CITY OF TONAWANDA — The City of Tonawanda took down North Tonawanda in Canal Fest’s annual tug-of-war for the first time in three years—and it only took about six seconds.
“You know, there’s a reason why the bitter taste of defeat is called bitter,” North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt said following his team’s loss.
Pilozzi said that the only other time he won the tug as a mayor, in 2009, it was raining the day of the wheelbarrow ride — effectively putting a damper on the customary joyride over the canal the following day.
“I had to sit in a wet wheelbarrow all the way over the bridge,” Pilozzi said. “But this year, the forecast says sun and high temperatures for tomorrow, so I’ll be enjoying my victory.”
Ortt said his team did suffer from a last minute roster change as a result of a team member’s knee injury — but the mayor said he didn’t want to make any excuses for their poor showing Monday evening.
“I won’t chalk it up to that injury,” Orrt said. “They had us out-manned from the start.”
Both fifteen-member teams were composed of mainly young firefighters and police officers who offered their team the biggest advantage in weight and muscle.
“We use the big, strapping ones who have only been here for two or three years,” Pilozzi said. “I used to take part, and council members used to, too — but we don’t use any old guys anymore.”
The city’s strategy seemed to pay off, as North Tonawanda Firefighter Doug Orlowski himself admitted.
“They were just bigger than us, you know, more dedicated to training off-season,” Orlowski joked. “I saw they brought some new faces, too.”
Orlowski and other members of the losing team said that the dry ground also created some problems. According to the North Tonawanda team, the ground was slicker than expected and made it hard for them to move their feet.
The battle began before the whistle sounded, when members of each team argued about the starting point of the rope. The rope was moved inches back-and-forth until both teams were satisfied.
“Those inches were a big point of consternation,” Ortt said.
North Tonawanda and City of Tonawanda residents grew somewhat restless during the argument, and began cheering on their teams before the tug began. But it was nothing compared to the moment the city claimed victory, which resulted in a roaring cheer.
“I came to see Tonawanda tear up North Tonawanda,” Bob Hammer said. “So I’m pretty happy with the win.”
North Tonawanda’s loss marks Ortt’s first failure in the annual tug-of-war while serving as mayor.
Today, he will have to push the winning Mayor Pilozzi over the Renaissance Bridge in the annual post-tug tradition. Ortt said he thinks he will have his work cut out for him.
“It should be interesting,” Pilozzi said. “I weigh about twice as much as him, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The mayor’s ride will begin at 6 p.m. on Sweeney Street near Main Street.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.