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Four Huronia Historical Parks events among best in Ontario

Organization recognized for Pumpkinferno, Pirates of the Bay, First Light, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Huronia Historical Parks has once again been honoured with awards by Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO), earning top-100 events designations for Pumpkinferno and Pirates of the Bay at Discovery Harbour, as well as First Light at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

Sainte-Marie’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation programming received the first-ever FEO Impact Award.

Submissions were received by Festivals and Events Ontario in fall 2023 and were assessed by an independent panel of judges. They showcased festivals and events of various types, hailing from every part of Ontario — from community festivals to internationally recognized events. Awards were handed out during FEO’s annual conference and gala in Niagara Falls on Feb. 28, 2024.

The new FEO Impact Award recognizes achievement from a festival or event that embodies the best ideas to advance cultural diversity and inclusion; empower or engage marginalized communities; increase social impact; or offer leadership in truth and reconciliation.

On Sept. 30, the team at Sainte-Marie worked to highlight the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as described by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #80: honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The National Historic Site offered opportunities for reflection, commemoration, and learning, both in person and online, at no cost to participants. The in-person program included raising the survivor flag, a smudging ceremony, film screenings, and an exhibit on the 94 calls to action. The online program featured sessions led by Indigenous leaders and speakers on the topic of residential schools, their tragic legacies, and the pathway forward.

“We, too, are on a path toward Truth and Reconciliation, as an organization,” said Will Baird, general manager of Huronia Historical Parks. “This program is one way we are working to contribute to this nationwide effort to heal relationships with Indigenous peoples while creating opportunities for learning and dialogue.”

The FEO Top 100 Festivals and Events Award is recognized by festival goers, peers, and government officials alike as Ontario’s leading source of quality festivals and events happening across the province.

Sainte-Marie was recognized for the 23rd in-person edition of First Light. Discovery Harbour received the designation for the eighth annual Pumpkinferno. Both events have received this award in the past. They are fan favourites, together drawing more than 26,000 guests in 2023.

Pirates of the Bay was a new addition to the top-100 list. Discovery Harbour’s swashbuckling adventure included staged skirmishes, cannon fire, (temporary) tattoos, pirate-themed crafts, and, of course, opportunities to explore two ‘pirate’ ships.

First Light offers a magical experience for visitors by lighting thousands of candles throughout the historic site while creating opportunities for fun: live musical performances, dynamic historical demonstrations, and crafts for kids.

Pumpkinferno consists of more than 5,000 hand-crafted synthetic, realistic-looking pumpkins, with displays of up to 40 feet in size. Historical buildings and displays are transformed to offer spooky experiences such as the Macabre Manor, Grim Reaper’s Grove, and more.

Baird expresses pride in these events, highlighting their distinctive offerings that provide guests with the opportunity to savour seasonal enchantment within a historical context.

When asked why Huronia Historical Parks’ events continue to garner accolades and awards, Candice Moreau, manager of marketing and visitor services, explains: “For many, these events have become cherished family traditions. We take great care to preserve the elements that people love the most, while also ensuring freshness by introducing a new twist each year.”

Dates for these three award-winning Huronia Historical Parks experiences have just been set for 2024:

  • Pirates of the Bay: Saturday, Aug. 3
  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Monday, Sept. 30
  • Pumpkinferno: Oct. 2 to Nov. 2, Wednesdays through Sundays
  • First Light: Nov. 21 to Dec. 8, Thursdays through Sundays

To learn more about these and other events, visit or