By Jessica Bagley, email@example.com
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Twin Cities streets were packed Tuesday evening with lawn chairs and excited kids of all ages for the 30th annual Canal Fest parade, which featured over 100 groups.
The parade attracted residents from all over Western New York, as well as a few out-of-towners. Cheri Stacharczyk, originally from the City of Tonawanda, now lives in Austin, Texas. But every year she makes the long trip home just for the Canal Fest parade.
“I come home for this amazing thing every year,” Stacharczyk said. “It’s Americana at its best.”
This year’s parade theme was “Pride in America,” and the event ran from Grove and Minerva streets in Tonawanda to Webster and Goundry streets in NT.
The Grand Marshal of the Parade, Greg Emminger, began the festivities at 6:30 p.m. by riding in a convertible and waving to spectators. Emminger was appointed to the position of grand marshal to recognize his generous act of donating his kidney to a woman in Florida, a stranger at the time of the donation.
Emminger said he was inspired to donate his kidney after reading an article in the newspaper.
“I realized how many people were in need,” Emminger said. “So I used an online donor site, which is kind of like an online dating site, to find someone who matched my blood type.”
Emminger used a local site, www.kidneyconnection.org, to find his match — Florida resident Seema Ure. Emminger then went for tests and donated his kidney to Ure in January. He said she is doing very well.
“She is doing fantastic,” Emminger said. “She looks 20 years younger.”
Emminger, who is originally from the Town of Tonawanda and moved to North Tonawanda five years ago, was excited but humbled by his appearance in the parade.
“I’m very honored that my gesture is being recognized, but I didn’t do it for that,” Emminger said. “I am happy to get the message out about the need.”
Emminger was joined in the parade by a wide variety of groups — including various fire departments, members of the U.S. Army, cheerleaders, the Boys and Girls Club of WNY, the Canal Fest Queen, and synchronized swimmers.
Tonawanda residents took advantage of the parade’s lineup, and saw the event as a family-friendly opportunity to enjoy the weather and honor the troops.
“We came to bring my kids,” onlooker Mary Beth Crosse tt said. “They love the firetrucks and the horses. It’s so easy to get up close, so it’s really fun for them.”
The many kids who attended the parade also enjoyed Niagara Clown Alley, a group of silly performers who entertain at birthday parties and circuses. Carol Shire, or Dilly Dally as her clown friends know her, said it’s the best parade they participate in.
“We just love the kids and clowning and everything this parade has to offer,” Carol Marx, also known as Corabelle, said. “It’s a great group of fun people.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.