelets sold ahead of the event at the same price as they were pre-COVID years, for a saving of $10 per bracelet. It allows for unlimited rides for one day only from when the gate opens to 7 p.m., a cut-off to allow shorter wait times at the end of the day for those who come to the park planning on buying a few ride tickets, rather than purchasing bracelets, explains Wall.

Also, the rock-climbing wall at the stampede last year proved to be "hugely popular," and will be back this year, says Wall.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the spectacular fireworks display at dusk Monday, which traditionally wrap up the event, says Wall. The company that sets them up offers a long show with a steady stream of fireworks, best seen from inside the gates — while there are more of them, they don’t rise as high in the sky as the ones the firemen lit in past years.

The Kids Pavilion is back with air-brush face painting youngsters love, along with lots of entertainment, and free pony rides nearby.

The Ben Show’s much-loved comedy, juggling, unicycling and circus stunts will be performed three times each of the three days, Mike London will be back with his reptiles, as will Tim Holland, with his comedy, stunt and ventriloquist show and Kobbler Jay with his knife, juggling and balancing acts.

“What hasn’t changed for me,” says Wall,” is that when I wandered through the grounds last year I couldn’t help but notice the groups of families with their kids, faces painted, eating fries with ketchup smeared around their mouths, and everyone is smiling. That to me in a nutshell captures what we are doing, and why we do it. We want to make sure that this is what occurs all weekend, providing great fun-filled family experiences.”

Gates are open at 1565 Four Mile Creek Road at the Virgil sports park or from Lorraine Street Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, May 19, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday, May 20 from 10 a.m., with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

Gate admission is $5, kids 10 and under free. Different this year is the gate charge includes Sunday admissions, says Wall, helping to offset the increased costs of security and three full days of entertainment. And admission is free to those who have purchased ride wrist bands.

Parking will not be available in the sports park itself. The entrance from Four Mile Creek Road will be open just for drop-offs, says Wall, although there are some handicap parking spots beside the Meridian Credit Union Arena.

Parking will be permitted at the town hall parking lot and from there, it’s a short walk along Lorraine Street or to the Four Mile Creek entrance to the sports park.

Cornerstone Church on Niagara Stone Road is offering its parking lot for all three days.

The Niagara Credit Union has also agreed its parking lot can be used Sunday and Monday. There is access from the back, and from there it’s a short walk to the sports park. Phil’s Independent Grocer will offer parking Monday only.

“There will be enough parking for everybody,” says Wall, “and none of it should be more than a seven or eight minute walk.”

For more details visit

Volunteers are always needed and welcome, says Wall. Register at

For parking visit

To purchase early-bird ride bracelets until May 17, at 11:59 p.m. visit