Hespeler Textile Festival
Many great celebrations have taken place in our community since it was incorporated as a town in 1901. The most memorably, of course are the Ole Boys Reunions of 1906, 1926, 1947, 1966, 1996 and 2006, but there were others that ranked right up there with the best! I am speaking of the Hespeler Textile Festivals.
Held the third weekend of September each year, the first of these popular events was organized in 1970. Major sponsors of the festivals were the textile mills in town; Dominion Woollens Division of Silknit Ltd. and Artex Woollens Ltd.. Lesser sponsorship came from the many manufacturing companies and the business community in town. The organizing committee put together a program that was exciting to everyone, from near and far.
The early festivals were four days of continuous fun and featured factory tours, trade show, sewing competitions (various age classes), sidewalk sales, Textile Queen Contest, fashion shows (various age classes), beer taverns, German & Scottish folk dancing and riding demonstrations, major prize draws, beef barbeques, giant parade, Textile Ball, softball tournament, tug-o-war competition, helicopter rides, and midway. Events took place all around Hespeler: Forbes Park, Victoria Park,Hespeler Memorial Arena, Hespeler Legion, Queen Street, Holiday Inn and many local factories & textile mills.
Each year several hundred elementary and secondary school students from all over the province participated in the fashion and sewing competitions; as well as a “Small Fry” sewing competition, open to anyone who sewed for a child. The Textile Festival Committee offered eighteen cash prizes to the winners in each category. Teachers of the first place winner in each category received a weekend for two at the Cambridge Holiday Inn. All entrants in the sewing contests received a gift certificate from the two major sponsors; Artex Woollens Ltd. and Dominion Woollens & Worsteds Ltd.
Following amalgamation in 1973, the festival name changed to the Cambridge Textile Festival but the writing was already on the wall for this great event. Local textile companies that had prospered since the mid-1800s were now faced with cheaply produced goods from Asia, thanks to a federal government policy that removed the tariffs on textiles in order to sell surplus western wheat into that market.
As the local textile producers cut operating costs and struggled to survive, the Textile Festival was reduced to a weekend and much of the event program was greatly reduced. In 1977, in order to avoid conflict with the local Fall Fairs, the festival timing was changed to the second weekend in June. As the two major sponsors revenues declined and the companies faced the prospect of going into receivership, the Hespeler (Cambridge) Textile Festival was discontinued.