Niagara Gazette

January 12, 2014

Niagara Falls shines in national spotlight

By Mark Scheer and Timothy Chipp mark.scheer@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Who would have thought?

It’s been an absolute whirlwind for Niagara Falls this past week, with ups, downs and a bit of viral marketing sprinkled in. Pictures getting worldwide attention, inclusions in top-lists to visit and some nasty, cold air keeping folks indoors all cozy and (trying to stay) warm have all sparked some renewed interest in the mighty cataract.

It all started Tuesday, when the area’s first blizzard in 20 years brought sub-zero temperatures to the region and the scenic photographs to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Photos of the ice-covered falls and Niagara Falls State Park — including shots taken by the Gazette’s James Neiss — have been all the rage on social media outlets and received attention from several national and international print and television outlets, including The Today Show, the Washington Post and the New York Daily News this week.

It’s the type and level of attention the community couldn’t buy on its own, according to John Percy, the head of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., who said it’s nice to see Niagara Falls get some recognition for its winter-time beauty for a change.

“It’s more coverage than we get sometimes in the summer time,” Percy said. “We really are trying to market Niagara as a year-round destination so we’ll take the coverage.”

Percy said the added media attention supports ongoing efforts to boost tourism numbers during the traditionally slower periods of the year, specifically the winter months.

One of the more interesting sets of photographs from this week appeared to show Niagara Falls frozen in place, a feat many in the area recognize as impossible. Indeed, the photographs were identified as a hoax, though the attention they gathered themselves caught the attention of the city’s mayor.

Paul Dyster said despite the magnitude of scenic shots, whether real or fake, required some of the coldest temperatures and wind chills in the last decade, the age-old saying by P.T. Barnum about publicity never being bad is apparently as true as ever.

“P.T. Barnum was right, there really is no such thing as bad publicity,” Dyster said. “Any attention we get certainly bodes well for our upcoming 2014 tourist season.”

As if pictures of the famous waterfall wasn’t enough, the New York Times certainly piled on the city’s good news this past week. The newspaper released its “52 places to go in 2014” with No. 52 instructing readers to visit Niagara Falls, N.Y. if they get the chance.

In the brief explanation why, a number of reasons why pop up. But like the city 20 minutes south, food is becoming one of the major draws in the cataract region.

“Known for its remarkable natural beauty and tourist kitsch, Niagara Falls is now evolving into a draw for those who love food as well as those who seek thrills,” the Times piece said, plucking the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute and the Griffon Pub, a Town of Niagara eatery on Military Road, out of the crowded pack.

Griffon Pub co-owner Ken Scibetta said he had no idea his restaurant would be featured but is excited — and hopeful — for what the attention means, both to him and the area as a whole.

“Of all the restaurants, they picked us against the ones that’ve been here forever and ever and deserve it more than we do,” he said. “It’s been such a whirlwind. Hopefully this starts some sort of trend for Niagara Falls. We want more creative restaurants in Niagara Falls. I think this is only going to bring more people to the area.”

With a picture from Old Fort Niagara accompanying it, the Times piece, found on the paper’s website, www.nytimes.com, also praises the Canadian side, noting the region’s growing wine scene, plans for upcoming War of 1812 bicentennial re-enactments, the availability of rides aboard a new luxury catamaran later this year and the possibility of a daredevil’s wet dream of zip lining across the Niagara Gorge coming true soon.