Tonawanda News

Canal Fest

July 18, 2012

To the victor goes a spill

Tonawanda News — Drawing a larger crowd than anyone has seen at a city council meeting in eons, the two mayors of the Twin Cities performed what has become an embedded fixture of Canal Fest.

Striking a comeback from the last several years, Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi, the elder statesman, enjoyed a breezy ride across the Renaissance Bridge in a wheelbarrow from his younger counterpart, NT Mayor Rob Ortt.

The City of Tonawanda pulled off an upset a night earlier during the annual tug-of-war between the two cities at Niawanda Park, when it regained the title of strongest city, claiming victory over it’s Niagara County neighbors for the first time since 2009.

While the two municipalities occasionally form partnerships when emergencies arise and during the Canal Fest itself, Tuesday evening was all about the differences between them as the typical trash talk and horse play ensued.

“I did push ups, hit the gym and did some calisthenics to prepare for this,” Ortt said.

The tradition dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Tonawanda Days were held at Crystal Beach in Canada. The wheelbarrow too has history, with dates of past mayors and victors painted on the neon green device.

However, it did not prove to be the sturdiest form of transport on Tuesday. Prior to the ride, Pilozzi strolled confidently across the bridge from Tonawanda, at one point holding up his hands in triumph, before taking a seat in the wheelbarrow.

Ortt eventually relented to haul Pilozzi across the bridge to Erie County, but just after take-off the Tonawanda mayor took a tumble out of the wheelbarrow and onto the pavement on Webster Street. Unhurt and unfazed, and at the very beginning of the ride, both mayors continued.

It was all in good fun, Pilozzi said.

“It’s a tradition that has been around for quite a while,” Pilozzi said. “It’s all a part of the Canal Fest. There’s an old saying, ‘to the victors go the spoils.’ ”

Ortt, half-joking, was steadfast in resolving that the Lumber City will reclaim the title next year.

“I put the tug-of-war team together from day one,” he said of Monday’s event. “We’re going to get bigger, and stronger members. And I expect to sit in the wheelbarrow next year.”

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.

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