By Terry Duffy
It was a celebration of all things peach, Lewiston and more last Friday at the Lewiston Kiwanis preview for the 64th Niagara County Peach Festival in Academy Park. The four-day event returns Sept. 8-11.
Kiwanis officials, including Niagara County Peach Festival Chairperson Dean Beltrano, veteran Peach Festival Advisory Chairman Jerry Wolfgang, Kiwanis President Marty Pauly and transportation/parking organizer Gerry Gismondi all discussed the many happenings visitors can look forward to come opening night on Thursday. They also spoke of what this festival means and brings to the community.
Beltrano said he expects crowds in the 40,000 range. The festival itself technically kicked off this past Thursday with the all-new Peach Festival 5K race at Kiwanis Park. It was expected to feature dozens of runners in an all-new setting: the Lewiston bike path along the Niagara Scenic Parkway.
Peach Festival Proper
Beltrano said, “We will have 27 of our own vendors on the field; there will be food, fun, games, entertainment – just about anything you can think of that embodies a small community festival” next weekend. Included will be:
√ Amusements of America will again serve as ride operator at this year’s festival, with a number of thrill rides and family-friendly adventure for all ages.
√ The “Peach Taste Off” on Thursday will feature a competition of homemade peach desserts in the band shell at 5:30 p.m. The “Peach Taste Off” features recipes submitted in the categories of “Food Enthusiast,” “Culinary Student” and “Children Recipe.” Judges include Niagara County Community College President William Murabito; chef Cathy Baron, who is the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute coordinator of baking and pastry; and Webster’s Bistro head chef Mark Mistriner.
Also on opening night, look for a meet-and-greet with costumed characters, courtesy of the Superhero Alliance.
√ Opening ceremonies will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, with a rendition of both the American and Canadian national anthems. At 5:30 p.m., an All-Star Cheerleading Competition will be held in the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell, with local units representing youth football and all-star cheering squads. At 8:30 p.m., The Thurman Brothers Band will take the stage and play until the 11 p.m. closing.
√ Saturday will feature the Peach Festival parade on Center Street at 11 a.m. This year’s event will feature more than 100 units and 13 marching bands – an all-time high. Returning as parade announcer is long-time radio personality Brandy Scrufari.
√ The Peach Blossom and Peach Fuzz contests will take place Saturday on stage, at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., respectively. Peach Queen contestants will hold a fashion show on stage at 6 p.m., followed by the popular “Tribute to Elvis” with Terry Buchwald at 8 p.m.
√ On Sunday, the stage schedule includes a dance showcase from noon until 2 p.m., followed by Everyday People at 3 and 7 p.m., and the finals for the Peach Queen competition.
This year, 14 girls from Niagara County will vie for the crown and a scholarship awarded by the Kiwanis of Lewiston. Hostess for the Peach Queen finals will be WGRZ-TV news anchor Maryalice Demler.
Gismondi said free parking will again be available to all festival attendees on the upper Artpark lot. Greyline Tours shuttle buses will provide courtesy rides from there to Academy Park.
“Thanks to our partners, Artpark and Greyline, and all of our generous sponsors, we have had free parking and shuttle service to and from the Artpark upper lot for over 10 years,” he said. “It helps to minimize congestion and the hunt for a parking spot that’s close to the field. It’s quite efficient and runs on a continuous loop each day – the same hours as the festival.”
This year, the Peach Festival is expected to serve more than 14,000 pounds – some seven tons – of fresh peaches, along with the fresh shortcake made by the famous DiCamillo Bakery.
The full schedule of events is available at niagaracountypeachfestival.org.
Expanding on the “small community festival” theme, Pauly spoke of the on-field youth events – namely the Peach Fuzz and Peach Blossom contests on Saturday afternoon, and the Peach Queen scholarship pageant that concludes Sunday night.
