By Terry Duffy
Plans are moving along nicely for a rite of spring on the lower river - the 2016 edition of the annual Lewiston Smelt Festival, Friday, May 6, on the waterfront in the Village of Lewiston.
"We're really looking forward to this; we're hoping for a good crowd," said Jennifer Pauly, president of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce.
The popular festival is hosted by the chamber and Village of Lewiston, in cooperation with the Niagara River Anglers. From 5-10 p.m., visitors to the Water Street parking area fronting the former "Bucket of Blood" will again be able to partake in complimentary samples of mouth-watering smelt, prepared by the Niagara River Anglers Association and served by a number of town and village officials and chamber board members. Beer and wine will be available for purchase on site, a "surprise guest" according to Pauly, is expected to serve as Smelt King and entertainment will feature the country sounds of 90 West.
"Lewiston never smelt so good," a phrase made famous 10 years ago by former Mayor Richard Soluri, will again serve as the calling card for this event, which celebrates the Niagara River region's most famous natural resource - its smelt. For decades, locals have flocked to areas along the lower river - Artpark being one popular site - to partake in the annual spring activity of smelting.
Pauly noted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation deemed Lewiston as one of the best places in the country for smelt dipping. It's a tradition that continues to this day. Smelt are one of the few fish that sportsmen are allowed to net. Four hundred pounds of the river delicacy are expected to be served. And they are so good!
The event is made possible thanks to sponsorship by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours and DiMino Lewiston Tops, with assistance to the NRAA by CWM Chemical Services.
Geared toward an adult crowd, Pauly reported food and beverage offerings will also be available for purchase at Lower Niagara Moose Lodge 584, located next door to the Smelt Festival site, and at a number of nearby establishments, including Water Street Landing, Barton Hill Hotel and The Silo Restaurant.
Pauly said Lewiston restaurants will also be busy preparing their own culinary variation of smelt over the weekend. Participating restaurants can be identified by a decorative fish flag outside their door.
"We run this event for the benefit of the anglers," she said. "(But) we want everyone to benefit."
Pauly and the Chamber of Commerce invite all for an enjoyable early spring evening in Lewiston.
"We'll be open rain or shine, so come to visit," she said.
For additional information, call the chamber office at 716-754-9500 or visit online at www.NiagaraRiverRegion.com.