Tonawanda News

Canal Fest

July 22, 2011

Crawling to victory lane

— — And they’re off!

Or, maybe not.

Perhaps it was the heat, or maybe stage fright, but many of the 59 babies registered for the 2011 edition of the Canal Fest Diaper Derby barely moved a muscle when the word “go” indicated it was time to start.

No amount of coaxing by moms and dads at the other end of the carpet could convince some of the little racers to move forward. But there was drama in some of the aptly-named heats.

Under a blistering sun and a temperature in excess of 100 on the Tremont Street asphalt, the first set of contestants sat, bewildered for about 30 seconds before the child in lane two, who had spent most of the time to that point crying, zipped off like a turtle.

Similar scenarios played out over several preliminary heats.

One of the preliminary winners was North Tonawanda’s Dylan Sumi, who took a couple of tentative steps, turned back, then took off for the win.

“I was getting nervous,” said his father, Erik. “He gets distracted easily.”

Dylan’s mother, Janie shrugged off the blistrering heat. “We stayed inside most of the day,” she said. “We knew it would be hot.”

DeGraff Hospital CEO Tony Zito said they and co-sponsor Tonawanda Pediatrics tried for a week to find something to raise the carpet-track off the hot roadway to no avail.

“We couldn’t find any mattresses in the hospital that weren’t being used,” he said, explaining they’ve seen more patients than usual with the heat and Canal Fest. “This heat’s especially taxing for seniors.”

The most dramatic heat was probably the 12th, when Jacob Torrico in lane 1 took off for the other end, stopping about 10 inches short of the finish. As he sat there, Grace Furey in lane 3 decided to make it a race, taking off but she, too stopped. Charles Jacobs III then got into the act, making a hard charge for the finish line.

Too hard of a charge, apparently, as Furey forgot her grace and turned toward her opponent’s lane in a fury. At one point, all three sat within a foot of the finish line. Then Torrico decided to turn back to the starting line. Upon arrival, he turned around again and made a dash for the finish. But Furey, regaining her composure won out.

It was like watching the “players” on the old electronic vibrating football games; the only thing missing was a child crawling in circles.

In the end, Sophia Janese, daughter of Ted and Bridget Janese of Niagara Falls was crowned the winner, claiming first in the opening heat, semi-final and final race. She narrowly defeated Daniella Kless of Cheektowaga.

The secret to Kless’ success was with her dad, said her mother, Leah Kless.

“She’s obsessed with him,” Mrs. Kless explained, as dad Bill Kless triumphantly held on to the water bottle, keys and a cell phone.

Kless fell short in the final race, as Janese raced into the waiting arms of her mom.

“She’s a fast crawler, but I thought she might get distracted,” said Bridget Janese, “but off she went.”

Did the heat bother their daughter?

“It was very difficult for me,” replied dad Ted Janese. “It’s very hot.”

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Canal Fest