Niagara Gazette — In the Twin Cities, it’s the time of year for pumpkins and basket raffles, arts and crafts, hayrides and bounce houses — and don’t forget the chowder.
The Veterans Park Fall Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the park in the City of Tonawanda, followed a week later by the North Tonawanda Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 5. While the events have many things in common — community groups, vendors, games among them — they also each have a history and traditions all their own.
Amanda Lofft, City of Tonawanda recreation director, said that this will mark the 18th year of the Veterans Park tradition, which is made possible by countless volunteers and many community groups. The event includes an arts and crafts show, a basket raffle, community vendors and tables, youth activities, kids’ games, a pumpkin patch, hayrides and representatives and vehicles from the City of Tonawanda Fire Department. This year, Rite Aid will also be providing flu shots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Just the oldies but goodies,” Lofft said. “We’ll have seven kettles of chowder. We’ll have plenty of chowder, from the Tonawanda Football Clinic and Gastown Sportsmens’ Club, and we make our own as well.
“We’re really looking forward to it, and it looks like the weather’s going to be beautiful. It’s really a very family-friendly event our community really looks forward to.”
A week later, the second North Tonawanda Fall Festival will take place, with its one big change from last year the move to outside the former Gilmore Elementary School at 789 Gilmore Ave.
Alex Domaradzki, youth coordinator of the NT Department of Youth, Recreation & Parks, which sponsors the event along with the Christian Academy of Western New York, said that last year’s inaugural festival went very well, but this year’s will be larger.
“We’re at almost 50 vendors now,” he said. “We have a lot more vendors, crafters and organizations participating and we’ll be doing some new contests. We’ll be repeating some from last year because people loved them so much, and we are also adding some new ones as well.”
Two of those new additions are a doughnut-eating contest and a slingshot game in which children can fling a water balloon at pumpkins, winning any gourd they hit.
In addition to the games, crafters and vendors, there will be adult and family contests, face painting and bounce houses, a basket raffle and pumpkin patch, entertainment by Matt’s Music and a demonstration by Jindo Martial Arts, and refreshments including hot dogs, chili, baked goods and pulled pork and fries from J&L Boulevard BBQ.
The North Tonawanda Fire Department will provide fire safety information, demonstrations, fire truck tours and basket lifts. The NT Interchurch Food Pantry will hold a food drive; those who contribute non-perishable food items will receive tickets for the games.
Domaradzki said organizers anticipate the event will be even more popular than last year’s festival, which was well-received, if chilly.
“We hope everyone comes,” he said. “There certainly is something for everyone.”
Contact reporter Jill Keppeler at 693-1000, ext. 4313.