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Opening ceremony set for Oct. 3 for partially restored Flight of Open

LOCKPORT – The opening ceremony for the Flight of Five, the partially restored 19th-century Erie Canal locks in Lockport, will be held Oct. 3.

William Sweitzer, director of marketing for the New York State Canal Corp., made the announcement at a meeting of the state Canal Recreationway Commission, held at Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises.

Sweitzer said after a late afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 3, which is a Friday, the state will hold a daylong festival Oct. 4, which he dubbed “Locktoberfest.”

The event on Canal Street overlooking the locks will feature boat rides, arts and crafts, live music and efforts to promote local farm goods, Sweitzer said.

A flotilla of boats is to be organized to add more excitement to the opening ceremony, he added.

David R. Kinyon, chairman of the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp., said board member Becky Burns has been assigned to organize events for the festival.

Kinyon also said the final inspection is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday on the $1.74 million construction project by Hohl Industrial Services of the Town of Tonawanda to restore two of the five locks to working order. The Canal Corp., which continues to own the locks, is paying for that contract.

Counting design and engineering work by Bergmann Associates, the project has cost $3.2 million so far, almost all state and federal grant money.

New wooden lock gates were installed on the stone locks, which for a century have been used only as a spillway for the two large steel locks now used at the site.

The old locks are called a flight because of their stairstep design. Because of funding constraints, only two of the locks have been restored so far: Lock 69, the middle lock of the five, and Lock 70, the second one from the top.

Next on the restoration list, if funding can be obtained, are Lock 71, the top lock, and Lock 68, the second one from the bottom. In June, the city applied for a $3 million state grant for that work.

Funding problems also forced the local organizers, the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp., to put off plans for a replica canal boat that would be used in demonstrations of how the locks worked.

Organizers predict that the Flight will become a significant tourist attraction for Lockport.

Tuesday’s meeting came in conjunction with the annual canal system inspection tour aboard the tugboat Syracuse, which started Tuesday morning at Canalside in Buffalo.

The legally mandated inspection of locks, bridges and other structures saw Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton and other dignitaries aboard the boat for the start of the tour.