Frederick Law Olmsted would have enjoyed the Grand Gardens of the Niagara Portage Walk on Saturday.
Olmsted, a noted landscaper, who designed Manhattan’s Central Park — along with several other important parks in New York, including the Niagara Falls State Park — would have enjoyed seeing the gardens along Portage Road in Niagara Falls. Given his interest in social causes, he would have likely enjoyed the gospel festival and African American Male Wellness Walk also taking place as part of the event.
Olmsted will be present in spirit as part of a one-man play performed by Boston history buff Gerry Wright at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Niagara Falls Public Library. Wright will share stories about the noted park designer, who was a leader in the “Free Niagara” movement to save the land surrounding Niagara Falls so that it would always be open to the public.
“He was very concerned that rich people would control the parks,” said Wright. “Olmsted was totally committed to sharing the resources for every American.”
The Grand Gardens of the Niagara Portage will take place at various times throughout the day at four locations including the Niagara Falls Public Library, Oakwood Cemetery, Schoellkopf Park and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. The gospel festival, which will take place on the front lawn of the NACC, is expected to attract hundreds of people, said Trudy Christman, one of the event’s organizers, including local talent from throughout the region.
“This event just keeps growing and growing,” Christman said. “In past years, each of the event venues individually produced a summer event. By joining our efforts, we can produce a signature event in the heart of the city that will highlight four beautiful gardens and the history surrounding them. In the future, the Grand Gardens of the Niagara Portage can be developed into a tourist destination and a site on the National Garden Festival.”
Also at the event will be a Niagara Falls OG Cruisers Car Show at the NACC, along with health screenings from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and food vendors all day long.
In addition, there will be guided tours provided by the New York State Parks Department’s trolley, featuring historic local buildings including Niagara Falls City Hall and the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main St.
Gardeners will enjoy the open gardens on the tour, including the gardens at the Schoellkopf Park at Pine Avenue and Portage Road, owned by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
There will also be celebrity speakers including Mike Shadrack, a hosta specialist, Sally Cunningham, a gardening columnist, and Joy Kuebler, a landscape architect.
For more information, visit www.myoakwoodcemetery.com.
Grand Gardens of the Niagara Portage on Saturday
• Oakwood Cemetery, 763 Portage Road — Welcome at 10 a.m., followed by garden presentations. A tree tour by John Farfaglia, a tree specialist from Cornell Cooperative Extension, will begin at 1 p.m. The “Power of Garden Tourism” presentation by Sally Cunningham, master gardener, author, and TV personality will begin at 3 p.m. Events at Oakwood will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Memorial Medical Center’s Schoellkopf Park, Portage Road and Pine Avenue — Featured will be a 10 a.m. tour of Schoellkopf Park by Joy Kuebler, landscape architect of the park. Tai Chi in the park will follow at 11 a.m., followed by Yoga in the Park at 12:30 p.m. The Schoellkopf Garden Club will be available to greet guests from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
• Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, 1201 Pine Ave. — The National African American Male 5K Wellness Run/Walk will begin with registration at 7 a.m. There will be a Children’s Garden from 10 a.m. to noon, where children can learn to grow fruits and vegetables. The 9th annual Good News Gospel Festival will take place on the front steps of the NACC from 1-7 p.m.
The New York State Parks Trolley will provide transportation between locations. For more information, visit www.myoakwoodcemetery.com.