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April 3, 2013

Canal Fest early close set

Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda Common Council passed a resolution Tuesday evening setting the dates for the 2013 Canal Fest and finalizing the closing hour as 10 p.m. after an ongoing debate between officials and the organizers of the event. 

The fest will run from July 14 to 21, and just like last year, the rides and concessions will close an hour earlier than they did prior to 2012. 

“I think it is good we are sticking to our guns with the 10 p.m. shutdown,” Councilman Blake Boyle said. “It is good for the police, and good for our city.”

The debate between Canal Fest organizers and the city reignited in February but the disagreement began last April, when the council voted to change the closing hours for the event from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. on their side of the canal. 

The decision followed the 2011 fest that was tainted by a near-brawl of about 150 youths near the festival grounds one night. On another fest night in 2011, Chief of Police John Ivancic shut down the midway a half-hour early after authorities made six disorderly conduct arrests in 15 minutes.

Event organizers said the time change would result in a drastic reduction in profits, and after last year’s event, said profits were down 20 percent. They did not provide documentation to verify the claim. 

Meanwhile, the city hoped the changes would reduce the number of arrests and improve the safety of the event. By the numbers, it did. There were just eight arrests last year — down from 29 the previous year. Canal Fest organizers, though, said police were intentionally more lenient than in years past — an effort they suggested was to vindicate the 10 p.m. closing moving forward.

Randy Fahs, an organizer of the event, attended meetings early this year in attempt to persuade the council to move the closings back to 11 p.m. for the 2013 fest. 

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