Valley East Days are coming up, celebrating 45 years from September 9th-11th.
After a two-year pause during the pandemic, the wait is finally over, said Chris Vitiello, Valley East Days organizer and owner of Cousin Vinny's Restaurant and Bar.
Free family fun
As always, all kids' activities are free. Enjoy a free tethered hot air balloon ride, fun inflatables, a petting zoo, a magic show, a kid-friendly music show, a mobile video game party, a gymnastics area, a reptile show and a ventriloquist.
Family-friendly musical acts include Rodney Meilleur, Katy Perry Tribute and Taylor Swift Tribute. Or, if you’re the athletic type, there is a public free swim, or you can spectate a bike tour or softball playoffs.
The Northland Wrestling Show, Lumberjack Show and Classic Car Show are for older kids and adults.
Finally, you’ll get a chance to meet the vendors, hear a presentation on computer science and check out the police, fire, and ambulance displays—last but not least—fireworks!
And, for a small fee, a portion of which goes to local charities, you can ride a mechanical bull or do some axe throwing! Check out the full 2022 schedule here.
“We welcome not only people from Valley East but people in Northern Ontario to come and check it out,” Vitiello said. “We are the largest free family festival in Northern Ontario. So that part of it's pretty cool.”
Over the three-day event, he expects an incredible turnout with an average attendance of 10,000 people daily.
“The fact that families can come here and everything is free—the only thing they would have to pay for is food, and even that we give out, we have lineups for cotton candy and free popcorn.”
There are about 10 different food vendors satisfying all of your festival cravings: beavertails, funnel cakes, tornado potatoes, ice cream and deep-fried Mars bars. And a fundraising breakfast brunch buffet and spaghetti dinner.
New to Valley East Days (Ribfest)
The Valley East Days organizers are excited to introduce an award-winning traditional smokehouse specializing in Ribs and BBQ chicken for the very first time. Having a professional Rib team cater our event will be another big draw to our festival, said Vitiello.
Friday, Sept. 9, is country night at Valley East Days. Gil Grand and Roadhouse will be playing with headlining act Andrew Hyatt. DJ Michel Lalonde of Sound.wav Rentals will also be spinning the best country music between sets.
Saturday, Sept. 10, is rock night, tribute band Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Democracy and Dreamer, The Supertramp Experience opening for headliner Glass Tiger. DJ Alex Reed will keep the party going between bands.
After Aug. 16, weekend passes are sold for $90 per person or $60 per person per night.
Ticket prices primarily help cover the costs for Valley East Days, with a portion going to local charities, said Vitiello.
“The more tickets we sell, the more money we'll have for charity,” he said.
“We bring in some pretty big bands every year. This year we have Glass Tiger, and the country bands that we picked are local. Gil Grand and Andrew Hyatt are two of the biggest country guys that we've had that went to Nashville and came out of our little town of Sudbury.”
Sponsors are the driving force
About 135 businesses are sponsoring the festival this year, providing free shows and entertainment for thousands of local families. Also, approximately 80 vendors and small businesses will showcase their products and services, and almost all try to give back to the community by offering treats and goodies to the kids and free draws for the adults.
“We don't get grants,” Vitiello said. “It's all run by all the businesses in the community. Almost every second business would chip in and contribute in one way, shape or form. Without the sponsors, we can't make it happen."
“I couldn't thank them enough because they're the driving force of everything that goes on here.”
And Vitiello, along with parents Enzo and Patsy, and the Valley East Days organizing committee, consisting of Sarah Coutu, Andre Lachance, Sylvain Delay and Michel Lalonde, help drive the whole festival.
“We're passionate about it because this is what we do for the community, the families and the kids,” he said. “Our goal is to raise as much money that we can for charity. Every year we raise roughly between $5,000 and $10,000.”
It’s like a big reunion
Vitiello said not only is it a fantastic way for families to spend the day together, but it brings the community together as well.
“That part of it's really special.”
He said during the day is excellent for families, and nighttime is a whole different scene. The bands come on, and the adults enjoy mingling with beverages, their neighbours and incredible musical acts.
“It's like they get to take their kids out during the day and get to come party at night.”
“People call it the valley reunion. When you get a few thousand local people together, everybody gets to see everybody, and I think this year will be really big.”
Tickets are available for purchase at both Cousin Vinny's Restaurant and Bar locations, 4764 Regional Road 15, Chelmsford, ON and 5085 HWY 69 North, Hanmer, ON.