Murals and Roses are Welland Ontario’s Claim to fame.
The entire WellandCanal in Southern Ontario, about a 45 minute drive from the Buffalo area, offers a unique sightseeing experience. One could easily spend the entire day, or longer, exploring all there is to see and do along the 26 mile long shipping route, which was first constructed in the early 1800’s.
However, if your time is limited, one of the best places to spend a few hours is the city of Welland, located right on the canal about half way through the shipping route. Until 1973, when a bypass channel was built, ships actually sailed right through downtown Welland. Today, the old section of the original canal is used as a recreational waterway.
Besides watching ships travel the canal, one of the more unique sites in Welland is the over two dozen murals which adorn the otherwise nondescript downtown area. Some people consider Welland to be one of the largest open-air art galleries in the world.
Back in 1986, the city hired artists from all over Canada to create the murals as a way to beautify and revive the downtown area.
My daughter and I recently took a drive along the WellandCanal and spent a bit of time in Welland checking out the murals. Most of these murals are concentrated in the downtown area, especially King Street, EastMain Street, and Division Street, although a few can be found in the outskirts along Niagara Street. All of those in the downtown area are relatively close to each other; you could park the car and walk if it’s a nice day. We chose to drive between them, although if you do this you do have to watch out for one way streets. Division Street is one way heading east, East Main Streetis one way heading west. We ended up making several loops around the area so we could see all the murals.
We pulled into a parking lot to check out a couple of the murals. The Welland Fair by John Hood, painted on the side of the Welland Tribune building at 228 East Main Street, depicts scenes from Welland Fairs in 1940, 1958, and 1975. On an adjacent building at 212 East Main Street, a mural done by Marsha Charlebois entitled The Cordage Community shows employees from the Plymouth Cordage Company at work and at play. This company, which opened in Welland in 1906, was the first major industry to open a plant in the city.
One of my favorite murals is The Welland Club, which shows a popular professional club in the 1920’s. The painting shows men in straw hats and people playing lawn bowling next to the Victorian-style clubhouse. This mural is located at the corner of East Main Streetand Hellems Avenue.
Since I had my teenage daughter who loves to shop accompanying me, after looking at the downtown murals, we headed up Niagara Street North to the Seaway Mall, to do some shopping. The mall, which has 120 stores and restaurants, has a nice selection of places to shop, including Sears, The Source, Zellers, and Northern Reflections.
There are two huge murals, measuring about 80 feet wide, on the side of the mall. History of the NiagaraPeninsula, on the Sears building, depicts the cultural and economic development of the area. On the front of the mall, History of the Welland Canal shows scenes from the construction of the canal.
Further up Niagara Street North, WellandDairies by Mike Svob, depicts Welland’s milk business in the early 1900’s. Across the street, on the side of the Days Inn, Towpaths, by Ross Beard, shows a sailing ship being pulled through the canal in the 1800’s.
Welland is also known as the RoseCity and another attraction that the city is noted for is the annual Welland Rose Festival, which will be celebrating its 49th anniversary this June. The Rose Festival is Welland’s signature event and one of Ontario’s longest running festivals. Thousands of blooms will be blooming in the rose gardens in ChippawaPark, which are considered the finest rose gardens in Ontario.
A number of Rose Festival events will be taking place between June 5 and 19. Some of the events include a baby show on June 5, fishing derby on June 6 and the Rose Festival Queen Coronation ball on June 10.
A Day in the Park will take place in MerrittPark on June 12. This all day event focuses on the city’s culture, heritage, and history, as well as art, the WellandCanal, and, of course, roses.
One of the premier festival events is the giant 3.4 km parade on June 13 at 1pm, which begins at the Canadian Tire Financial building on East Main Streetand ends at the Welland Arena. The Rose Festival juried art show takes place June 15-18 at the Seaway Mall and the festival concludes with the annual rose show on June 19 at the mall.
Need another reason to visit Welland? Check out Illuminaqua, a summer outdoor concert series which takes place at the Merritt Park Amphitheatre on King Street. Performances take place on a floating stage on the Welland Recreational Waterway. Pods of fire, floating on the waterway to illuminate the stage, add to the ambiance of the evening. Musical performers scheduled to appear include Mark Masri (May 21), David Francey (June 18), Don McLean (July 9), Andy Kim (August 6), and Natalie MacMaster (September 3.) Tickets for the concerts, which take place rain or shine, are $10 and can be purchased through the Illumniaqua website, at the Seaway Mall customer service, or at the gate the night of the concert. A season pass, which includes a seat cushion and wine sampling coupons, is available for $50.
Descriptions of murals and map www.travelniagara.org/attractions/mural.html
City of Welland information www.welland.ca
Welland Rose Festival www.wellandrosefestival.on.ca
From Buffalo, take the PeaceBridge to Canada, then follow the QEW to exit 21 (RR47 Lyons Creek Road). Turn left onto Montrose Road (RR98) and then a slight right on Schisler Road (RR27) to Welland.