Free public event returns to Town of Niagara
By David Yarger
On Saturday, Sept. 16, Veterans Memorial Park will host the 20th annual "Kidz 'n' Kites" celebration. Kids and families from all around are welcome to come out and enjoy a free event in the town.
The event opens registration at 11 a.m. and the first 1,000 children to register receive a free kite, T-shirt and lunch. Following registration, flying time will start at noon and end at 2 p.m.
Food and beverage, prizes and entertainment will be on hand for the event. Kids and families will find face painting, clowns, comedic juggling by injest.com, music by DJ the Dee Jay, a kite flying demo, the Niagara Falls Police Department command center, animal and wildlife rescue groups, the Niagara Falls Fire Department safety house, a car seat safety check and more.
Social Services Commissioner Anthony Restaino said the turnout for the event has done nothing but grow.
"It started out with about 500 children at first, and it's now, in fact, one of the largest events for kids," he said.
Meghan Lutz, deputy commissioner of Social Services, was appreciative of the town's hospitality and how big the event has gotten.
"We're happy on how the town has been so supportive," she said. "We welcome anyone. Some people have come from out of the county and Canada. The word has gotten out."
Zach Vigue, a volunteer and former participant in "Kidz 'n' Kites," noted how volunteering, and seeing the growth makes him reminisce.
"Volunteering and seeing the kids kind of brings me back to my childhood and reminds me a lot of the family type of events to go to. It's the best thing ever seeing the kites fly," he said.
Restaino, who's been involved with the event since 2000, said the openness of the event is nice.
"You can be from anywhere, and there's no financial requirements needed. It's just a great time for families to be together," he said.
He added it's great to hear people say how many times they've attended, and how they look forward to and expect the event every year.
Restaino said that going out to certain venues could be pricey in today's age, which makes "Kidz 'n' Kites" so valuable.
"When most families take their kids to the movies or a ballgame the cost can be prohibitive, especially for families with four to five children," he said. "There are no worries here. You can bring your family here for nothing. The event is to benefit families in the community and it's not gonna break the bank."
Vigue agreed that the free event is something special.
"It's definitely beneficial. There are some low-income families in these areas and it's a great free event that anyone can attend and bond as a family," he said.
Restaino's goal is to see as many kids as possible at the event, but there is more to the event then just the fun activities.
"We do provide different, fun activities for kids, but we also provide info for families such as the sheriff's office doing car seat safety checks. It's a fun and informative experience," he said.
Vigue said the event hits home for him, seeing the emotion on people's faces.
"An event like this doesn't just benefit the families or the kids, it also benefits the volunteers being able to see the smiles on the kids' faces," he said.
Lutz sees the event as a way of giving back.
"The goal is to have a free and fun event for Niagara County," she said. "Social Services encompasses a lot of goals, and this is a way of giving back to community. We collaborate with businesses and organizations to organize a fun and free event."
In collaborating with businesses and organizations, Lutz praised the sponsors for the event.
"The sponsors are the reason an event like this can happen. No tax-payer dollars are used for this - it's all on the sponsors," she said.
Restaino also praised the sponsors saying, "The sponsors are critical and allow us to do this event. Their generosity goes a long way, and we can't thank them enough. They see the value that brings the families together."
The event has seen the support of over 20 businesses and organizations including Fidelis Care, who Lutz says, "has been a huge sponsor for the event." This year they made a "gold flyer" donation of $1,000.
All three said, the public support for the event has been superb. The support fits this year's theme of, "Come fly with us in celebration of youth!"
Lutz agreed saying, "This is a great way for the community, town and county to come together, support youth and have fun."
For more information on the event, call 716-278-8630.