It’s a sure sign of spring as officials get ready to officially open the Welland Canal again.

 

Celebratory Top Hat Ceremonies will be held in St. Catharines and Port Colborne on Thursday, March 29th, a tradition that has been continued throughout the past 45 years, beginning in Port Colborne since the early 70′s.

Port Colborne’s ceremony starts at 8 a.m. at 163 Mellanby Ave. with a pancake breakfast and students from McKay Elementary School providing entertainment. Mayor John Maloney will present a top hat to the captain of the first downbound vessel at 8:30 a.m.

The ceremony in St. Catharines takes place at 10 a.m. at St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre at 1932 Welland Canals Parkway. Mayor Walter Sendzik will present a top to the captain of the first upbound vessel.

A mariner’s service will be held Sunday, March 25, at St. James and St. Brendan Anglican Church, 55 Charlotte St., Port Colborne at 7 p.m.

While the canal doesn’t officially open for a couple of weeks, both St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. and Canadian shipowners are finishing off an estimated $114 million in repairs and infrastructure projects, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

In a release, the Chamber said the seaway authorities allocated $35 million for infrastructure maintenance over the winter of 2017-18.  That included some major upgrades to electrical systems and lock-related machinery and gates.

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