“Due to the success of the Peach Fest last year, the Peach Queen winner this year will be able to receive a $4,000 scholarship,” Pauly said. “It is a yearlong commitment for the winner of the Peach Queen competition. She spends a year with us, she gets involved with us, she creates her own projects throughout the year.
“Our current one (Shayna Davis) just wrapped up a project with the Boys and Girls Club, and our current Peach Queen contestants were there helping. My wife, Jennifer Pauly, she runs the Peach Queen program, and she has the contestants out in the community trying to give back.
“Couple of things they’ve done this year, they’ve packed 500 backpacks … that was in cooperation with (the) United Way, Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Club. They have spent a couple of weeks at the Wear-n-Share Community Closet at the Lew-Port schools.”
Pauly then expanded on the impact this festival brings to the area.
“A few or the organizations that we donate to are Niagara Hospice, the HART foundation, Lower Niagara Community Survivors, Gliding Stars, Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry. We sponsor local events like the Jazz Fest, the Art Fest. … This year, we gave out seven scholarships to graduating seniors, and we also sponsored five student-led leadership programs in local schools – one program in the Tuscarora School, and we have three programs at the Lew-Port schools.”
Wolfgang and Pauly spoke of the invaluable impact Lewiston businessman Anthony DiMino, owner of Lewiston Tops, has made over the years. Soon after, Kiwanis presented DiMino with the Buster Lombardi Memorial Community Service Award. The accolade is given to a non-Kiwanian for their dedication to the community and civic-minded actions. DiMino was credited with renovating the Academy Park stage in honor of his late father and co-founder of DiMino Tops, Alphonso I. DiMino.
Pauly said, “Buster Lombardi was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and one of the founders of the Peach Festival. Many years ago, some members of our club decided to create a community service award in his honor. This is an award that is now Kiwanis Club specifically. We don’t hand this out to Kiwanis members; we don’t even hand this award out every year. It’s one of our special ones.
“At one of our Peach Fest meetings we were discussing earlier this year that we wanted to recognize Anthony DiMino. And we thought that this award would be perfect. He is synonymous with community service.”
Anthony DiMino receives the Buster Lombardi Memorial Community Service Award from Marty Pauly. (Photo by Bob Koshinski/All Services WNY)
Pauly spoke of DiMino’s work with the Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive held in the Tops foyer during the holiday season: “When they’re all done with that program, without any asking from the Salvation Army, Anthony will go up and ask, ‘How much more do you need?’ And he graciously gives whatever they to meet their pledges.
“He has a phenomenal scholarship program for graduating seniors. He was a regular donor to the Chamber’s food table at the height of COVID. … And he funded the relocation of this band shell in honor of his father. He breathes life into this park. We at Kiwanis, with the Peach Festival, we appreciate this stage.”
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch echoed that sentiment.
“This new stage is awesome! I would like to thank Anthony DiMino for this beautiful new bandshell that’s dedicated to his father, Alphonso DiMino. By relocating and renovating this band shell, you have created a beautiful asset to our community. This a perfect site for the band shell, and it can be used for so many concerts, festivals and events. I am so grateful, and I know that the Lewiston Kiwanis Club is grateful for this amazing gift that will be enjoyed for years to come.
“Thank you again for this beautiful band shell; I’m sure your dad will be very proud.”
As he accepted the Lombardi Award, DiMino said, “I would just like to say ‘Thank you’ to the Kiwanis Club. People really know me. I’m not someone who worries about getting awards or anything. I was taught it’s my civic duty to take care of our community. I appreciate anything that happens in this village. We have a lot of things going for us, a great fishing industry, low crime, beautiful properties. We have lot going for us.”
Turning to Kiwanis officials he said, “I appreciate everything that you’ve done. I hope you have a very successful Peach Festival. And I guess I’ll tolerate what’s going on.”
Pictured at the Peach Festival press conference are Dean Beltrano, Marty Pauly, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch and Jerry Wolfgang. (Photo by Bob Koshinski/All Services WNY)