Story by Terry Duffy
Photos by Joseph Catalano
The countdown to an annual end-of-summer favorite in Lewiston is now underway
The 56th edition of the Niagara County Peach Festival, presented by the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, opens Friday evening, Sept. 6, and continues Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8, at Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston.
As one can likely guess, club planning for an event of this scale has been very involved over the past several months, and in coming the days activity onsite at Academy Park will be intense. North American Midway Entertainment will be arriving and setting up shop with a host of thrilling rides for all ages; food, games and vendor booths galore are going up; stage entertainment is being finalized and fun aplenty is envisioned by Lewiston Kiwanis organizers for the thousands of visitors expected. "All we need now is some really good weather," said Kiwanis President Jeff Sanderson to the membership Wednesday evening at Academy Park.
Kiwanian Randy Gorzka, 2013 chairman of the Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival, estimates attendance for the three-day festival will exceed that of previous years. According to Lewiston Police, the festival is rated as one the most successful family-oriented events that takes place each summer in the village.
And with good reason - it's good, clean fun.
Peach Festival Advisory Chairman Jerald Wolfgang commented that the Village of Lewiston and Town of Lewiston officials all have cooperated with the Lewiston Kiwanis to again provide a safe and pleasurable festival at Academy Park. It is always dedicated to the Niagara County farmers and their great produce and this year will again feature exceptional locally grown peaches - 6-1/2 tons of them - from Singer Farms in Appleton.
And peaches of all sizes will be ripe for sampling on Friday, Sept. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 8. A farmer's market will be selling peaches and other produce each day and will also feature peach pies.
The festival kicks off with a grand opening on Sept. 6 at 5 p.m. Festivalgoers can expect the largest midway in Niagara County, with more than 40 North American Midway rides combined with game booths for the lucky and many food choices for the hungry, making the Peach Festival and ideal stop on the weekend. The featured ride this year will be the Ring of Fire.
Activities run on Friday from 5 to 11 p.m. and continue on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day at Academy Park.
And getting there this year is expected to be the most convenient yet for visitors, Sanderson reports. He notes that Kiwanis organizers, in partnership with Artpark and the assistance of six local sponsors, will be providing free shuttle parking for festival visitors throughout the event. No more of those endless searches for a parking spot in the village and lengthy hikes to Academy. This year no-cost shuttle parking will be available in the two upper parking areas at Artpark off the Portage Road entrance, with two comfortable, air-conditioned Grey Line buses provided to visitors all three days. "It's a nice way to avoid the frustration," commented Sanderson. "This makes it easier for visitors to get in and out, and it will be available start to finish.
"Our climate-controlled Gray Line shuttles will whisk you to the festival grounds' entrance, just steps from all of the fun and excitement. When it is time to leave, the free shuttle will pick you up at the same spot and get you quickly back to your car and on the way home."
And what can visitors expect at this year's event?
Well, where do you want to start?
•Friday night will feature the 19th annual cheerleading contest, sponsored by DiMino's Tops Market in Lewiston. Area community cheerleading groups and youth football cheerleading squads will perform cheers before judges on the stage starting at 5 p.m.
Participants are still being sought. For more information, contact Wolfgang at 754-7745.
•Finals of the annual Kiwanis peach dessert recipe contest take place on Friday at 6 p.m. in the peach tent. The judges, following a tasting of the 10 sample dessert dishes, will award prizes. A $200 gift card will be presented to the winner and all 10 finalists will receive prizes. Tim Hortons coffee and cappuccino may be purchased on the field during the three days of the festival.
•The festival will again offer the Upstate New York Transplant Services Blood Drive on Friday, Sept. 6, from 3 to 6 p.m. The blood drive will be held on the Portage Road side of Academy Park.
•Saturday events get underway at 9 a.m. with the 5k Fun Run. The course runs through the Village of Lewiston. Fun Run Chairman Tom Baia stated, "The Fun Run and 1 mile walk will have one of its largest fields." It will start and finish in front of Key Bank on Center Street. Proceeds from the Fun Run will benefit the Divine Mercy Food Pantry of Niagara and UNICEF - Project Eliminate. Up to 250 participants are expected.
•The annual Peach Festival Parade will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday on Fourth Street and continue up Center Street to Academy Park. The parade is expected to feature more than 100 units, including marching bands, majorettes, floats, fire companies, cheerleaders, football teams, color guards, precision drill teams, assorted politicians, Peach Queen contestants and the reigning Peach Queen, Peach Fuzz and Peach Blossom.
•And the fun continues at Academy, with rides, foods, games, and activities galore.
Among the Saturday on stage offerings, look for the First Niagara Peach Fuzz contest at 2 p.m., the Peach Queen contestants semifinals fashion show at 6 p.m., and the always enjoyable "Tribute to the King," starring Terry Buchwald as Elvis, at 8 p.m. Interspaced between will be entertainment by 23 Skidoo, Christina Custode and the Lewiston Choraleers.
•On Sunday, the Neptune Water Skiers will perform on the Niagara River at the Lewiston Landing site at 11 a.m.
•Academy Park opens at 11 a.m. for daylong fun and this year, the Sunday Dance Company Showcase will be held on stage from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Area dance companies will perform on stage every 15 minutes with eight dance companies signed up. And Sevenson Environmental Services is sponsoring the Peach Blossom contest on stage at 3 p.m.
Additional Sunday entertainment will feature The Bob Volkman Band and the ladies of the McCarthy School of Irish Dance on the Academy stage.
•Contestants will vie for the coveted crown of Peach Queen on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. Chairwomen Kris Trunzo and Jeanette Collesano estimate that the largest crowds appear for the finals. The Kiwanis annual media award will also be presented on Sunday evening.
The festival's most popular food, peach shortcake - featuring Singer Farm's peaches atop DiCamillo Bakery shortcakes with tasty cream - will be available Friday through Sunday. Peach Tent Chairman Gary Rose advises visitors to get their shortcake early because the Kiwanis sell out every year.
Profits from the Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival are put right back into the community. "For the past 10 years, $500,000 in goods and services have been contributed to over 50 organizations throughout Niagara county," Gorzka proudly announced. Since 1958, the Lewiston Kiwanis Club has donated more than $1 million to area organizations.
Sanderson suggests everyone who plans on attending come early and enjoy the festival grounds in the Village of Lewiston. The Peach Festival closes on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 10 p.m.