An ambitious grass-roots program to bring new jobs and new life to Niagara Falls will be showcased in the second annual Niagara Homecoming program Thursday through Sunday in the downtown tourist area.
The nonprofit group Niagara Rises has put together four days of events that will feature a number of free or low-cost activities designed to showcase the city for current residents and for former residents who might be enticed to move back.
A list of at least 36 sponsors includes tourism-related organizations, local businesses, educational institutions and public service agencies.
A career fair and exposition to match up job-seekers with potential employers kicks off the event Thursday in Conference Center Niagara Falls, 101 Old Falls St.
The career fair starts at noon with an awards luncheon "to honor area businesses that have demonstrated outstanding achievement over the past year," said Andrea Todaro, coordinator of Niagara Homecoming. Awards to be given include entrepreneur of the year, emerging business of the year, best place to work, fastest growing company and best diversity employer.
The luncheon speaker will be Scott Stockton, president of Professional Advantage, a training firm specializing in organizational leadership and customer service. The cost of the luncheon is $20.
"We expect to have 75 employers and to attract hundreds of job seekers," Todaro said. "The hope is to pair some former residents with jobs so they might move back to the community."
The program then will move across the street to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a career fair resource exposition from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. "Going well beyond the typical job fair, this event will feature dozens of area employers in all industries as well as numerous resource specialists in areas such as education, health and wellness and human services," Todaro said.
Seminars are scheduled on subjects such as preparing for an entry-level career search, selling oneself online and preparedness for mid-level to high-level job seekers.
A social gathering from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Crowne Plaza will feature complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. Lenny Revell, a Broadway performer, pianist and singer, will entertain.
A "Kick-Off Gala" will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday in the newly renovated Rapids Theater on Main Street in the city's North End, featuring an 18-piece orchestra and wine-tasting of selections from the Niagara Wine Trail. The Niagara Rises award for volunteer of the year will be presented. Cost is $25.
From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, 1201 Pine Ave., will hold an open house featuring the work of dozens of local artists celebrating Niagara Falls and the 125th anniversary of Niagara Falls State Park.
Walking tours will be held Saturday in downtown Niagara Falls, highlighting the history and architecture of the region. Another tour that day will explore Niagara's important role in the Underground Railroad, a route to freedom for men and women who had been in slavery.
There will be a countywide real estate open house Sunday in an effort to match returning residents with houses. There also will be a Sunday "Arise and Shine" program in which multiple churches will center their sermons on the rebirth and regrowth of the city.
For more information about the events, visit www.niagararises.com.
The events take place during the same days as similar events in Buffalo as part of that city's Citybration.
At the request of Mayor Paul A. Dyster, the Niagara Falls City Council has approved the expenditure of $7,500 from its casino interest funds to help pay for the event. Dyster said the city's support was justified because the program "promotes and features the City of Niagara Falls."