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Rapids to hold community day, raise money for Owl

LOCKPORT – The Rapids Owl will be brought out of storage for the third annual Rapids Community Day, set for Saturday in the hamlet on the southern edge of the Town of Lockport.

The 8-foot-tall steel and plywood owl will be on display inside the Rapids Fire Company hall on Plank Road, where locals hope to garner some donations for a planned new “habitat” for the Owl.

Town Clerk Nancy A. Brooks said the plan is construct a brick wall in what is now a vacant lot next to the fire hall. The wall is supposed to be about 16 feet long and 4 feet high, and the Owl is to perch atop the wall’s capstone. The wall is to be emblazoned with the words “Welcome to Rapids.”

“We’re going to apply for some grant money to put the Owl on top of the wall,” Brooks said. “We’re going to see if the county has anything. It’s a historic landmark.”

By Saturday, the town hopes to have a rendering of the wall from Wendel, the town engineering firm. Brooks said there is not yet a cost estimate.

The Owl was built in 1937 and memorializes “Uncle Joe” Edwards, a Rapids resident from just after the Civil War, who died in 1936 at the age of 96. He was known as “the wise old owl.”

The Rapids Owl originally stood on a concrete pedestal at Rapids and Plank roads, but even though the pedestal remains intact, it can’t legally be used because it’s in the county right of way for Rapids Road.

The fire company was trying to buy the vacant lot in time for last year’s Rapids Community Day, but the deal wasn’t completed by then. The fire company now owns the land, Brooks said.

The Owl was the mascot of the Owl Inn, a bar that opened in the former fire hall at Rapids and Plank roads in 1959. However, the bar closed in about 1990 and the Owl was lost in the shuffle. Town Historian Laurence M. Haseley said last year that a friend of his found it in a field off Bowen Road. It was turned over to town Highway Superintendent David J. Miller, who restored it with the help of his wife and son.

Community Day will begin at 11 a.m. with a parade featuring fire company units, Scouts, groups from Rapids Bible Church and Cambria bagpiper Joseph Baschnagel. And, Brooks said, “Some of the politicians, of course.”

The parade route starts at Wisterman and Rapids roads and heads south on Rapids Road, before turning onto Tonawanda Creek and Plank roads to end at the fire hall.

A picnic will follow, with games, face painting and a basket raffle by the Rapids Senior Citizens. Then comes a talent show, “Rapids Got Talent,” at 2 p.m. in the Rapids Bible Church.

Brooks said 200 to 300 people attended the event last year. The church mailed postcards to 1,400 homes this year, hoping for a bigger crowd.

“You do it one or two years and then it starts to build up,” Brooks said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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