LEWISTON – Western New York’s favorite fuzzy fruit is celebrated at one of the longest running festivals in the area, the 58th annual Niagara County Peach Festival, from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday in Academy Park.
A favorite each year is the peach shortcake, featuring peaches grown at Bittner-Singer Farms in Appleton. This year, weather permitting, a crowd of exceeding 30,000 is expected and the Peach Festival is expected to serve more than 13,000 pounds – 6.5 tons of locally harvested peaches atop fresh shortcake also made locally by DiCamillo Bakery.
The event is an annual fundraiser for sponsor Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, which has contributed more than $1 million in goods and donations to area charities and organizations from event proceeds since that first festival in 1958.
Over the years the festival has grown larger, and while it continues to offer a farmers market and a longtime favorite, peach pop, it also will have 22 food vendors serving both American and ethnic foods.
There will be a new ride company for 2015, Amusements of America, which will operate 44 attractions, from thrill rides to family rides to kiddie rides, making it one of the largest midways among Niagara County festivals. Advance ride tickets, which offer a 50 percent discount, are available at 40 locations in and around Lewiston until the first day of the festival. Tickets also can be purchased online at www.lewistonpeachfestival.org/ride-tickets.
At 5 p.m. Friday, there will be a special 9/11 remembrance with local first responders serving as the color guard.
Then at 6 p.m. the cheerleading competition will be on stage, featuring youth football and all-star cheering squads.
Saturday morning will begin at 7:45 a.m. with registration for the 37th annual Niagara County Peach Festival 5K Run, which starts at 9 a.m. at Key Bank on Center Street. This year’s charity recipients will be the Wilson Community Food Pantry and the Autism Center at Women & Children’s Hospital. Runners can register at www.racemanagementsolutions.com/peach-festival.
The Peach Festival parade steps off at 11 a.m. on Center Street. This year’s parade will feature more than 100 units and 12 marching bands, an all-time high. Great weather should be guaranteed with grand marshal WGRZ-TV meteorologist Kevin O’Connell.
For those who prefer to make their own peachy treats, the peach recipe “taste off” competition will be held in three categories, for children, food enthusiasts and culinary students. The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute and the Niagara Gazette are sponsors. Entrants can win up to $500 in prizes. The finals will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Academy Park stage. Judges are Lynn Catalano of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy; Mark Mistriner of the culinary institute, Ben Tsujimoto of The Buffalo News’ digital media department; and James Ward, chairman of the Niagara County Community College Board of Trustees.
Girls and boys can participate in the Peach Blossom and Peach Fuzz contests on Saturday and Sunday.
From noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, a “Dance Showcase” will feature 10 area dance companies on the Academy Park stage.
The Peach Queen pageant wraps things up at 8 p.m. Sunday. This year 16 girls from Niagara County have entered to compete for a $4,000 scholarship. The hostess will be WGRZ-TV anchor Maryalice Demler.
A full schedule of events is available at www.lewistonpeachfestival.org.
In addition to the Kiwanis Club, the festival also is sponsored by Cerrone Construction, The Buffalo News, WGRZ-TV and Star 102.5 FM.