In typical Niagara Falls fashion, the Niagara Wine, Food and Music Festival is no more.
Last year, the two-day event drew thousands on a sunny September weekend. A dozen bands and scores of vendors from throughout the Niagara Frontier selling all manner of delicious food complemented the watering holes and restaurants that have sprung up in the once-moribund section of Third Street between Niagara Street and Ferry Avenue.
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"Next year, we'll do this every weekend!" Vince Anello -- who was then running for mayor -- told the Reporter.
It was a brief, flickering moment of optimism in a downtown that's seen more than its share of hard knocks over the decades.
After the celebration died down, however, politics and ego reared their ugly heads, as they so often do here in the Falls.
First, Michael Gawel, one of the chief organizers of the event, was accused of some financial irregularity. Niagara County District Attorney Matt Murphy looked into the allegations, but found nothing.
Then came a series of arguments among the organizers, petty, in our view, as to who would be in charge of this year's event.
Finally, Anello, now the mayor, submitted a bill to the festival for electrical work he'd done at last year's event, despite the fact he'd said at the time that the work had been done for free. It seems he was miffed at some who were involved with the festival for their opposition to his parking meter plan.
Several key organizers quit in disgust and those who remained lacked the time or the talent to pull the thing off on their own.
If there's any bright side to all this, it's that Third Street businessman Frank Smith and Niagara Falls Redevelopment Vice President Roger Trevino decided to devote their considerable energy this year to tonight's Winds, Waves and Wines fund-raiser for the Aquarium of Niagara. Advance ticket sales have been brisk, and a good turnout is expected.
But, so long as petty jealousies and squabbles are the order of the day here, it will be difficult for any good idea or -- dare we say -- master plan to see the light of day.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Sept. 21 2004|