By Zackary Kephart
Get ready, because Canal Fest is back, and it's better than ever.
Running from this Sunday, July 15, to Sunday, July 22, the 36th annual Canal Fest of the Tonawandas is a free event that will take place at Niawanda Park, Route 266 on River Road. The eight-day event will feature live music, carnival games and rides, food, competitions and several other activities.
President Peter Chenier Jr. said many of the events will be improved upon this year, including old fan-favorite events such as the Chalk-It-Up Street Art Contest, Car Cruise and Bike Cruise. Chenier said, "In addition to our parade, these events always bring in a big draw of people."
Chenier said Canal Fest is expected to have around 100,000 attendees for its eight-day run this year. Considering attendees can see the attractions, meet old friends and participate and watch the events, it's no wonder people keep coming back for more.
The annual Chalk-It-Up street art contest will help kick off Canal Fest from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday on Main Street in Tonawanda. This year, the theme is "Friendship and Harmony." Pre-registration is encouraged.
The "Charles Fleischman" Canal Fest Parade will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, starting at Grove and Minera streets in Tonawanda and traveling over to Webster and Goundry streets in North Tonawanda.
On Wednesday, the 20th annual car cruise will be set up at 6 p.m. in two staging areas - one in North Tonawanda's Gratwick Riverside Park and the other in Tonawanda's Niawanda Park. Both venues provide a view of the Niagara River.
On Friday, the 13th annual bike cruise will set up at 5:30 p.m. and start from North Tonawanda's Webster Street. From there, the event will run from Sweeney to Goundry streets. Participants are encouraged to bring items for food pantries.
Also, on both Saturday, July 21, and Sunday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can shop during the arts and crafts show. Various vendors will line up along Webster and Goundry streets in North Tonawanda and Main and Broad streets in Tonawanda.
To cap off the event, Canal Fest will feature its famous fireworks show at dusk on the following Sunday from the Renaissance Bridge in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.
For parking, Chenier recommends either parking in the Manhattan parking lot in North Tonawanda or in any of the paid parking lots the nonprofit organizations use.
This year, Canal Fest will offer a brand-new way to save on ride prices. Pay-one-price wristband bracelets will be available every day the rides are open (July 16-22). They are $25 each on the midway.
While the speed ride may require an additional ticket or two, the bracelets are good on all rides the day of purchase.
Discounted presale wristband vouchers can also be purchased for $22 each at the Carrousel Museum in North Tonawanda, Tops Friendly Markets on Young and Niagara streets in Tonawanda and Meadow Drive in North Tonawanda.
Additionally, presale wristband vouchers can also be purchased at Market in the Square in Budwey's Plaza on Division Street in North Tonawanda and Lane Jewelers on Seymour Street in Tonawanda. These will be good on the day chosen to use them. Individual tickets can also be purchased at the midway ticket booths.
In addition to providing fun and entertainment for everyone, Canal Fest is also known for supporting local nonprofit organizations, as well.
For more information on the festival, how to register for events or for e-purchases, visit the Carrousel Museum website at http://www.carrouselmuseum.org/.