Waterfront Festival History
From its modest start in the summer of 1967, Canada's centennial year, Cobourg's Waterfront Festival has grown to become one of the country's premier Canada Day weekend events. It began as a small craft show of 15 to 20 artisans located at Victoria Beach and was held on July 1st along with a fireworks display coordinated by the local fire fighters. A few years later a small group of artists, musicians and artisans began a small but successful arts, crafts and music festival along the north wall of heritage harbor on Canadian national railway lands.
As interest in the show grew and the organizers were made aware of its increasing popularity, space was made available for additional artisans, and vendors were given space to set up and sell light snacks.
Blessed with a natural beach and historic sites that attracted tourists, the Town of Cobourg recognized the future potential for tourism during the summer months. A small committee was formed to organize and format an arts and crafts show. Each July 1st weekend saw more visitors arriving to take in the Canada Day celebrations and tour the historic sites within the town.
As time evolved the festival's development began to slowly blossom. It hardly seems possible that this small show and sale of crafts on Victoria Beach could have grown to today's finely tuned extravaganza. It is an example of volunteerism working to perfection.
In the early eighties, this loosely knit group of crafters now gathered to sell their wares in the harbor area. About the same time, art and music arrived on the scene. The event has traditionally been capped off with fireworks, coordinated by some of our local firefighters
By 1991, the interest in the festival by some of Canada's finest artists had grown to such a degree that the Lions and Lioness Clubs of Cobourg stepped in and organized a show and sale of extraordinary fine art.
In 1992 when the craft show organizing committee felt unable to continue, the town of Cobourg approached the Rotary Club of Cobourg and proposed they take on the responsibility of presenting the craft show and use the proceeds to support Rotary's local community projects.
The proceeds from the Arts & Craft Show are used by the Rotary Club of Cobourg to support such projects as equipment for the local hospital's maternity rooms, construction of Cobourg's Gordon C. King Library, expansion of the Cobourg Family YMCA, development of Rotary Park, equipment for the Golden Plough Lodge retirement home, sponsorship of the Cobourg Air Cadets and Army Cadet Corps., financial support towards the construction of the sports arena in the community of Baltimore, a substantial financial pledge towards the cost of building the Northumberland Hills Hospital and the new Cobourg Community Centre.
The Rotary Arts & Crafts Show, a juried exhibition, now attracts more than 200 vendors from all over Canada.
When the Rotary Club of Cobourg agreed to participate as a partner in the town's celebrations, along with the local Lions Clubs Art Show & Sale, the Cobourg Waterfront Festival was born.
Complimenting the efforts of the Rotary and Lions Clubs is a volunteer committee of the town, who for some years now, have coordinated the entertainment that has become a mainstay of the complete Canada Day experience. They arrange, coordinate and implement the annual parade and in concert with the Waterfront Festival Board, plan and present a show-stopping list of bandshell performances which gets better every year.
Last but not least, with the ongoing assistance of some of our firemen, and in cooperation with professional pyrotechnicians, the finale is a traditional gala fireworks display. It is second to none!
From its simple beginnings, the Cobourg Waterfront Festival has evolved into a panorama of sight and sound that is the envy of every town and city in Canada. It is and always has been a weekend filled with the pleasures and pride of talented individuals showing their wares and festival goers enjoying music and excitement. It all kindles pride in being a Canadian. The Cobourg Waterfront Festival is now ranked as the leading outdoor show of its kind in Ontario, and the third largest Canada Day celebration in the country.