Years removed from the general disappointment of the much-hyped outdoor holiday market, Niagara Falls appears to finally be finding its way in terms of offering the sort of family friendly holiday experiences residents and visitors alike should be able to expect in a community visited by millions of people each year.
On Friday, coinciding with the launch of its annual series of holiday festivities, the Falls held its first-ever "Festival of Slice" in honor of the many excellent pizzerias and restaurants that call the city home.
For an initial outing, in terms of the response at least, the event was a major league hit as people from the Falls and surrounding communities filled the Niagara Falls Culinary Center to capacity.
While it may still be hard for some people to imagine, the Festival of Slice actually managed to attract "too many" to downtown Niagara Falls in December.
Excellent job all around.
Of course, there are those who attended or who tried to attend who will complain that a different venue should have been chosen, tickets should have been distributed differently or that it should have been organized some other way.
It's important for those people to remember that, anytime a new venture is launched, there are often unanticipated hiccups that pop up despite solid planning and the best intentions.
Organizers have promised to take stock in what worked and what could have worked better and learn from the experience in preparation for what should be a highly anticipated "second annual" Festival of Slice next year.
For a change, mostly because the Falls desperately needs to do so, let's focus on the positive here.
Festival of Slice offered a winning recipe: local vendors offering delicious pizza in a cozy holiday venue for the affordable price of $1 per slice.
The event offered a taste of numerous well-established and new pizzerias including DiCamillo Bakery, Leon’s Italian Bistro & Pizza, Casa Antica, Submaster’s Bar & Grill, Grandma D’s, Broadway Pizza, Donatello’s, Jaco’s, Goodfella’s Pizzeria, Anthony’s Pizza, The Little Bakery, Old Greenwalls, George's, Joey’s Pizzeria, The Como Restaurant, Sammy's and Solidays.
A key word here is "affordable."
In a community like the Falls and in many surrounding parts of Western New York, families need more options that are easy for the wallet, especially during the holidays.
The organizers of the Festival of Slice clearly hit on a winning combination and we thank them and congratulate them on their efforts and encourage the rest of the community to offer their encouragement and support heading into next year.
Let's not forget, however, that there's still more holiday themed events on the menu in downtown Niagara Falls this year.
The Festival of Slice helped kick off Jingle Falls, USA 2018, the second annual initiative aimed at offering the sort of family friendly holiday events and activities that should be able to draw bigger crowds during the off season to the downtown area.
The culinary center is currently home to a life-sized gingerbread house. The kids can visit Santa Claus and make crafts there. For the adults, organizers held a concert featuring Nerds Gone Wild this past weekend and will offer an Ugly Sweater Party at Chill 443 on Saturday as well as a Santa Con Bar Crawl, sponsored by the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, on Dec. 15. The LiveNF Maker's Market will be held on Saturday inside the old Niagara Gazette building at 310 Niagara St.
The remaining weekends through Christmas feature complimentary horse and carriage rides on Old Falls Street, outdoor ice skating, fire pits, musical guests and other activities designed to give downtown more of a festive feel.
It's a credit to all the representatives from the various organizations who have helped make Jingle Falls USA possible, including the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Community Development, Old Falls Street, USA, Niagara Falls State Park, Destination Niagara USA, the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, Discover Niagara Shuttle, and the Hard Rock Cafe – Niagara Falls, USA.
It has become all too common for residents of Niagara Falls and surrounding communities to lament what "used to be" downtown and to spend valuable time pondering what "could or should" have happened downtown over the years.
With Jingle Falls USA in full swing, it's high time people start doing what the organizers have done: Make the best of what we have and create as enjoyable an atmosphere as possible as work continues on making the downtown area the best it can be.