For many years, the ice cream festival has been a staple at Westfield Heritage Village. What started as a festival turned into a carnival a few years ago with traditional carnival games as well. The carnival always runs on the August long weekend for the Sunday and Monday only, giving people two days to come and experience what Westfield has to offer. People of Hamilton sat down with Lisa Hunter, Westfield’s program coordinator to find out about the ice cream carnival.
Why did the carnival start?
It started off as the ice cream festival and the idea was to focus an event around a summertime fun food that was something a lot of people enjoy. The event has really changed over the years: a few years ago we made the decision to make it more of a carnival. It’s definitely all about the ice cream. You can learn about how ice cream is made traditionally, we have six ice cream making stations so they’re making six different flavours over the course of the two days. We have our vendors cart set up, which is a place to learn about street vendors and the traditions behind that. The busiest area, in addition to the ice cream, is the Edwardian carnival. We’ve reproduced Edwardian carnival games and they’re all situated in a series of tents in the village green and it’s very colourful with flags, music and all of the activities are ongoing so you can go up and try a traditional game as many times as you’d like. It’s a nice way for visitors to have some fun doing something together that’s really different. One of the things that’s there is a paper moon, it’s in a starry sort of setting and people can sit on the moon and have their picture taken. So, that’s just one of the more popular activities over there, but the traditional games everyone’s either knocking something down or throwing something at something. It allows us to provide more engaging opportunities for visitors.
How many people typically come out?
It’s in the range of 2,000 each day. Depending on the weather, we’re a very weather dependent event. Things will go rain or shine but sometimes people prefer the sunnier days. Sometimes we bring out elements from it for other events, but normally it’s just the one weekend a year where you can come and have ice cream and do Edwardian carnival games. We also have the rest of the village open, which we sometimes forget to tell people. Westfield has more than 30 historic buildings – those are all staffed by our costume interpreters who are doing activities and demonstrations representing the particular building they’re in so it could be a home, trade business so there’s so much for people to do this weekend. We also have free steamed tractor rides, so you can hop on at the Inn and have a ride throughout the village again at no charge.
How does the Ice Cream Carnival differ from the other events Westfield has?
We always know that food is a popular theme and it’s something that everyone has in common, some of our other events involving food – The Maple Syrup Festival, we have our bread day, Christmas is a lot about foods so I guess it’s just focusing on summertime traditions. Ice cream is something we all associate with hot weather and it’s a special treat. We really like being about to show people what the traditional methods are and how labour intensive that is, but also using completely natural ingredients so having is as simple as cream and a bit of sugar and some vanilla, using the salt to bring down the temperature of the ice.
At the carnival, several flavours of ice cream are made including vanilla, peppermint, blueberry, maple – made with maple syrup produced at Westfield, ginger cookie and coco.
We went around the carnival and spoke with people to find out why they came out to the carnival and what their favourite flavour of ice cream is.
Rose Rhyno and her husband have been attending the carnival for over ten years. They brought their grandchildren to the carnival when they were younger, but Rhyno says they still come out to support the cause.
What would you encourage people to go see during this carnival?
A lot of the historical buildings so we know about our past because I think we need to know where we’ve been and sometimes that helps where we’re going. It puts your life in perspective to see how hard they used to work and we’ll grumble over having to push a button, so for me that’s how it is – it’s history.
What are your favourite types of ice cream?
So far I’ve only tried the black-cherry, I haven’t tried anything else but it was delicious.
Another carnival-goer, Igor Guzar, shared with us how he heard about the event and what he was excited about.
How did you hear about the event today?
I was here about a year ago, and last time we were here somebody mentioned they have ice cream festivals so it’s how we heard about it initially and then somebody mentioned it again at work a few days ago so I thought it would be a great time to come check it out.
What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?
I’ll go with chocolate, can’t go wrong with chocolate.
What are you most excited to see today?
It’s good to see the house again, hear the stories and just have a good time learning about the history of the place and trying some ice cream.
The ice cream carnival won’t be back until August of next year. There are fun games for the whole family to play and of course the ice cream, making it an event that should be on everyone’s summer to-do list. Until then, Westfield Heritage Village offers events year-round.