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By: Brendan McDonough
Reporter for North Tonawanda
Hundreds of people packed the Tonawanda’s for the start of the annual Canal Festival. For the past 37 years organizers have been holding the event and it runs from July 14th to July 21st.
There is no doubt it is a week-long event aimed at celebrating the canal and helping to bring the community together.
“This event is growing all time and it supports up to 15 non-for-profit organizations between the two cities,” said Peter Chenier, President of the Canal Festival. “It supports the boy scouts, volunteer fireman and a number of churches.”
This year there are dozens of vendors selling everything from funnel cakes to fried dough. More than 200,000 are expected to hit the streets over the course of the eight day event.
Emileigh Mazurkiewicz was crowned queen of the 2019 Canal Festival. For her the pageant is more than just wearing a crown, but rather representing an area that she loves and helping to inspire the next generation of young girls.
“As the queen I try and be a role model to all of the younger girls and show them that if you have strong well-rounded qualities that you can do anything” said Mazurkiewicz.
One of the highlights of the event is a chalk drawing contest. This year’s theme is safari and the artists are judged in three separate categories. The age groups run from 6th grade and under, 6th grade to 12th grade, and then adults. Prizes are given out the winners and the contestants are judged individually.
“You think that the kids are just going to do something small, like how they would on a piece of paper, and then it turns into this 8’ x 10’ mural and it is wonderful how they incorporate the shading,” said Emily Ertel, Chalk Festival, Co-Advisor. “The thought and creativity, all in just a matter of three and a half hours, is off the charts.”
Members of the National Guard were also at the event. They came to show people what they do and to educated young kids about how it can also be a rewarding career.
“We offer 100 percent tuition to any New York State, SUNY, school so you can go to UB or Buffalo State for free,” said Sargent James Farley, National Guard. “Your total obligation is one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer,”.
In addition to being educated about other organizations, some people came to just look at the canal and enjoy all of the beauty it has to offer.
“This is an annual tradition for me,” said Michelle Jaynes, Tonawanda Resident. “The food is great and I like the games. I especially like the craft shows.”
Water Bike Adventures offers people the chance to not only look at the canal but to ride on it. For $12 an hour people can bike or paddle their way through its many paths.
“An hour is usually just enough time because after that people get tired and this is a really good location because we are right on Gateway Harbor and you can go out the creek or up the canal,” said Abby Chilton, Water Bike Adventures.
In addition to celebrating the canal organizers are hoping people will stop into the shops along Webster Street and add a much-needed boost to the local economy. All helping to celebrate the canal and bring additional tourism to the area long after the event is over.