City of Windsor to Celebrate Hiram Walker’s 206th Birthday With Two-Day Festival, Unveiling of Sculpture & Exhibition

The Canada Day long weekend will bring the Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration to Windsor’s historic Walkerville neighbourhood.

Hiram Walker was one of Windsor’s most significant contributors. He was head of a family with a name so deeply entrenched in Windsor that it touches on facets of architecture, history, industry, neighbourhoods, and pop culture. A true early industrialist, Walker built his distillery, later named Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd., on the Windsor banks of the Detroit River. He created the world-famous Canadian Club Whisky, and was a charitable man who donated money across the Windsor, Walkerville, and Detroit areas. Walker established the neighbourhood that would become known as Walkerville, and commissioned leading architects to construct impressive public and private buildings still visible today.

In 2016, in honour of Walker’s 200th birthday, Mayor Drew Dilkens announced plans to commission a larger-than-life bronze sculpture commemorating Walker and his contributions to the community. City Council later approved the project. Sculptors Mark and Laura Williams signed on to create the statue and its base of whisky barrels. Later, the City began construction of a new Hiram Walker Parkette to showcase the sculpture at the southeast corner of Devonshire Road at Riverside Drive East as a neighbourhood gateway under the Walkerville Districting Plan. The City postponed the unveiling from 2020 to 2021, and finally to this year due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions.

Now, the celebration dates have been set. On Friday, July 1, and Saturday, July 2, the City of Windsor is partnering with the Walkerville Business Improvement Association (BIA) to host the Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration and the Walkerville Art Walk.

The two-day celebration will feature a wide array of activities, including the sculpture unveiling, the grand opening of a new historical exhibition, street closures, heritage walking tours, a children’s village, family activities, vendors, artists and artisans, live music, antique automobiles, and a fundraiser dinner to cap it all off.

An up-to-date schedule of activities will be maintained at our Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration web page. Current details (subject to change) include the following:

Walkerville Art Walk

Friday, July 1, from 4 to 10 p.m.
and Saturday, July 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday street closures: Wyandotte Street from Gladstone Avenue to Devonshire Road.

Saturday street closures: Wyandotte Street from Gladstone Avenue to Argyle Road, and Devonshire Road from Riverside Drive to Wyandotte Street.

Everyone is invited to enjoy vendors, artists and artisans, musicians, activities, patios and more. This year’s vendors include Border City Custom Prints, Walkerville Candles, What’s Poppin’ Popcorn Factory, Terra Green, Sweet Moments Cookie Co., The Art Lab, Gagne Illustrations, and many more! The full list of 40-plus vendors can be found at www.VisitWalkerville.com online.

“Hiram’s Heritage” Barrel Finished Scotch Ale

Available as of Friday, July 1, at the Walkerville Brewery, 525 Argyle Road

In describing their special limited edition brew, Mike Brkovich of The Walkerville Brewery says, “This traditional style scotch ale is small batch brewed and bottled by hand. It is finished in once used oak whisky barrels. The final beer is unfiltered, smooth drinking with dark roast and biscuit flavours on the palate and nose. A modern homage to our founder Hiram’s heritage. It will be available exclusively at The Walkerville Brewery in 500-milliletre commemorative bottles.” View the Hiram’s Heritage promotional graphic.

Hiram Walker Commemorative Statue Unveiling

Saturday, July 2, at 10:00 a.m.
New Hiram Walker Parkette (Devonshire Road at Riverside Drive East)

Celebrate the official unveiling of the new larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Hiram Walker. The work of art was created by Mark and Laura Williams, and cast in bronze by John Vickers at Hopper Foundry. The statue was generously sponsored and supported by the City of Windsor, Windsor International Airport (YQG), WindsorEssex Community Foundation, Windsor Port Authority, Mr. Michael George Solcz, Mr. Mike Brkovich and Mr. Ian Gourlay and the Walkerville Brewery, Mr. Jim Scorgie, Canadian Club – Beam Suntory, ENWIN Utilities Ltd., Fortis Group, Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd., Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, and Pamela and Tony Morse. View the Hiram Walker 206th Birthday event flyer.

Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration Street Festival

Saturday, July 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The City’s ShowMobile main entertainment stage will feature guests from Windsor’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program, and live music from Leave Those Kids Alone, Crissi Cochrane, Tara Watts, Abridged Opera, and The Rum Runners 1920s Band.

J.P. Wiser’s Distillery will run public tours of their facility, where guests can experience the story of Canadian whisky – from its vibrant history to the craftsmanship and process behind making it. Tour-takers will have an opportunity to sample some of the distillery’s award-winning whiskies, including J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe, Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky, Pike Creek 10 Year, Rum Barrel Finish, and J.P. Wiser’s 15 Year Old. Advance bookings are highly recommended. All tour details and bookings are at www.jpwiserstour.ca/products/buy-tour-tickets online.

Beam Suntory – Canadian Club Whisky will be part of the festivities in honour of the birthday of founding father Hiram Walker. They’ll be offering Canadian Club 1858 and the Canadian Club Classic 12 Year whiskies as well as the Canadian Club Ready-to-Drink, which mixes the award-winning whisky brand with fresh ginger to create a lighter drink.

The Children’s Activity Village on Devonshire Road will have birthday cupcakes and custom Hiram Walker celebration top hats (both available while supplies last), the WINDSOR Sign set up for photos; a children’s activity from the Windsor Sculpture Park Conservation students; Museum Windsor games, vintage toys, and Walkerville Heritage Walking Tours (11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.); Mickey and Minnie roaming characters; Ted Paints Faces face-painting; inflatables including the wiggle riders race track and basketball net; the Art Lab Slime Bar; roaming character actors from the Rum Runners Tour; the Islamic Circle of North America Sisters booth; classic cars, including Model T’s from the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village parked for photos; and 25 local Windsor-Essex makers and artists showcasing and selling their work in connection with day two of the Walkerville Art Walk.

Over on Wyandotte Street, 42 local makers and artisans will be lining the street for the Walkerville Art Walk, with Walkerville BIA businesses extending their storefronts, and restaurants operating patios. The Walkerville Brewery on Argyle Road will offer a Beer Garden, including live music, delicious eats, and the limited edition “Hiram’s Heritage” Scotch Ale.

Friends of Willistead Memorial Gathering at St. Mary’s Cemetery

Saturday, July 2, at 11:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Anglican Cemetery, 1983 Mary’s Gate Street
At the graves of Edward Chandler Walker and Mary Walker

The Friends of Willistead will bring flowers and wreaths, and lead a short memorial tribute at the graves of Edward Chandler Walker and his wife Mary. The Walkers built Willistead Manor between 1904 and 1906. In naming the estate, Edward commemorated his older brother Willis, who had died some years before. Edward and Mary lived in Willistead Manor together for a short time until his death in 1915. Five years later, the Walker Family deeded Willistead Manor to the town of Walkerville. Mary Walker left the Manor and never returned. Edward and Mary were both born in Detroit, found each other and married, travelled the world together and are buried next to each other in Walkerville.

Tours of Willistead Manor & The New Coach House Exhibition

Saturday, July 2, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Tours are free.
Willistead Manor & Coach House, 1899 Niagara Street

Experience the story of a family that shaped a community. Learn about the history of Hiram Walker, the formation of Walkerville, Edward and Mary Walker, Willistead Manor, and much more in this new and permanent Coach House exhibition designed by HCA Mindbox, and supported by The Merinoff Foundation, the Walker descendants, Willistead Manor Inc., the Friends of Willistead, and the City of Windsor. Visitors can also tour Willistead Manor, which is re-opening its doors for public tours for the first time since the start of the pandemic. View the Coach House Exhibition Grand Opening event flyer.

Roaring 20s at the Manor Fundraiser Dinner

Saturday, July 2, from 6:30 p.m. to Midnight.
Willistead Manor, 1899 Niagara Street. Tickets are $100 per person.
Tickets available at www.ThymeToGo.ca online.

