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New rule adds to security, cost at Canalside's July Fourth celebration

To some, the new rule forbidding people from bringing their own food and beverages to Canalside's Fourth of July celebration helped safeguard the event.

“It’s all about keeping people safe,” said Matt LaSota, general manager of Canalside.

To others, it meant unexpected costs and inconvenience.

“It’s corrupt,” said Paul Severn of Amherst. “What happens if somebody in this heat needs water? What happens if they don’t have money on them or can’t afford it?”

He suggested water fountains for the waterfront location.

Those who came to Tuesday's fireworks show at Canalside agreed safety measures should be taken and that vendors need to make a profit. But they also called the beverage prices steep.

Standard pricing for water and soda among vendors was $3 for water, $4 for lemonade, and between $3 and $8 for beer, cider and wine.

Parents Jason Foster and Amanda Baker of Buffalo said they would have eaten dinner beforehand had they known about the prices. The cost of three plates of chicken teriyaki, two hot dogs, popcorn and five beverages came to $46.

That's money the family had not planned on spending, especially for the drinks.

“Three dollars is a lot for water,” Foster said.

It was the first time a July Fourth event at Canalside forbid outside food and drinks. Security checkpoints ensured no one brought any food or drinks with them. Trash bins lined the security entrance leaving attendees two options: chug it or chuck it.

Valdo Pierre of Le Mans, France, spilled his water onto the pavement before chucking the plastic bottle in a bin.

He knew bottled water would be expensive inside the grounds but said he was OK with the rule because, “it’s there to protect.”

The policy comes from Canalside's new manager, Be Our Guest, Ltd. Group.

LaSota said the rule helps officials control what gets into the site.

The rule has been in place for ticketed events at Canalside, like concerts. The Independence Day celebration was free and no tickets were required, but officials enforced the rule because of the large crowd – bigger than at ticketed events.

It prevents alcohol from being brought in and allows more control over consumption. It also helps the food trucks make more money, LaSota said.

What annoyed Foster was that he couldn’t re-enter with the drink he had already bought at the event. He and Baker left the area for a few minutes to find a changing station for their baby, since there are none at Canalside.

Foster had to buy the same drinks again. He said there should be a system to identify drinks purchased at the celebration.

Those who showed up before 4 p.m. were able to get in with their own food and drinks. Security began enforcing the rule at 4 p.m.

Maria Colon and her children arrived at Canalside around 1 p.m. with her cooler full of water bottles.

“They did question us after the fact and inspect it,” Colon said. “But they said it was OK since we were already here and only had water.”

She added that some people bring their own food, picnic style, because they want to be cost efficient. The rule may result in inconvenience and added cost, but those who come to Canalside will deal with it, she said.

“At the end of the day, people are going to come anyway,” Colon said.

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