Tonawanda News

April 3, 2013

Canal Fest early close set

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

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. 

But his efforts were futile and the 10 p.m. closing is now official. 

Health and environmental concerns were also a hot topic at Tuesday’s meeting. Joyce Hogenkamp, president for Citizens United for Justice, attended the meeting to ask the council to pass a resolution asking for more soil testing. 

Hogenkamp made the request on the part of the Tonawanda Community Fund, which recently completed preliminary soil testing near Tonawanda Coke — which, last week, was found guilty of violating two federal environmental laws. 

That preliminary study found a hazardous carcinogen in the soil of residents’ backyards, and now, the fund is pressing the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency to complete more testing. 

Tuesday, Hogenkamp asked the council to pass a resolution in support of the fund’s request.

“The more voices that are heard, the better off we are going to be,” she said. “I’ve got a map of the affected area, and it’s not just Brookside Terrace. We are ground zero.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The council passed a resolution authorizing the removal of a traffic light on Adam Street near St. Francis School. Councilman Richard Slisz voted against the resolution, and said he wants to do more to protect the children who cross the street, while Council President Carleton Zeisz said the light has been broken for two years and would cost $15,000 to fix.

• The council also began reviewing what will be approved for the city’s capital plan, which approves bonding for a number of area projects. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150