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Cornwall Lift-Off


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

The Offer...

About a year ago, a man we met made us an offer we couldn’t refuses. That man was Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. The offer was that we should come to Cornwall to visit the “Cornwall Lift-Off” festival and that he would take care of everything for us. The offer sounded intriguing and I filed in the back of my mind. That's where it remained until I received an e-mail from Jim asking us if we were still interested. We e-mailed him back that we were. At that, he said he would make all the arrangements! He did! The drive to Cornwall takes about 3 hours from Cobourg. Yes, it would be a long trip, but I knew that Judi would prepare and pack plenty of “festival provisions”. We wanted to arrive in Cornwall in time to “get the lay of the land” before darkness set in. It was about 3:30 when we checked in to the Best Western Parkway in Cornwall. The room that we had been given was beautifully appointed, complete with a stone electric fireplace which add to the ambience of an already great room.

Friday Night...

After unpacking, we armed ourselves with a city map and headed downtown to find the festival site. With the map and directions from hotel staff we found the festival site easily. One of the features of the Kinsmen Cornwall Liftoff is its evening concerts. Tonight the main attractions were “Lighthouse” and “Randy Bachman” (formerly Bachman-Turner Overdrive- BTO). When we had left the hotel, it was overcast but not raining. By the time we finished our dinner and had headed to the park, the rain had started coming down. Undaunted, we dawned our rain gear and headed for the festival entrance. Once inside the festival grounds, we found festival chair, Chris Savard, and introduced ourselves to him. Chris, who is the founder of this event, was very gracious. He spent time talking with us and then offered to let us stay in the V.I.P. tent to watch the evenings performances. We were grateful for this because the rain had really started to come down. Just before the performance of Lighthouse began, Chris introduced us to Candy Pollard, who is in charge of the events marketing and public relations. Candy is also Marketing and Events Co-ordinator for the Cornwall and Seaway Valley Tourism. Candy gave us a lot of information about the area. Shortly after that, Lighthouse took to the stage and their performance began. We sat watching and listening to this great Canadian band. However, the best was yet to come in the form of none-other than Randy Bachman. To say that we were in awe of his talents and his performance would be an understatement. But then again, everyone in the audience (and there were thousands under rain soaked umbrellas), were in agreement with us. The whole scene was surreal. As we looked out of the tent, all we could see was a sea of umbrellas swaying to the sound of the music! The backdrop to all of this were the "bright lights" on stage and on the of the festival Midway rides. After the show was over, we went back to our hotel, a little rain soaked, but loudly humming some of the tunes we had heard. This had been a wonderful first night at the Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off.

Saturday at the Festival...

The next day had dried off and ready to start all over again. Actually it was a beautiful sunny day, and not too hot, when we set out for the festival grounds. With our new health regime in mind, Judi and I decided to walk the four kilometres to the Cornwall Lift-Off festival grounds. This entailed walking one of their main roads and then under the expansion bridge to the U.S.A. On reaching the west-end of the park we passed the area where the Lift-Off usually takes place. From there we walked through a wonderful Kids Zone where there were a number of “inflatables” set up for the kids to play on. From there we walked to where the Strongman competition was taking place. We arrived in time to watch some of the “Strongman” competition. The competitors were lifting and flipping a massive 840 pound tractor tire. Each grunted and groaned at the strain of trying to reach the finish line in a timely manner. Most didn’t make it. It was impressive to see the different techniques that these superbly fit athletes used to try to get the upper hand. It was now almost 1 o’clock and we had arranged to meet our friend, Jim Brownell, at the park's clock tower. After a quick reunion, Jim suggested that we go for lunch. We had a wonderful visit and chat and left reconfirming our friendship and thankful for all of Jim’s gracious hospitality. Back at the festival park, Judi and I decided to continue exploring the grounds, after which we continued walking back to the Best Western Parkway. That evening we had plans to drive to Prescott to attend the opening of the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival's new play “Trouble on Dibble Street”.

Sunday Morning, Lift Off...

Sunday morning came all too early! It was 6 o’clock when our wake-up call came through. The Balloons were lifting off in 30 minutes from the downtown park. Judi and I did not want to miss this part of the “Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off”! We hurriedly dressed and drove downtown to the lift-off area, only to find out that the launch had been moved north. The organizers were afraid that the winds might blow the balloons across the St. Lawrence and into the United States. We followed the crowds north to the new launch area and positioned our car perfectly. I know that it may sound a little trite when I tell you, “that you had to be there to appreciate what we saw”. Photographs don't do the process justice! The truth is, you really had to be there to see the full grandeur of the 27 colourful hot air balloons lift-off almost all at the same time! It was a daunting sight, to say the least. The Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off is certainly an event that should be experienced first hand! We had a wonderful time in Cornwall and we thank everyone that made it so special!