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Jan 2017
Maybe it was strength, speed and endurance. Maybe it was the cape.

But while flipping a wine barrel end to end down Main Street in Jordan as spectators cheered, Yvonne Irvine knew she was on a roll.

The assistant winemaker at Creekside Estate Winery clocked under 19 seconds in the annual barrel race, a crowd favourite at Twenty Valley Winter Winefest.

“The hardest part is getting around the corner,” said Irvine, who won the coveted Golden Boot on Saturday.

“When I made the corner and I was coming back, I felt I had some good speed.”

Competitors from wineries charged down the course flipping the barrels that weighed more than 45 kilograms.

It was one of several events, including a fashion show, celebrity chef dinner with David Rocco, after party and live music, that drew large numbers to this year’s three-day festival.

Irvine said icewine is unique and it’s great to have an event that celebrates it.

“It’s really fun. Most people hate winter. It’s so nice to get out, do some winter activities … Beat the winter blues.”

Kris Smith, executive director of Twenty Valley Tourism, said she expected the festival would hit its goal of 10,000 visitors this year, if not exceed it. It had about 9,400 visitors in 2016.

“We’re pretty jam-packed right now.”

While the festival draws local Niagara residents, it also saw visitors from as far away as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Alberta this year.

Smith said people are hearing about it through social media and on the Internet.

“A lot of it is returning or families or word of mouth. We don’t advertise that deep into the U.S. but people are finding out about us. It’s exciting.”

She said the festival has added a lot of diverse programming over the past couple of years, such as an icewine puck challenge and chef’s one-*** challenge in an effort to have something for everyone. That’s proving to be successful, she said.

It also introduced a European market theme last year, ditching larger tents for smaller ones around the perimeter featuring wine and food. More heaters were dotted throughout the area and included large steel pinecone fire pits that visitors could cosy up to.

“We just opened it up and embraced the great outdoors,” Smith said. “We’re Canadians. We should be embracing winter so that’s part of it.”

Sue-Ann Staff, president of the tourism association, owner of Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery and barrel-rolling competitor, said the festival had a larger footprint than ever before and more vendors.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “I’m really proud of our organizers, our volunteers, the board, the directors. We just keep fine-tuning this event every year. It looks better. There’s more entertainment, more energy. It’s awesome.”Read more at: |
judy smith
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judy smith
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