LEWISTON -- Organizers expect to dish out more than six tons of local peaches atop DiCamillo Bakery shortcake at this year’s Niagara County Peach Festival, slated for Friday, Saturday and next Sunday at Academy Park in Lewiston.
The Kiwanis of Lewiston have sponsored this event since 1958 and the club estimates it has contributed more than $1 million in goods and donations to area charities and organizations from the event’s proceeds.
“This sort of celebrates the bounty of Niagara County, the end of summer and beginning of fall and going back to school,” said Alan Hastings, this year’s festival chairman.
The Peach Festival often serves as a reunion, with many area ex-patriots returning for a weekend filled with fair food, rides, games and contests, as well as a parade and 5K race.
This year’s event boasts 22 food vendors, offering everything from hot dogs to souvlaki.
“And I’ve asked them to each come up with a peach-themed item this year, and visitors can cast their ballots for their favorite item,” Hastings said.
The peaches served as part of the festival’s trademark shortcake are harvested from Bittner-Singer Farms at 6620 Lake Road, Appleton. Organizers expect to serve more than 13,000 pounds of locally harvested peaches this year.
In addition, Hastings said Amusements of America will provide 44 thrill, family and kiddie rides for the second year.
“Expect a couple of new rides this year, too,” he said.
Advance ride tickets are now on sale at a 50 percent discount at 40 locations throughout the area. Discount locations may be found at: www.lewistonpeachfestival.org/ride-tickets. The ride tickets also are sold by volunteers canvassing the Peach Festival Parade Saturday. Due to the inclement weather during the festival last year, the Kiwanis and ride company also will honor ride tickets purchased in 2015.
“This ride company has been just terrific,” said Hastings. “They really put that idea forward (to honor last year’s tickets).”
Local first responders will kick off the festivities at 5 p.m. Friday, serving as the color guard at opening ceremonies as both the American and Canadian anthems are performed.
The popular cheerleading competition takes center stage at 6 p.m., featuring local units representing youth football and All-Star cheering squads.
On Saturday, the 38th annual Peach Festival 5K will begin at 9 a.m. Proceeds this year go to Carolyn’s House in Niagara Falls, and the Kiwanis Key Leader Program. Start and finish is in front of the historic Frontier House on Center Street, with the race course winding throughout the village. Refreshments and awards follow and the race includes divisions from ages 10 and under, to 70 and older.
Early registration is $25 through Thursday. The fee increases to $30 on Friday and Saturday. Entrants may register at: www.racemanagementsolutions.com, with packet pickup and race day registration from 7 to 9 a.m. at Key Bank on Center Street.
Expect big crowds for the popular Peach Festival Parade at 11 a.m. Saturday on Center Street, featuring more than 100 units and 12 marching bands. Grand Marshall will be WGRZ-TV personality and “Daybreak” anchor Melissa Holmes. Serving as parade announcer again this year will be Brandy Scrufari from Star 102.5 FM.
The peach recipe “Taste Off” competition will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Academy Park stage. Entries must be original, include fresh peaches and be made from scratch. There are three divisions for entries: Food Enthusiast, Culinary Student and a new Children’s category for those ages 8-13. Entrants may win up to $500 in prizes.
Judges for the 2016 “Taste Off” will be Lynn Catalano from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy; Niagara County Community College President James P. Klyczek; Mark Mistriner, NCCC Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts Division chairman; and Brenda Alessi, food author and host of “Brenda’s Bites” on 1520 AM.
There also will be a peach shortcake eating contest on the same stage featuring local media and dignitaries prior to the announcement of this year’s recipe winners.
More than 50 contestants are expected for the Peach Blossom and Peach Fuzz contests, held Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The “Dance Showcase” featuring 10 area dance companies, will take the stage from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Peach Queen Pageant finals are slated for 8 p.m. Sunday, marking the festival’s finale. This year, 14 Niagara County residents have entered the race for the crown and $4,000 scholarship awarded by the Kiwanis of Lewiston. The hostess for the Peach Queen finals will be WGRZ-TV news anchor Maryalice Demler.
The Peach Queen contestants are currently collecting back to school items for the Magdalene Project’s after-school programs and will do so through the festival weekend. School supplies also may be dropped off prior to the festival at the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, 895 Center St., Lewiston.
The festival also will feature live musical entertainment throughout the weekend, including; Rescue Dawn, Terry Buchwald, The Boys of Summer and Everyday People. The full schedule of events is available at www.lewistonpeachfestival.org.
This year’s festival is sponsored by the Kiwanis of Lewiston, The Buffalo News, WGRZ-TV and Star 102.5 FM.