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Niagara Footprint Festival leaves a positive impression

Sat, Feb 2nd 2019 07:00 am
The Siberian Husky Club provided a rare glimpse of dog-sledding in Beaver Island State Park. (Photo by Mike Owen)
The Siberian Husky Club provided a rare glimpse of dog-sledding in Beaver Island State Park. (Photo by Mike Owen)

The Niagara Footprint Festival defied the cold and snow Saturday at Beaver Island State Park and drew hundreds of visitors to a winter festival in its first showing.

Crowds packed the Beaver Island Clubhouse and later filled historic River Lea, home of the Grand Island Historical Society, for a chili fundraiser, tours of the home, and demonstrations of blacksmithing and winter living.

As if heralding the wintry weather that arrived three days later, the festival saw patrons enjoy such activities as carriage rides, dog sledding, and snowshoeing, all activities that reduce the carbon footprint.

Organizers of the event were pleased with the turnout. Grand Island Councilwoman Bev Kinney, among the organizers, praised the cooperation of the Town of Grand Island, Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, Niagara River Greenway Commission, Grand Island Historical Society, the Economic Development Advisory Board, Conservation Advisory Board, Sierra Club, and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, as well as sponsors and vendors, such as Grand Island farms.

The Western New York Welcome Center piggybacked on the Footprint Festival events and had a “Meet, Greet & Eat” with vendors providing samples of the products that the Taste NY Cafe carries in the Welcome Center. Among the vendors were Momma De’s Bakery and Dick & Jenny’s Restaurant.

Dan DiCamillo, a fourth-generation member of the bakery that bears his name, was among the vendors at the “Meet, Greet & Eat” as well.

“I think it’s important to really connect to the local community and show that we are a local business and that we do have our roots here in Niagara Falls and Western New York,” he said of participating in the vendor fair. “And also just to build good relationships with their neighbors and to expose people to our products.”

Renée Day, marketing manager at the Welcome Center, said, “This is what we were hoping for. It’s been a slow start, but on a cold January Saturday morning, I wouldn’t expect much different.”

Many people started their day at the Welcome Center before heading over to the Footprint Festival. While at the new center, they could discover the Taste NY cafe and market has a Taste WNY flair.

“There’s some welcome centers downstate and they kind of were the first Taste New York markets,” Day said. “So there’s a lot of New York state products. But now it’s time to put the Western New York flavor in the Taste New York market. We want to carry products from all five Western New York counties.”

Day described the type of Western New York food available in the Welcome Center as authentic.

“I think Western New York is an opportunity for people to try real food. I think, from what I hear about other places in the country, especially people who have moved out of the area, they love to come home to Western New York because they can get authentic food, not only made maybe by mom and dad, but in restaurants,” Day said. “A lot of other areas are just flush with chains. In Western New York, we’ve always had great restaurants and now there seems to be just a revival in the farm to table and you know a lot of homemade ethnic foods and I restaurants are growing as are the products that are sold in those restaurants.”

Students from the Niagara Culinary Arts Institute created a dragon ice sculpture.

The Niagara Culinary Arts Institute had an ice sculpting demonstration at the Niagara Footprint Festival. (Photo by Larry Austin)

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