Niagara Gazette — The Gateway Harbor Chocolate & Wine Festival began four years ago in an effort to draw more people to the area’s waterfront and fill a void of family-friendly events in the Twin Cities, according to North Tonawanda Youth, Recreation and Parks Director Patty Brosius.
And since its inception, she said that goal has been achieved with attendance growing from dozens to hundreds and the number of participating business blossoming along with the crowds.
Brosius said this time around, the festival will have many familiar faces and vendors, in a push to keep business local. Held in partnership with the City of Tonawanda recreation department, it features chocolatiers, four wineries, several bakeries and a raft of children’s activities.
“We wanted something different than concerts and another thing for boaters to come and see,” Brosius said.
Among those differences will be attempts to further tie downtown merchants into the festival. Brosius said she came up with the idea for the festival after taking stock of the many area businesses that would benefit from another gathering.
“I was thinking of all the different places we have around here and what we could accomplish by incorporating what they do,” she said. “There’s a lot of merchants down here who have various offerings. I thought of Platter’s here in North Tonawanda. And overall, really, who doesn’t love chocolate?”
Held along the Erie Canal and spreading onto Webster Street, Brosius said she there will be games geared to children such as chocolate finger painting, candy mask making and a candy man game show, while all-ages events will also take place like chocolate lip balm demonstrations and an ice cream eating contest.
To further incentivize adult attendance, Midnight Run Wine Cellars, Merritt Estate Winery Schulze Vineyards & Winery and Willow Creek Winery — all scattered north and south of the Twin Cities — will be in one place to form a kind of miniature wine tour.
Several Webster Street businesses will also partake, including Lou’s Restaurant, which from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. will serve chocolate pancakes and french toast, while local farmers will be on hand selling their wares.
Many of the children’s activities will be cost between 25 cents and 50 cents, Brosius said.
“Every half an hour we’ll have another event going on,” she said.
The festival will run from noon to 6 p.m. today on Sweeney Street. More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Fourth annual Chocolate & Wine Festival • WHERE: Gateway Harbor Park and Webster Street, North Tonawanda • WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. today