LEWISTON – For most area residents it’s not Labor Day that signals the end of summer, but the Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival, which starts Friday and runs through next Sunday in Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston.
The beloved festival signals the harvest of juicy, fragrant peaches, which are celebrated at the festival in all manner: peach shortcake, peach pop, the Peach Queen, the Peach Festival Parade and a midway full of games and rides.
The event started out small in 1958, when the Lewiston Kiwanis and farmer Buster Lombardi created a festival to celebrate peaches. Now in its 57th year, the annual event has grown into one of the area’s largest festivals, drawing about 60,000 to Lewiston over the course of the three-day event.
Activities begin with a grand opening at 5 p.m. Friday and continue through 11 p.m. Friday. The festival will continue from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. No alcohol is served for this family-friendly event, and no animals, unless they are service animals, are permitted.
To accommodate the crowds, shuttles are provided from the upper- and lower-level Artpark parking lots.
There is no charge for admission or parking.
Kiwanis Peach Festival Chairman Charles Barber said organizers are hoping for good weather since the event is the Kiwanis Club’s biggest annual fundraiser, helping bring in $60,000 to $95,000. Since 1958, the Lewiston Kiwanis have donated over $1 million to area organizations. Barber said that for the past ten years, $500,000 in goods and services have been contributed to 50 organizations throughout Niagara County from money raised through the Peach Festival.
“We are expecting an even better year this year,” said Barber. “We have all the same activities back again with a few new enhancements.”
He said this year the festival has been a new arrangement that offers more local products and more area restaurants, with a total of 21 food vendors participating.
“There will be even more food than last year,” said Barber. “And there’s those fresh local peaches.”
One of the top food draws is the homemade peach shortcake, which features homemade biscuits provided by DiCamillo Bakery and local peaches generously served to each customer with fresh whipped cream. More than five tons are provided each year by Niagara County farmer Jim Bittner of Bittner-Singer Farms.
A farmers’ market features a variety of peaches, other produce and peach pies for sale
Another top draw is the midway, said Barber, which appeals to all ages but is expected to draw even more this year with added thrill rides. Provided by North American Midway Entertainment, it is billed as the largest midway in Niagara County. There will be 40 rides, along with game booths and a number of food choices. Barber said discount ride tickets are available at Lewiston Tops and other designated businesses right up until the parade Saturday.
Barber said they will be adding more stage entertainment, including the 21st annual Cheerleading Contest, which opens the festival at 5 p.m. Friday. Returning will be Elvis impersonator Terry Buchwald at 8 p.m. Saturday. The Dixieland group 23 Skidoo will be strolling the grounds Saturday and Sunday.
New this year will be magician Sal Anello on Sunday afternoon, who will invite children to join him on the stage.
The peach dessert contest will take place at 6 p.m. Friday in the Peach Tent, with a $200 gift card for the winner.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, there will be a 5K run prior to the festival through the Village of Lewiston. It will start and end at KeyBank on Center Street. Proceeds will benefit the Care and Share Food Pantry.
The parade will follow at 11 a.m. Saturday and march through Center Street to Academy park.
Over 100 units, from marching bands to floats, featuring high school sports teams, fire companies, service groups and politicians, will be marching down the street.
Sunday evening will feature the Peach Queen contest. The Peach Fuzz contest for young boys is on Saturday night and Peach Blossom contest for young girls on Sunday afternoon.
A full list of daily activities and sponsors is available at www.lewistonkiwanis.org/ncpf.html