58th Niagara County Peach Festival opens Friday
Festival features new rides, attractions, old-time fun
By Terry Duffy
The anticipation is building in the Buffalo-Niagara area for another good one.
The 58th edition of the Niagara County (aka Lewiston Kiwanis) Peach Festival is this weekend, Sept. 11, 12 and 13, on the grounds of Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston. Times are 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
"This going to be one of the most spectacular Peach Festivals we've had, with all the new things we're trying to do," long-time Peach Festival Advisory Chair and Kiwanis member Jerry Wolfgang said.
"We have a lot of people working very hard to make this festival a success," he added, noting the field preparations are underway at Academy Park and will be continuing throughout the week.
Wolfgang, who has been involved in the planning of the Peach Festival for more than 30 years, spoke of the many festival attractions that have and continue to make this a family favorite. They include the Friday youth football and all-star cheerleading competitions, the popular Saturday parade, the weekend-long midway rides, great foods by 22 on-site vendors this year, tasty peach shortcakes, fun attractions, the always enjoyable Peach Queen preliminaries and shows that culminate with the crowning of a new queen. These and more will be a part of the festival.
"This is an old-fashioned festival, a lot of great activities," Wolfgang continued, as he and 2015 Festival Chairman Gerry Gismondi detailed more of what visitors can look forward to next weekend.
One will be an all-new Patriots Day observance marking the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, taking place as part of the grand opening ceremonies at Academy Park.
"We will have a 9/11 ceremony on stage, in memory of all the first responders," Wolfgang said.
Expected participants include the Niagara County Sheriff's Office Color Guard, first responders from Upper Mountain and Lewiston No. 1 volunteer fire companies, and contingents from the U.S. Border Patrol, New York State Police and Lewiston Police.
2015 Kiwanis President the Rev. Tom Mason of Messiah Lutheran Church in Lewiston will offer the opening prayer and presentation, followed by singing of the Canadian and U.S. national anthems by Kiwanis family member Irene Frosolone.
And then the fun gets underway. What to look forward to? How about a new midway?
"We have a lot of new, exciting things happening with this year's festival; we have a new ride vendor," Gismondi said.
"I'm excited and happy to have them here," he said of Amusements of America, a Monroe Township, New Jersey-based midway operation in business for 70 years, that will bring 44 rides next weekend to Academy Park, making the Lewiston festival the largest midway in Niagara County.
"They will be bringing some new thrill rides, new spectacular rides, some kids rides, including a new carousel for the first time ever," Gismondi said.
And let's not forget about what this festival is all about: A celebration of tasty peaches. Throughout the weekend, visitors can look forward to bountiful servings of peach shortcake - at least until they run out.
Kiwanis reports upward of 13,000 pounds of freshly grown and prepared peaches by Bittner-Singer Farms of Appleton will again be found in the tents at Academy, served on DiCamillo's shortcakes and topped with crème.
"The peaches are fresh, they are not canned. They're the freshest peaches that we can serve on the field," Past Kiwanis President Dean Beltrano said.
In addition to partaking in the midway atmosphere, visitors Friday night can also look forward to meeting the 15 Peach Queen candidates on the Academy Park stage, followed by a performance of the emo/pop-punk/alternative band Rescue Dawn.
Come Saturday, there's the 37th annual Peach Festival 5K Run at 9 a.m. Registration is now underway at www.racemanagementsolutions.com/peach-festival.html, and it continues Saturday morning at KeyBank on Center and South Fifth streets, where the race begins. Proceeds go to autism research at Women and Children's Hospital and the Wilson Community Food Pantry. The race is sponsored by DiMino's Lewiston Tops, Niagara's Choice Federal Credit Union and the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston.
The annual Peach Festival Parade follows at 11 a.m. on Center Street. This year's parade will feature more than 100 units and 12 marching bands, an all-time high. Grand marshal for the parade is WGRZ-TV personality and weatherman Kevin O'Connell.
From there, it's fun and more at Academy Park with midway excitement, great foods, shortcakes and a festive atmosphere for all ages.
Activities Saturday include an on-stage recognition of parade units, the annual Peach Blossom contest, Peach Taste-off and the Peach Queen semifinals fashion show, capped off by evening performances by the legendary Elvis impersonator Terry Buchwald and the Buffalo party band The Boys of Summer.
On Sunday, visitors can look forward to more of the same at the park. Special attractions include an on-stage Dance Showcase, Peach Fuzz contest and a performance by band Everyday People. At the festival's end will be the Peach Queen contest finals and crowning of the 2016 queen.
Kiwanians welcome visitors from near and far to this annual celebration of fall produce in Lewiston.
They report advance ride tickets, which only require one ticket per ride (all rides), are now on sale for $20 for a strip of 10. Tickets are available at 50 locations in Niagara and Erie counties, including Niagara Frontier Publications on Grand Island until Sept. 11. Advance ride tickets will also be available Saturday along the Center Street parade route until noon.
"They're more expensive on the field," Wolfgang said. "The advantage is to get them early."
Kiwanis officials note visitors will again find it easy to park and navigate at this year's festival. Parking will be available in the Tops parking lot, Center and South Ninth streets (across from the park) from noon until 9 p.m. Sunday for $5 per vehicle, with 40 handicapped parking spots available free of charge. Proceeds go to Lewiston Boy Scout Troop 855, whose members will coordinate the parking services.
And again this year, the Kiwanis Club will offer continuous free shuttle service throughout the festival, from the Artpark lots to the Academy Park stop on Cayuga Street near Portage Road.
"You don't have to worry about parking," Gismondi and Wolfgang said.
They both encourage residents to include the festival on their must-do lists.
On Friday, Aug. 21, Dance Like a Star with Serge hosted the Niagara County Peach Queen Pageant contestants at the studio for a luau party. The contestants learned the cha-cha, rhumba and a few other steps. They danced with partners and were treated to performances by the professional dance staff.
Dance Like a Star with Serge is located at 222 Portage Road, Lewiston.
Readying with Rellim
On Wednesday, the Peach Queen contestants learned about proper makeup and hair techniques courtesy of Lauren Miller and Rellim Hair and Make-Up Design Studio, located at 757 Cayuga St.
The Peach Queen contestants volunteer and attend events leading up to Peach Festival weekend (Sept. 11-13).