Born to be Wild: Winchester Bike Nights make ‘Sweet’ debut on June 20

Above, Vince Zandbelt awaits many more motorcycles and motorcycle enthusiasts at the upcoming Winchester Bike Nights. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Three dates catering to motorcycle enthusiasts and the general public at Sweet Corner Park this summer

WINCHESTER — The coming influx of choppers and hogs has nothing to do with Winchester’s agricultural harvest and livestock.

‘Steel horses’, rather, will make their way to this rural Eastern Ontario town, where the local Downtown Revitalization Committee welcomes motorcyclists and the general public to Winchester Bike Nights at Sweet Corner Park on three dates this summer.

Inspired by the success of the Ottawa Motorcycle Ride for Dad wrap-up event at the Joel Steel Community Centre earlier this month, Vince Zandbelt and fellow committee members intend their initiative as a follow-up showcasing the Park and hospitality of merchants in the downtown core. Each of the Bike Nights — June 20, July 18 and August 15 — gets rolling at 5 p.m. and rumbles through 9 p.m.

Zandbelt has high hopes after publicizing the idea to the 1,000-plus riders on hand June 1st for the Ride for Dad’s grand finale at the arena one kilometre west of the main corner. “It was such a good response,” the businessman says, adding he’s also reached out to an antique motorcycle club, speciality bike owners, and other groups of riders in the area. “With all of the positive feedback, we’re thinking, ‘holy smokes’, this park will be full,” he exclaims.

Unlike the last gathering of two-wheeled machines in Winchester, the coming dates are meant as much for the general public as the motorcyclists themselves — though Zandbelt reminds folks not to touch those gleaming chrome bikes.

A Harley and two riders arrive in North Dundas, earlier this month. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

A festival-like atmosphere should pervade the outdoor scene with three bands scheduled and a different craft brewer serving up liquid refreshment on each of the licensed evenings. “And we’ve got seven food vendors in town here,” he adds. “They’re all enthusiastic about it.” Among those serving up the eats in the immediate vicinity will be Jo-Anne Houle’s ‘Scoop of Jo’s’ ice cream truck as well as a Country Kitchen kiosk on the lawn of Sweet Corner Park, he says.

He envisions such a turnout of motorcycles that streets adjacent the Park will be closed to traffic. Permission has already been sought from the township, but barriers will only go up if warranted on each of the nights, depending on the number of bikes that show up.

Each evening also features a single charity recipient, with planned 50/50 draws respectively benefiting Community Food Share, the House of Lazarus and the Black Walnut Prostate Cancer Support Group. Admission is free and the initiative is not intended to generate revenue for the Committee itself. “This is not a fundraiser for us like Ribfest,” he explains.

Adding to the sparkle and shine are Winchester’s new vertical hydro pole banners — direct replacements for the original Canadian flag-inspired and dairy cow designs lining the downtown. “Every banner in town is new,” Zandbelt proudly observes. The new cow banners have been tweaked to remove the horns of the Holstein looking out from the frame. A dozen of those were funded by local dairy farmers and feature the Dairy Farmers of Canada logo. The Dairyfest committee paid for an additional six of the same design.

There will be no rain dates for the upcoming Winchester Bike Nights. Zandbelt says the decision to cancel a date will be made no later than 9 a.m. on the day of the scheduled event.

Ribfest a smokin’ success

WINCHESTER — Ribfest served up solid and tasty fare during the first truly summer-like evening at Sweet Corner Park that drew good crowds to the outdoor venue June 7. The next substantial gathering at Winchester’s main corner goes ahead June 20, with the first in a series of three scheduled Bike Nights.

See photos of Ribfest, below, and a video of Vince Zandbelt addressing the 500-plus people on scene.


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