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Academy Park and the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell.
Academy Park and the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell.

Academy Park transforming into hub of Lewiston activities

by jmaloni
Fri, May 17th 2024 11:00 am

By Joshua Maloni

GM/Managing Editor

Academy Park – one of Lewiston’s largest, most underused spaces – is finally becoming the social spot leaders have long hoped it would become.

At last week’s Village of Lewiston work session, two-dozen summertime events were approved for the site. At the same time, work has begun on the park’s portion of a bike path; construction is set to commence on the new pavilion; and the comfort station is about to get an artistic makeover.

It’s a level of activity at Academy Park that would’ve been unthinkable five and 10 years ago.

“I think it's great; we’re finally utilizing that park,” Mayor Anne Welch said. “It's a beautiful park and now we're going to have a brand-new pavilion, bike path, mural artwork. We have concerts all the time. We have yoga classes. I mean, the most we ever saw years ago was baseball games once in a while. We’ve got a beautiful veterans monument, and they have a nice luncheon after the ceremony at Memorial Day. It's great.”

Activity at Academy Park slowly began to increase in the summer of 2018 when Jamie Symmonds debuted the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market. In November 2019, a new “Circle of Honor” veterans monument debuted right across from the Hibbard’s plaza.

Still, events were few and far between – bookended by the Memorial Day observance in May and the Niagara County Peach Festival in mid-September.

DiMino’s Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino celebrates the grand-opening of the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell, and welcomes the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to Academy Park, in this 2022 bicentennial picture. (File photo)

The BPO will return this summer. (File photo)


Academy Park’s renaissance really began in the fall of 2020, when the Village Board approved Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino’s plan to relocate the bandshell from the site’s northwest corner to the southwest side adjacent to Syros Restaurant and Warren’s Village Hardware.

The new and enlarged Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Bandshell was dedicated July 2, 2022, during Lewiston’s bicentennial celebration, and it welcomed the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for a concert later that evening.

Christmas Walk now begins on the bandshell, with the Lewiston Council on the Arts expanding the tree-lighting ceremony to include musical and dance performances, plus stories and photos with Santa and friends. The Upward Niagara Chamber of Commerce also will utilize portions of Academy Park for this year’s weekend events.

Throughout this summer:

•Be OK Studio will host yoga classes at Academy Park from 10-11 a.m. Saturdays, June 8, 15 and 29, and July 13, Aug. 3 and 17; and a wellness and vendor event from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30. The YMCA Buffalo/Niagara also will hold yoga classes in Academy Park, from 10-11 a.m. Sundays, June 9, 16, 23; July 7 and 21; and Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25.

•Bianca Falsetti will host a vendor fair/fundraiser starting at 5 p.m. Friday, July 19.

•The Niagara Wine Trail’s Wine Festival returns to Academy Park from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 27, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 28. On Saturday, this event will run in conjunction with the third BPO concert in the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell. Tops is again sponsoring the concert.


Market Manager Rachel Jolbert is expanding the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market for the 2024 season. (File photo)


•The Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market will be held on the Cayuga Street side of Academy Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday, starting June 1.

New market manager Rachel Jolbert said, “I believe Academy Park is truly the perfect location for a farmers market.

“One of the most special things about the Lewiston Artisan Farmers Market is that it is held in a park. There is such a different vibe and feeling when you can shop and hang out at the farmers market with grass under your feet, surrounded by trees and green space, versus many other markets that take place in cities – on concrete.

“Academy Park is one of the first landmarks in the Village of Lewiston that is easily known and recognized as you enter the village. Having the market at what I would consider the ‘entrance’ of the village creates a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and community members to come into the Village of Lewiston on a Saturday to spend their day.”

•The Lewiston Council on the Arts will use Academy Park and the Alphonso I. DiMino Memorial Band Shell to host an Independence Day celebration with live music and dancing performances from 7 p.m. until dusk Thursday, July 4. Local groups will perform, as will headline act Reflector. Fireworks follow.

LCA also slotted its annual “Summer of ’69” for 7 p.m. July 12; and will pair “Shakespeare in Delaware Park” and Tom Keefer and Celtic Cross for a 6:30 p.m. double-bill on July 29.

Executive Director Maria Fortuna Dean said, “Academy Park is truly the gateway to all of Lewiston and the Lower Niagara River! It is the first sight that greets visitors whether they arrive by car, or by bike, or on foot from the Greenway Trail.

“We are so excited to have the beautiful building mural finally coming to life this summer! Designed by Lewiston artist Maureen Kellick in a unique collaboration with metal artist Dan Buttery, the mural will wrap around the Academy Park ‘comfort station’ on Ninth Street, and will reflect the natural beauty of our region – our abundant orchards, vineyards, farmland and wildlife. Buttery’s sculptural additions to the mural will feature a dimensional, full-scale tree-bench designed for the north wall, creating a spot to rest and take in the surrounding park, and, for a brief moment, become a ‘part’ of the mural.

“For visitors and residents alike, Academy Park is taking its rightful place as the beating heart of our village!”

Prior to its move, the bandshell was paired with a set of bleachers in what seemed like a logical location. However, the amenities were not used outside of the Peach Festival.

In the spring of 2020, Harold Hibbard donated equipment and manpower to tear down the bleachers. DiMino paid for the bandshell – named in his father’s honor – to be moved because “everybody told me – that they played at that venue – it was in the wrong spot” in that it was only accessible from a particular corner.

DiMino also financed the project because, “In all the years that I've lived and worked in Lewiston, I played on the ball diamonds. We have picnics there. I understand the transformation of the park, but to actually only utilize it for one week a year, when there's 52 of them, was a shame,” he said. “So, whatever they want to do, I'm all for it.”

DiMino and developer Bill Game recently made donations for the new pavilion, to be situated next to the bandshell. The Town of Lewiston also contributed $190,000 in Greenway funding.

Welch said “The plans are all done. We’re just tweaking it. I want to see a shovel in the ground as soon as possible.”

Her expectation is that the structure will open and be available this summer, perhaps as soon as July.

Engineer Mike Marino said the structure should only take about a month to complete – once all materials are secured.

The Village of Lewiston Department of Public Works is installing a portion of the Empire State Trail/Niagara River Greenway bike pathway alongside Academy Park’s east side. (Top photos courtesy of the DPW)


Earlier this week, the Village of Lewiston Department of Public Works began building a new Empire State Trail/Niagara River Greenway bike pathway connection between Cayuga and North Ninth streets.

Superintendent Larry Wills said his crew is creating an 8-foot-wide blacktop path stretching behind the comfort station and leading to the Upward Niagara Chamber office and welcome center.

To see this level of activity at Academy Park, “It makes me feel that we're blessed. It really does,” DiMino said, “Just think about where we live, and compare it to just Western New York. We have a little piece of everybody, but all the good pieces.”

Upward Niagara Chamber President Jennifer Pauly said, “Academy Park is the first beautiful green space you see as you enter the Village of Lewiston. The improvements over the years with contributions from many local organizations and businesses have helped increase Academy Park usage. It is great to see the park being used. With the added amenities, we have seen an increase in traffic to the Chamber office. We are looking forward to the restroom improvements and mural, hopefully in time for the busy summer tourist season.”

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