Visitors and residents thronged Old Falls Street late Friday for a carnival and other activities with the opening of the first Summerfest of the Festival of Lights.
"People say this is just what Niagara Falls needs," said Judie Takacs, festival spokeswoman, who chatted at the information booth with visitors to the family-oriented attractions between the Convention and Civic Center and the Wintergarden.
A release of balloons at noon marked the opening of Summerfest and Mayor James C. Galie said, "it's a catalyst for bringing people back downtown. It brings the community together to make things happen. We're excited about it."
Jerald I. Wolfgang, Festival of Lights chairman, expressed gratitude to a horde of volunteers who made possible the festival's first summertime function, planned as an annual event to promote the 16-year-old winter festival, provide family-oriented activities for summer visitors, and encourage them to return.
Summerfest continues through Tuesday with events in the pedestrian mall, the convention center, the Wintergarden and the Rainbow Centre, culminating in a concert at 7:30 p.m. by Tops in Blue, the U.S. Air Force touring band.
A "kids-fest" program from 3 p.m to 7 p.m. today will feature trampoline jumping, in-line roller hockey demonstrations, a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting and other activities for youngsters.