By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Reporter
Niagara County farmers are proud of the exceptional taste of Niagara County corn, and their produce is eagerly awaited each year at the North Tonawanda City Market at 365 Payne Ave.
Now, the market farmers’ sweet corn will be the center of the county’s first major Corn Fest. The inaugural event will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the City Market on Saturday, Aug. 19. There will be an overlap of the City Market’s regular Saturday business and the festival, since the market is open from 7 a.m. through 1 p.m. The market activity will jump-start the event, then the transition to festival will be underway.
“This is going to be such an exciting event for the entire family, and I firmly believe that it will fast become the Corn Festival of the north,” NT Mayor Austin Tylec said in a news release.
Other dignitaries on hand at the announcement included Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman, Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino, Assemblyman William Conrad, Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti, Joe Andalora of David Chevrolet, and Market in the Square owner Brian Kusmierski – whose business in the Budwey’s Plaza is the presenting sponsor of the Corn Fest. And, naturally, the farmers who bring their produce to the market were on hand for the announcement.
“This is what the NT Market is all about – bringing people together from all over Western New York to experience a day of fun, festivities, great food and entertainment,” said Market Manager Chris Delprince.
“It’s actually a combination of things really bringing the community all together. It’s to highlight not only our great farmers, but also the farmers market itself,” he said. “It’s pulling the business community together that’s paying for the whole event, and also a couple of nonprofits will benefit from it.”
WNY Heroes and the North Tonawanda Athletic Association are the two nonprofit charities that will benefit from the Corn Fest. Delprince said the two groups will be cooking the food for the festival.
He pointed out there will be plenty of parking available, and signs will point the way. There’s a large city parking lot in the back of the City Market. They will be setting up a 30-by-105-foot tent where people can get their corn and eat right under the tent. There will also be a beer and wine tent and a dessert tent. Other businesses are setting aside more areas for additional parking.
Delprince rattled off the food delights that will be available: “We’re going to have – obviously – corn in many different ways (including steamed and roasted sweet corn and flavored corn). We’ll have Italian sausage, hot dogs, dessert (including brownie sundaes).”
Festgoers also will have the opportunity to buy a bag of fresh corn to enjoy at home.
The WNY Heroes Wall is unveiled in front of a large crowd in May 2022 at the North Tonawanda Farmers Market at Payne Avenue and Robinson Street. (Submitted photo)
Viewing the WNY Heroes Wall at the North Tonawanda Farmers Market are, from left, Market Manager Chris Delprince, David Chevrolet owner Joe Smith and North Tonawanda Mayor Austin Tylec. WNY Heroes is one of two nonprofit charities that will benefit from proceeds from the North Tonawanda Corn Fest, to be held at the market from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. The other charitable organization is the North Tonawanda Athletic Association.
The headliner for the live entertainment is the energetic funk R&B party band Nickel City Pimp Choir, Delprince said.
“We’ve got the Gateway Harbor who gave us their big space to use,” he noted. The main stage and entertainment activities are sponsored by David Chevrolet, which also will offer giveaways throughout the event.
There will be plenty of contests with a corn theme: a corn-eating contest, a corn-husking contest and a cornhole contest, as well as a competition for the best corn dish, prepared by various NT Market farm vendors. Celebrity judges will determine the best culinary creation of the day. Also in the culinary category, there will be a butter-making demonstration by Sunny Cove Farm.
For the kids, activities include face painting and balloon artists. A variety of vendors will offer an assortment of gift items, food products, wine and spirits and more under the City Market grand pavilion.
“It’s a great community event to shine light on our North Tonawanda market and farmers and to bring something to North Tonawanda,” Delprince said.
“This is a Niagara County corn fest, so it’s not just a North Tonawanda event,” he said, noting it will be a fun day for the whole Western New York community.
In his speech at the announcement of the event, Delprince highlighted the unique nature of Niagara County farming.
“Located near the shores of Lake Ontario and benefitting from unique soil conditions, the farmers of the NT Market pride themselves on producing the finest fruits in the region, including grapes for wine, strawberries, apples, peaches and, of course, outstanding sweet corn,” he said. “They declare that their corn, grown in Niagara County, stands out as the best-tasting corn in Western New York.”
The NT Corn Fest aims to raise awareness about the North Tonawanda City Market, recently voted the second-best market in New York state and 13th in the U.S. It is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the year. Delprince, who took over market management early last year, said he has strived to increase the product mix and improve the infrastructure of the market, as well as adding the WNY Heroes wall and a colorful mural.
“We’re kind of having fun being able to impact the market in the community, and everybody’s happy,” he said. “They’re all small business people there. After COVID, it took a toll on their business. We kind of brought it back and even lot more. The crowd has been heavy there.
“These are the type of events that help the market, but it’s not only a farmer’s market anymore, it’s basically a market experience.”
Delprince said the NT Corn Fest idea arose as his way to give back to the community.