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Mayor taken for a ride Soos earned a trip in a wheelbarrow after his town won the Canal Fest tug-of-war

Most mayors would probably shy away from being pushed up a hill in a wheelbarrow.

North Tonawanda Mayor Lawrence V. Soos is one exception, especially when the person doing the pushing is Tonawanda Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi.

On Tuesday, Pilozzi paid the price for Tonawanda's loss a day earlier in the annual Canal Fest tug-of-war between teams from the Twin Cities.

Per the tradition, the losing team's mayor must carry the winning team's mayor in a wheelbarrow between the communities.

Just as raindrops began to sprinkle at the foot of Webster Street, Pilozzi grabbed hold of the handles of a light-green wheelbarrow.

That's when Soos took a seat and went for a 50-foot ride up a bridge toward Tonawanda as two police officers tried to clear the road ahead.

The pair never made it all the way across the bridge, or even halfway. But that didn't seem to bother the crowds who lined both sides of the street waiting for the annual Canal Fest parade to begin 30 minutes later.

After his ride, Soos said he knew the North Tonawanda team was going to win, and he had been preparing to give Pilozzi a lighter load.

"I've been on a diet for about a year," Soos joked.

Pilozzi said he didn't do much to get ready for the push. The only training he cited was his service in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

But that was almost 40 years ago, Pilozzi said.

Inside the wheelbarrow, and atop the spot reserved for the winning mayor, the results of each year's tug-of-war matches were listed in white lettering.

The tug-of-war and wheelbarrow tradition has been happening since Canal Fest started 25 years ago, North Tonawanda 1st Ward Alderman Phillip R. Rizzo said.

This year's victory for North Tonawanda was the city's third in a row. Tonawanda last won in 2003, Rizzo said.

The eight-day Canal Fest continues through Sunday along Sweeney Street between Main and Webster streets in North Tonawanda, as well as on Young and Niagara streets in Tonawanda.


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