Tonawanda News

Canal Fest

July 18, 2013

The man behind the midway

Corky Powers has powered Canal Fest fun for 25 years

Tonawanda News — Les “Corky” Powers is the mayor of a moving city.

Every summer from early April through the last week of October, Powers Great American Midways is on the move, bringing its rides and concessions and games to festivals and fairs through seven states in the eastern United States. And for the past 25 years, Canal Fest has been one of those stops along the way.

But Powers’ roots in the business go back further than that. He’s the fourth generation of his family in the business, and grew up travelling with his parents.

“I remember sleeping in the car when I was a little kid, or in a tent,” he said recently during an interview in the RV that serves as his mobile office and home-away-from-home. “Things have changed. We’ve been growing with the times. We started with three rides; now we have 58 rides. We’re proud of what we’re doing. We’re trying to create a family atmosphere.”

While his family was involved with games, concessions, even sideshows in the early years, it was Powers who started adding rides about 32 years ago, creating the midway as it is today. His children are involved in the business in various ways, and a sixth generation in the field is always possible: His grandchildren even now attend school with the midway’s mobile school (one of only a few in the United States).

While the midway travels, there are roots here as well. Powers grew up in Rochester, and his wife, Debbie, is an Orchard Park native. And after 25 years as a part of Canal Fest, Powers has roots in the Tonawandas as well.

Rae Proefrock, director of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, said Powers has helped keep the museum — which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary — going strong.

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