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Sawdust saved the Peach Festival Friday.

An overnight rain turned parts of Artpark's upper terrace -- the new site for the festival -- into muddy bogs.

Todd Schwartz, a past chairman of the festival, said, "The mud was a foot deep."

So he put out an SOS to the company he works for, Globe Metallurgical Inc. of Niagara Falls, which delivered 100 tons of sawdust and wood chips to be spread over the grounds.

Schwartz said crews from Modern Disposal and the Town of Lewiston distributed the sawdust, and the festival was clean as well as enjoyable for the thousands descending on the grounds.

"Otherwise there wouldn't have been a Peach Festival tonight," he said.

The festival moved after 41 years in Academy Park on Center Street because of construction in the Village of Lewiston that reduced the available space and accessibility to the park.

"It really left us with no choice. As long as the state doesn't have a problem with us, this is intended to be a permanent site," said Robert Trunzo, a past festival chairman who was in charge of laying out the grounds.

Trunzo said four or five more rides were used this year because there was more room.
He said the crowd Friday night appeared to be about the same size as last year's opening night, but there was more elbow room.

The crowd was bundled up against Friday's chilly wind on the plateau overlooking the eastern part of the village. But the usual opening night events were in place, including dozens of cheerleading squads going through their routines on the main stage, and the peach recipe contest in the food tent.

As hundreds gobbled up peach shortcake at $3 a serving, a three-judge panel deliberated for 45 minutes before deciding which of 10 other confections featuring peaches did the most for their taste buds.

The winner was "Lightning"Debra Bateman of the City of Tonawanda. Despite being caught in traffic and showing up nearly 50 minutes late for the judging, she carried the day with her Honeymooner's Sultry Peach and Ricotta Tart.

"I put two different recipes together," Ms. Bateman said. "I used a ricotta cheese Italian pie that was my grandmother's, and some peaches. Then I had another recipe that was in an old book."

Ms. Bateman won a $100 U.S. savings bond, two tickets to the Christmas show at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, and a bottle of the festival's exclusive peach soda pop.

Second prize of Christmas show tickets, pop, and a Niagara University sports gift certificate went to Sam Sperrazza of Lewiston and his Peach Shortcake Biscuits. Maureen A. Jagow of Lockport, wife of Niagara County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow, finished third with Peach Almond Pound Cake. She won two Artpark vouchers, an Adelphia Cable gift certificate, and pop.

Hours for the 42nd annual festival, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

Today's highlights will include the annual 5-kilometer run on Center Street at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Peach Festival Parade at 11 a.m., also on Center Street. At the festival itself, the Peach Fuzz contest for boys is slated for 2 p.m., and the Peach Queen semifinals are scheduled for 8 p.m.

The festival queen will be crowned at 8 p.m. Sunday. Twenty-two teen-age girls from western Niagara County are entered.

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