by Terry Duffy
It's certainly been one heck of a summer this year, with extraordinary hot temperatures, ultra fine weather, and a seemingly endless array of great activities for residents and visitors alike to partake in and enjoy in northern Niagara.
With events such as Artpark Tuesdays in Lewiston; evening concerts in Youngstown and Wilson; a bike rally in Wilson; town celebrations in Porter, Wilson and Newfane; street dances in Youngstown and Ransomville; art and jazz festivals in Lewiston; field days in Youngstown; and much more, Niagara County certainly has been the place to be this summer.
And the good times will continue in fine form this weekend as the 55th Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival takes over Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston. Presented annually by the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, this festival, which runs from Sept. 7 to 9, is both a celebration of Niagara County's most famous harvest - its peaches - and one that is just pure family fun, says 2012 Peach Festival Chairman Dean Beltrano. "This festival has something for just about everyone," he points out.
Into tasty eating fare? Well, let's start with peaches - this is a peach festival, remember?
Beltrano invites visitors to partake in Kiwanis' tasty peach shortcakes, with homegrown peaches provided again this year by Singer Farms in Appleton. This farm, under the direction of General Manager Jim Bittner, boasts high quality fruits, such as apples, pears, cherries, plums and, of course, peaches. It had a decent growing season this summer under Bittner's direction despite the heated temperatures and drought. And that resulted in a harvest of gigantic, almost softball-sized peaches, all of which will be served "super fresh" at this year's festival, according to Beltrano.
"They'll be fresh-picked peaches," Beltrano says. He reports that Bittner, who is marking his eighth year supplying Singer Farms' peaches to Kiwanis for its shortcakes, recently sent his just-picked produce to a nearby Canada facility for processing - peeling and bagging - and the refrigerated fruit - 6 1/2 tons - is expected to be returned to Kiwanis this week, just in time for the festival. "It's as fresh as we can possibly get," says Beltrano.
And it'll be served on DiCamillo shortcakes and topped with fresh cream for festival visitors to enjoy, starting on Friday and continuing all weekend in the Peach Tent, located on the west side of the park.
Beltrano noted that visitors can also look forward to new experiences at this year's festival:
•Improved parking, with free parking to be available in the Artpark upper lots and shuttle service provided throughout the weekend to the festival grounds by Gray Line Tours.
•An all-new Artisan's Alley. "We wanted to do something on the sidewalk along Center Street, so we're trying an Artisan's Alley there," says Beltrano. He reports Kiwanis has five interested artists signed-on to participate so far. They're expected to offer creations ranging from airbrushing to face painting. He invites others who may be interested to look into it. "Anybody who would like to come is welcome. We're looking for less of a high-end and more of a family-oriented" crowd," says Beltrano. Those who may be interested in participating during the festival are asked to contact festival grounds chairman Tony Attardo at 745-3438.
•A new exciting ride for thrill seekers. Beltrano reports that among the more than 40 festival rides provided by North American Midway Company that will arrive this week from the CNE in Toronto is one called the Ring of Fire. "It's a new, one-track roller coaster," Beltrano says. The ride has a car running on an inside circular track that will flip riders upside down at the very top of a high circle. He says the ride is both fun and safe, but it does have a minimum height requirement of four and one-half feet for younger riders. North American Midway staffers will check riders, he adds.
And returning will be a number of longtime festival favorites:
•The 19th annual Cheerleading Contest, Friday, starting at 5 p.m. in the DiMino's bandshell at Academy. Sponsored by DiMino's Lewiston Tops, it features various community cheerleading groups and youth football cheerleaders performing on stage before judges. This one's always a family favorite and Beltrano suggests visitors arrive early.
•The annual Lewiston Kiwanis 5K Fun Run and 1-Mile Walk, Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. "This is the 35th year that Tom (Baia) and Mimi (Cacciatore) have been doing this Fun Run. It keeps expanding every year and is fast becoming a premier event of its type in Niagara County," says Beltrano. Proceeds go this year to benefit the Jonathan "J-Mill" Giving Fund, established in memory of the Lewiston-Porter High School Class of 2010 member who lost his life in an automobile accident. Runners and walkers of all ages are invited to participate. For details on the race, visit www.lewistonkiwanis.org.
•The annual Peach Festival Parade, starting at 10:45 a.m. Saturday on Center Street. Sponsored this year by Wegmans, it will feature more than 100 units. Always a favorite of residents and visitors, expect to see marching bands, majorettes, floats, police units and fire companies, youth football squads and cheerleaders, politicians, color guards, drill teams, plus appearances by this year's Peach Queen contestants, the current Peach Queen, Peach Fuzz and Peach Blossom.
Also of note at this year's parade will be special visits by Kiwanis International President Thomas DeJulio and first lady Dr. Rosemary DeJulio, who will serve as honorary parade marshals. Also, Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Allen Gerhardt, who lost his legs in an automobile accident while on duty in 2011, will make a special appearance. All will be honored by Lewiston Kiwanis at this year's parade event; and Gerhardt and his family will be treated to a full day at the festival, courtesy of Kiwanis, reports Beltrano.
•Entertainment throughout the weekend, both on stage and on the festival grounds. Included will be Saturday appearances by 23 Skidoo; the Peach Fuzz contest; the Lewiston Choraleers on stage; the Peach Queen fashion show; and a "Tribute to the King," featuring Terry Buchwald as Elvis beginning at 8 p.m.
Sunday will open with the Neptune Ski Club performing off the Lewiston Docks in the river. Other good ones to check out at Academy Park are the Sunday Dance Showcase, featuring dance companies performing every 15 minutes from noon to 3 p.m. on the DiMino's stage. Also the Peach Blossom contest; performances by the Bob Volkman Band and the McCarthy School of Irish Dance; and an evening that will see the crowning of the 2012 Peach Queen on the DiMino's stage.
Yes, from peaches to rides, midway attractions, good times, great eats and more, the Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival is sure to have something for everyone.
"Get there early, stay late and enjoy," says Beltrano.
With favorable weather, Kiwanis organizers anticipate three-day crowds approaching 100,000 for this annual event, whose proceeds go to benefit thousands in the area.
For more on this year's festival, including information on advanced ticket sales, visit www.lewistonkiwanis.org.