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Chamber group addresses summer events

by jmaloni
Sat, Sep 18th 2010 03:00 pm
by Joshua Maloni

Members of the Lewiston Advisory Committee met this week to discuss the people-moving impact of the Lewiston Art Festival, Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival and Kiwanis Peach Festival. The consensus of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce subgroup was more parking is needed in Lewiston, more organization among festival/event participants would be helpful, and additional manpower (especially police) would make for a safer community.

"We are working on the parking problem," Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano informed the group. "Hopefully we can come up with something."

The village has made inquiries into adding additional parking spots adjacent to Dennis Brochey's Automotive on the east end of Center Street, alongside the Lewiston Hollow Mercantile store on the west end, and behind First Niagara Bank on North Fifth Street.

"We're working on it," Collesano said. "It's not an easy task, but we're working on it."

In terms of organization, the advisory committee noted a difficulty in traversing the village's side streets during the Peach Festival parade.

"It was a little bit scary," Lewiston Music owner Tony Petrocelli said, noting it was nearly impossible for motorists to pass along streets where cars were parked on both sides of the road.

People involved in the parade occupied many of those vehicles.

"I think the participants may have been a bigger problem than the spectators," chamber board of directors Chairman George Osborne said.

Great Lakes Real Estate Realtor Fred Blue and Artzee owner Kris Trunzo suggested parade participants could utilize designated drop-off locations -- perhaps in a bank or church parking lot -- and thus alleviate some of the congestion.

With regard to the police, Collesano was asked if parking tickets are doled out during these festivals or when Artpark presents its "Tuesday in the Park" concert series.

"I don't think so," he said. "There's not enough manpower to handle all of these festivals."

"They're spending all their time doing traffic control," Collesano added.

Osborne said members in the room should seek out alternative sources of funding and figure out how to pay for additional security.

Alternatives suggested included metered parking and/or meter maids assigned to issue parking tickets (and collect revenue to pay for additional police services), or using the fire police to move traffic in and out of the village.

Many advisory committee members expressed an interest in establishing a different type of people-moving operation.

"I think we need to find an area to shuttle people," Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino said.

Of the Art Festival and the new Art of Ribs, he said,  "It was chaos on our end of town. You could hardly get into the village."

Similarly, Osborne said the Peach Festival parade generated a record traffic jam on Onondaga Street.

The solution, committee members postulated, could be a shuttle service.

"I know it can work; we just have to find appropriate lots," said advisory committee Chairman Rick Haight of Advanced Design Group.

Osborne and Collesano both said it would take a large number of buses -- at least 10 or 12 running in regular rotation -- for a shuttle service to work. Additionally, Osborne said the buses would have to originate from one central point.

The Sentinel's Vince Buccirosso suggested the Lewiston-Porter school campus, noting a similar setup in Michigan that successfully transports patrons to and from college football games.

The Lewiston plateau was also mentioned as a shuttle starting point. If organized properly, the Artpark parking lots there could handle 2,000 cars.

Osborne said closing the side streets to traffic would motivate more people to take the shuttle. If a nominal fee was charged to each rider, the shuttle service could pay for itself.

News and Notes

  • Aside from parking and traffic, the advisory committee was pleased with the results of the reconfigured Art Festival setup.

"I did better at the Art Festival," Angel to Apple owner Jamie Symmonds said. Having an opening in front of her store instead of a vendor made her "one of the lucky ones," she said.

"I saw the same thing," Trunzo said. "I had an opening in front of my store. I saw a (positive) difference."

Lewiston Antiques owner Ron Craft, a former village trustee, said, "I think the Art Council did a pretty good job trying to please people."

In total, the Art Council removed 22 vendor spaces along Center Street during this year's Art Festival so as to shine a bigger spotlight on Lewiston businesses.

"I think we have the makings for a really good layout," Lewiston Council on the Arts Executive Director Irene Rykaszewski said. "I think the general feedback we got was very positive."

The advisory committee asked the LCA to take a look into the setup of other art festivals to see if the Lewiston configuration could be enhanced even more.

  • The LCA's Eva Nicklas said the Art of Ribs would not run in conjunction with the Art Festival in 2011.

"They didn't find that they were getting the spillover," Rykaszewski noted.

The Art of Ribs made its debut in Lewiston during the Aug. 13-14 Art Festival. Its vendors were stationed in Academy Park, just past the artists and crafters on Center Street.

  • Trunzo asked if nighttime activities could be added to the Art Festival, as Center Street remains closed even after the fine arts program concludes in the early evening. The advisory committee bounced a few ideas around, but came to no consensus.

Members also said something more needs to be added to the Sunday of Jazz Festival weekend. They called this year's concert pub-crawl a flop. 

The Town of Lewiston will hold a similar meeting to discuss these topics on Thursday, Sept. 30.

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