Mayor Drew Dilkens & Jane Dilkens, and the Willistead Manor Inc. Board of Directors present a one-of-a-kind fundraiser dinner event at Willistead Manor, in the tradition of one of Edward and Mary Walker’s long-ago celebrations of art, music, fine-dining, fellowship, and philanthropy. Thyme To Go, Willistead Manor’s exclusive caterer, presents a delicious mix of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, desserts, a complimentary champagne toast, signature drink, whisky tastings from Canadian Club – Beam Suntory, “Hiram’s Heritage” scotch ale from the Walkerville Brewery, and more. Guests are encouraged to come dressed for the Roaring 20s, and will be treated to live music from The Coffee House Combo, The Broadway Bunch, and Crissi Cochrane. The evening includes special performances by the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra, Windsor Dance eXperience, and the Rum Runners Tour. There will be antique automobiles parked for photographs courtesy of the Canadian Transportation Museum, tarot and psychic readings with Medium Psychic Linda Dumouchel of Spirit Whispers, caricature artist April Hawkes, and much more! The event is presented by the City of Windsor, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Willistead Manor Inc.,, Beam Suntory, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and Thyme To Go. A portion of all ticket proceeds will go to the Willistead Manor Restoration Fund. Tickets are limited, and available through www.ThymeToGo.ca online. View the Roaring 20s at the Manor Fundraiser event flyer.

Quotes:

“The Hiram Walker Commemorative Statue was commissioned on the 200th anniversary of his birth and in honour of his incredible and lasting contributions to the town of Walkerville and the city of Windsor. It is fantastic to finally be able to gather in person to celebrate the successful entrepreneur and community builder whose legacy endures through the continued operation of the distillery but also through the lasting impact of his many charitable donations. Today’s Windsor would be a shadow of itself without the indelible contributions of Hiram Walker. I’m thrilled to be partnering with the Walkerville BIA and many community organizations, artists, vendors and others for this signature event to proudly honour him with a larger-than-life sculpture.”
- City of Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens

“We’re very excited to get back to hosting fun events like Art Walk that benefit our members and engage the Walkerville community, the region, and our visitors. It’s a very special opportunity this year to also celebrate the incredible districting work the City has undertaken to develop the new park at Riverside and unveil the Hiram Walker statue. Art Walk itself will feature a variety of fun family activities, including dozens of vendors, live music, scooter rides, heritage tours, an escape room, and more. Walkerville has been named one of Canada’s coolest neighbourhoods, and the BIA is proud to have played a long-standing role in enhancing a great community.”
- Jake Rondot, Chair, Walkerville BIA

“Walkerville Brewery was founded by Hiram Walker in 1890, so we are honoured to be invited to brew a beer to celebrate the new Hiram Walker statue!”
- Ian Gourlay, Walkerville Brewery

“The Willistead Manor Inc. Board of Directors has been hard at work, throughout the pandemic, at ways to enhance the tour experience at Willistead Manor, and to increase public awareness of how truly special this home is to the formation of Walkerville, the history of the city of Windsor, and the legacy of Hiram Walker in Canada. We are excited to unveil the brand new permanent historical exhibition at the Coach House. This exquisitely designed exhibit shares the story of Hiram Walker, Edward and Mary Walker, the formation of Walkerville, the construction of Willistead Manor, and so much more. Generously supported by The Merinoff Foundation, this exhibition will have a lasting impact on the story of Willistead Manor and how it is shared with everyone.”
- Douglas Sanborn, Chair, Willistead Manor Inc. Board of Directors

“Our long, vibrant history is filled with stories of war heroes and peaceful dignitaries, innovators and entrepreneurs. Many of our brightest tourism businesses, stakeholders, and experiences are connected to the legacy of Hiram Walker. From distillery tours to heritage sites, works of art to neighbourhood tours, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is invested in celebrating the best of our destination by highlighting the stories and heroes that have shaped this region. We’re proud to support the Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration, the commemorative sculpture, and the return of in-person celebrations and experiences to our area.”
- Gordon Orr, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island

To learn more, contact 311 or visit our Hiram Walker 206th Birthday Celebration page.

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