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The Falconwood Event Center, left, the V'Randa Restaurant, right, and the Sand Stand, center. (Photo by Michael J. Billoni)
The Falconwood Event Center, left, the V'Randa Restaurant, right, and the Sand Stand, center. (Photo by Michael J. Billoni)

Solar eclipse activities set for Beaver Island State Park

Sat, Mar 30th 2024 07:00 am

By Alice Gerard

Senior Contributing Writer

The April 8 total solar eclipse is the second visible from North America since 20i7. The next one will not be seen until Aug. 23, 2044. The National Science Foundation considers this eclipse to be a “once-in-a-generation event of astronomical magnitude.”

Upward of 300,000 people are expected to come to Western New York, which is in the path of totality, said Tammy Papia, director of catering and events for Montana International.

“After we heard about the eclipse and the direction of the path that it was taking, and we realized that we were right in that path, our thought is we are sitting on 1,000 acres of park and 1,000 parking spots. We’re along the river. We’ve got so many things that we could do that we decided to put together a festival, an all-day event, giving people activities to do while they’re waiting for the eclipse to actually take place,” Papia explained.

For Island residents, traveling to Beaver Island State Park could prove to be less onerous than a trip to either Niagara Falls or Buffalo.

“I know that going to Niagara Falls on a Fourth of July weekend is gridlock, just trying to get downtown, and knowing that NASA is going to be coming there, you’re not going to be able to get near there,” Papia said. “Same with downtown Buffalo. But, where we are, we’ve got so much space here that we’d just love to bring people.”

The day’s events will begin at 9 a.m. with a one-mile run for kids. At 9:30 a.m., a 5K fun run for adults will start.

“We are hosting a craft and vendor fair within the full footprint of the Falconwood building, inside and outside,” Papia said. “All of our food and beverage outlets will be open. We’ll have Bogey’s Restaurant over on the golf side. That will be open. The Sand Stand, which is usually our beach concession, will be open. The V’Randa Restaurant will be open for takeout, as well as inside the Falconwood Ballroom. We will be hosting them out on the lawn between the building and the beach. We have reached out into the community to other vendors and businesses that might be able to enhance the overall feel with activities.

“We have Leaping Beauty Bounce Houses & Tent Rental, which is also a Grand Island business, which is donating some of the jumbo lawn games.”

She added, “One of the vendors that’s coming that I’m really excited about will be parked right in front of the building. They make custom T-shirts, and he has designed two logos that are going to be specific, and they say that they saw the eclipse at Beaver Island State Park. So, he has those two logos, and they can have them put on T-shirts. People will have something custom (designed) to where they saw the eclipse.”

The goal is to make this an event that is enjoyable for both adults and children.

“One of the things was to make this kid-friendly,” Papia explained. “There are some schools that have reached out and said the eclipse was not initially on their radar, so they weren’t even thinking about it. They have now closed their schools. Hence, the kids fun run.”

For people who are interested in viewing the eclipse from the water, “Blue Water Marina will be offering kayaks that people can rent and, if they get the right time slot, they can literally watch the eclipse from out in the middle of the Niagara River, which is a very unique experience,” Papia said.

A volleyball tournament is also set to occur on the beach near the boardwalk.

In addition to all the other activities, Montana International will host music by Ransom Road, a local band from Grand Island. The performance is scheduled to start at noon.

“We will be hosting (the band) out on the lawn between the building and the beach. We’ll have a tented space. We will have a beer tent,” Papia said.

“We’ll play for about three hours,” said Ryan Tetreault, guitarist and lead vocalist. “It’s super cool, and it’s a unique experience to play at the eclipse.”

Tetreault said the band dedicates every performances to guitar teacher Derek Mediak, an Island resident who died in 2021: “He taught me for more than six years. He was a huge reason for motivating us to take the stage and perform. Helped us get our first gigs.”

In addition to Tetreault, the other members of the band are lead guitarist Mike Podgorny and drummer Justin Podgorny. The band plays a variety of 1970s-2000s-era covers, as well as some original music.

Visitors to Beaver Island State Park will also have the opportunity to visit River Lea, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first floor will be open for tours, said Grand Island Historical Society President Curt Nestark. He added, “If you’ve never been to River Lea, you should come and take a tour.”

When asked about the potential for rain or a completely overcast day, Papia said, “It is Buffalo weather, and you never know. It could be overcast during the actual totality part of it. Our reply is that’s why we’re creating something for people to do. They can come inside. They can still get something to eat. They can shop the vendors, or they can visit the vendor booths inside. We’ll have the tent outside.

“Our hotels are going for such an astronomical amount. To get here, my thought is, if someone wants to be here that badly that they are spending all this money for a hotel or they’re tenting it somewhere, or coming with their RVs or however they’re getting here, they have set time aside to come here, and we might as well give them something to do.”

To make this event a success, a good deal of volunteer help is needed, said Cyndy Montana, managing owner of Montana International.

“We have contacted the school, the government class that requires volunteer hours. We’re going to need a ton of volunteers, just to direct people,” she said. “It’s going to be crazy because a lot of people coming here have never been here. We want as many community members to be part of this as possible.”

Papia said, “The nice thing is that there’s so much to do in the park, besides the things that we’re bringing to the event that day. You’re going to have disc golf out there. People can bike. They can hike; they can do the water. I wish we could find somebody who could run a sand castle competition or something on the beach, which would be really fun. We’re just kind of spearheading the project. We’re pulling in businesses to act on their own as their own individual business. We’re pulling them all under one umbrella to host this. So, something for the community.”

Maps and signs are being printed by the Island Ship Center.

“Instead of printing 2,000 park maps, we’re going to print a smaller number of maps, but we’ll have some large posters that will have QR code on them, that they can scan for a map. And (people will) have the map right on their phone,” Papia said.

Tetreault said, “Come have fun with family and friends, support local business and musicians, and enjoy a rare and unique experience right on Grand Island.”

“I am really excited about bringing the community together,” Montana said.


Eclipse Day at Beaver Island State Park Vendor List

One Unique Boutique, Wild Ways Photography, Branding Buffalo LLC, Pressed Nails By Hannah, Abynormal Abominations, Lee Crafts, Ace's Arts, Hearts Desire, Family Rocks LLC, Vibration Beings, Doro Design Studios, Gems & Goods by Acee, Black Button Distillery, LoveXLush, Mother Like Daughter Creations, Baseline Boutique, HavenPoint Candle Co., Island Fun Center, Pup Soda, Outlaw Popcorn, Munch Treats, Pure Artisans Essentials

Interested in being a vendor at the event?

Find an application at


To sign up for activities or to get more information about various organizations present at the event, check out the following links:

√ 5k fun run (youth and adults) – To register, go to: https://healthybuffalo.org/solar-eclipse-5k-kids-1-mile-run/#

√ Music by Ransom Road (https://www.facebook.com/ransomroadband/)

√ Kayak rentals (https://www.facebook.com/bluewatermarinagi/)

√ Jumbo lawn games (https://www.facebook.com/leapingbeauty)

√ Volleyball tournament (https://www.facebook.com/events/1547553529361837/)

√ Grand Island Historical Museum (https://www.facebook.com/gihistoricalsociety/)

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