TRADITION: Months of work (and teamwork) go into putting together the 25-year-old festival.
By Jill Keppeler
Over two days in July, about 2,500 to 3,000 people flock to the grounds of Sanborn Fire Co. on Ward Road (Route 429) to partake of the annual Olde Sanborn Days and all its activities.
But while all those people arrive at the Sanborn Fire Co. grounds to have fun (and eat, play and shop), the members of the Rotary Club of Niagara County Central work steadily over the total 14 hours of the festival ... as well as for months before.
"You want to change your name," mused Pat Sullivan, Rotary treasurer and coordinator of the event. "Sunday morning, you never want to do it again. By Sunday night, you're exhausted. ... By Monday, you're ready to go again."
This year's festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 11 and 12 at the Sanborn Fire Co. grounds, Ward Road (Route 429).
The events includes an arts and crafts show, refreshments, music, family activities, a petting zoo, children's games, a chainsaw artist, an auto show Sunday and more.
The festival started 25 years ago, after the Sanborn Fire Co. ended its annual field days, Sullivan said. At the same time, members of the relatively new Rotary Club were looking to contribute to the community.
"So we put together an arts and crafts show," he said. "It was a great success. It was a lot of work. We were all much younger ... but as the years went along, we did a lot of adjusting. It became easier.
"And as we became older, we discovered easier ways to do it."
Things have changed over the years, including the advent of a partnership with the Lewiston Council on the Arts and the addition of performances by a chainsaw artist from Masters of the Chainsaw, the Sanborn Fire Co. and Lockport Community bands and Dale Campbell of Toast & Jam.
Community organizations work together for the event, with the Sanborn Fire Co. providing the site and holding a chicken chowder sale, Sullivan said. Middle school students who take part in Interact, a Rotary-supported service group, run the children's games.
It's also a team effort from the 20-some members of the Rotary Club, many of whom have also been there since the first festival. Sullivan said they rely on each other, whether it's to wrangle crafters or cook hot dogs.
While the club will start working on the year's Olde Sanborn Days as early as January of that year, things ramp up the Friday before, when volunteers might be setting things up past midnight, Sullivan said.
"I spend most of Friday night organizing where we have artists there," he said, noting that the field is marked for crafter locations the night before and the interior of the fire hall is reconfigured that evening - after bingo, of course. "It's just getting the show started."
Tom Grimm, a member of the Rotary Club, has been working on the festival for about 12 years. During Saturday, he said, he's likely to be found cooking hot dogs, while Sundays, he's helping run the auto show.
"It's just a constant flow of bringing more food out, doing this, doing that," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun."
It's manageable because it's a team effort, Grimm said. "Everyone pitches in and grabs something and moves something and next thing you know, it's all together."
Sullivan typically spends much of Olde Sanborn Days Saturdays taking care of the 70-to-80-some crafters, taking their requests ... and sometimes, their disagreements ... as well as making sure the entertainment acts are present and accounted for.
By midday Sunday, he's kept busy touching base with the crafters and collecting money for next year, as well as taking more requests and suggestions.
"By then, they're pretty happy," Sullivan said. "The more who come to me on Sunday afternoon, the better the show has been."
Money raised by the Rotary Club at Olde Sanborn Days goes to scholarships given to seniors at three local high schools (Niagara-Wheatfield, Wilson and Starpoint) and one scholarship to NCCC, a total of about $7,000 each year, Sullivan said. The club also supports the YWCA's programs to prevent domestic violence, United Cerebral Palsy and more.
"The money raised is actually put back into the community, and we spend a lot of money in the community," he said. "What we have found out is that several businesses in Sanborn have seen an increase in business activities (during the event). Which is what we're looking for. People are coming.
"People enjoy being here. And that's the joy we get out of the whole thing."