Tonawanda News

Canal Fest

July 24, 2012

Mayor, Canal Fest trade jabs over closing time

As crews on Monday dismantled the many rides and vendor stands left over from another widely attended Canal Fest week, a two-sided dispute continued over the effects of this year’s decision to close the festival an hour earlier on the city side.

It may be months before the final numbers are in to frame how well the many organizations and entrepreneurs who aim to make money during the eight-day event performed.

Several of those who take part say they have seen evidence of a dimmer financial picture due to the change. In addition, the state for the first time enacted a new law that prohibits ride operators from working more than seven days in a row, halting an opening night draw to the festival.

Canal Fest President Larry Denef said he’s hearing widespread rumblings from those purveyors, many of whom predicted dire economic outcomes since the city council voted to close the Erie County side of the event at 10 p.m. rather than it usual 11 p.m., on concerns about crime related to rambunctious youths.

But Mayor Ron Pilozzi contests the likelihood of those complaints and said even if they are true there’s really no way to verify the economic impact, other than the testaments of the vendors themselves.

“For somebody to say they lost 20 percent or 50 percent, maybe they did but how can you prove it?” he said. “How can we take action on idol rhetoric and emotion?”

Denef said it will be difficult to prove anything until he hears back from the 40 or so organizations who use the festival’s dollar potential as the life blood for their continued

existence in the community. A final tally is traditionally released sometime in the fall.

And despite the mayor’s cynicism, Denef said he is hopeful that once those numbers do come forward the council is willing to have a conversation regarding some concessions. He said attendance numbers did appear to be down from more recent years.

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Canal Fest