Local festival favourite brings a splash of fun to Belle River once again

by Garrett Fodor

After more than a two-years absence, residents were given the opportunity to enjoy a local festival, once again, in Belle River.

  Over the weekend, residents of all ages flocked to downtown Belle River and the surrounding area to enjoy the return of the annual Sunsplash event, marking a midway point in the summer festival season.

  The weekend-long festival kicked-off on Thursday, begining with the carnival, Sunsplash Idol, and Chalk Art Competition. The event featured various live entertainment performances throughout the festival. 

  “The BIA Board of Management created a team to plan for Sunsplash, once we knew that we would be able to safely meet and COVID protocols were eased. We had about four-months to plan,” Janal Gagnier said, who is the Belle River On the Lake Business Improvement Area’s BIA and Special Events Coordinator.

  This year, the festival underwent some changes, including adding cornhole and volleyball tournaments to the West Beach area, while the jet ski races were removed from the festival’s lineup.

  Gagnier noted another change featured removing the 1000 person beverage tent, in lieu of a 250 person beverage garden, put on by Belle River Brewhouse at Lakeview Park.

  Despite the limited time to plan, Gagnier said this year was one of the most successful, featuring the largest attendance and participation with the car show and the parade. While it was the first year offering the volleyball and cornhole tournaments, Gagnier said the turnout was overwhelming, as both were at capacity for participation. 

  “The turnout this year was amazing,” Gagnier said. “Many businesses within the area say this is their best weekend of the year in terms of sales. My favourite part of the weekend is seeing the community actively involved and participating in our events as well as the smiling and happy people attending.” 

  On Friday evening, Notre Dame Street was blocked off for the classic car cruise, before a performance by “Leave Those Kids Alone” at the amphitheater at Lakeview Park. On Saturday morning, the parade was held on Notre Dame Street. Wrapping up the festival on Sunday included the fishing derby and the beach volleyball competition. 

  After the two-year break among the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of the festival brought familiar faces and new faces together to enjoy and participate in the weekend. 

  “Prior to volunteering at Sunsplash this year, I had never attended or even heard of the festival before,” Julia Koskal Soliman, a Co-Op student under the BIA, said. She volunteered at the festival this year. “Events like the Car Show and the Fishing Derby showed a lot of turn out and it was great to see so many people come out and enjoy the work of the BIA. It was rewarding [to participate] in the event from registering entrants in the fishing derby and car show to handing out prizes.” 

  Gagnier credits the support of the BIA’s co-op students, along with volunteers and the OPP, for helping to make the event run smoothly and for their dedication overall. She thanked the community for returning to Belle River and surrounding area for attending the Sunsplash event and everyone involved in the event for their support.