LEWISTON – Whether it’s the raucous rides, the popular parade or outstanding peach shortcake, everyone has his or her favorite at the Niagara County Peach Festival, planned for Friday through Sunday in Academy Park.
But the one underlying theme to this community event, presented by the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, is its history of donating more than $1 million to area organizations since 1958. All profits from the festival go directly back into the community.
Randy Gorzka, this year’s festival chairman, said more than $500,000 worth of goods and services have been distributed to more than 50 organizations in Niagara County in the past decade alone.
“This is our 56th year,” he said. “I’ve actually been involved for 30. It’s such a family event. My children, who are raised now, would go, and since it was the start of school, they would meet all of their school friends and just have a ball out there.”
Opening ceremonies are set for 5 p.m. Friday, with a cheerleading contest taking center stage.
Look for the finals of the Peach Taste-Off in the Peach Tent at 6 p.m., followed by a Peach Queen contestant dress rehearsal at 8. Unyts will conduct a blood drive from 4 to 9.
The 5K Run and One-Mile Walk kick things off at 9 a.m. Saturday, beginning and ending in front of its sponsor, KeyBank on Center Street. Proceeds from this event benefit Divine Mercy Food Pantry and UNICEF’S Project Eliminate.
The parade, featuring more than 100 units, will march along Center Street from Fourth Street to Academy Park, beginning at 11 a.m.
Gorzka said the parade will feature 10 bands this year, along with the usual lineup of community organizations, cheerleaders, politicians, color guards, floats and fire trucks from volunteer companies throughout Western New York.
Entertainment on Saturday includes: parade units at 1 p.m.; the band “23 Skidoo” strolling the grounds from 1:30 to 4; the Peach Fuzz contest at 2; singer Christina Custode at 3; the “Lewiston Choraleers” at 5; the Peach Queen Contest semi-finals fashion show at 6, with music by Bob Volkman; and a tribute to Elvis Presley with Terry Buchwald from 8 to 11.
The Neptune Ski Club starts things off at 11 a.m. Sunday on the Niagara River at Lewiston Landing.
A Dance Company Showcase is set for noon to 3 p.m., while 23 Skidoo performs throughout the grounds again at 1:30 p.m.
The Peach Blossom contest is featured at 3, followed by the Bob Volkman Band at 5. The McCarthy School of Irish Dance takes the stage at 7, followed by the Peach Queen finals at 8. There are 17 contestants vying for the title this year.
“We have things on stage from the time we start until the time we finish (at 10 p.m. Sunday),” Gorzka said.
Admission and parking are both free.
“We started a shuttle last year,” Gorzka said. “It’s absolutely free, and it helps alleviate some of the traffic coming into the village. There’s a plateau up at Artpark, and we can park 600 cars up there.
“There will be two buses continuously going up and driving you right to the park and vice versa. When you are ready to leave, just go to the corner. There will even be benches while you wait.”
A farmers’ market at Academy Park boasts a number of local farmers selling fruits and vegetables in season, including, of course, peaches.
Fresh, local peaches are also featured in the popular peach shortcakes.
“Jim Bittner (of Singer Farms) picks the peaches on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s pretty fresh,” Gorzka said.
Rides will once again be furnished by North American Midway Co., following its stint at the Canadian National Exhibition. More than 40 rides, along with game booths, appeal to all ages.
Advance ride tickets allow festivalgoers a 50 percent savings, with 14 tickets for $22 (one ticket per ride). Advance tickets are now available. Visit www.lewistonkiwanis.org for locations.