With the British Governments passing of the Act of Imperial Parliament abolishing slavery on August 28th, 1833, Emancipation Day became one of the most important dates on the African-Canadian calendar. The first report of an Emancipation Day parade was reported in the St. Catharines Standard in 1835. These celebrations became increasingly popular and gained enormous popularity throughout the 19th century. St. Catharines was one of the leading towns in Ontario to hold such celebrations.
By the 1920's Port Dalhousie, a region of St. Catharines, began hosting annual Emancipation Day picnic celebrations on the first Thursday of every August at Lakeside Park. People came from all over to attend: Toronto, Hamilton, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Utica and everywhere in between. There are even accounts of people traveling north from the southern States of Virginia and Tennessee to participate in the "Big Picnic."