By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
— — They visit for the annuals and perennials. They come to see the ponds and the waterfalls. They learn about herbs and vegetables and even art.
But in the end, the City of Tonawanda Garden Walk is all about the people, and the city they live in, said Sue Gregg, chairman of the Tonawandas Board of Visual & Performing Arts, which sponsors the walk.
"Everbody's excited about it. All the people I've talked to, the gardeners are really happy," she said. "Everyone's prepping and the weather's looking nice.
"It's a fun event to do by yourself, with your family, with your friends. It's such a plus for the city. We're a small city and it gives the city a chance to shine. It gives people a chance to meet their neighbors and a chance to see what's out there."
This year's walk, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, features 26 gardens, including many new ones, Gregg said. Maps are available at municipal buildings including Tonawanda City Hall, 200 Niagara St.; the City of Tonawanda Library, 333 Main St.; the Senior Citizen Center, 35 Main St.; and the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St., North Tonawanda. On the day of the event, maps will be available at the City of Tonawanda police station the library. Some gardeners may also have copies.
The gardens, spread throughout the city, come in all shapes and sizes. Some focus on flowers alone, while others also feature vegetables and herbs, fountains and ponds and/or rock, meditation or butterfly/hummingbird gardens. Many also feature sculpture or art of varying types.
Gregg suggested that people can do mini walks, focusing on all the gardens in one particular section of the city, such as the Riverview, Delawanda or Millstream Village areas.
"If you can't do the whole thing ... and it is hard to do the whole thing because it's so spread out ... you can pick a pocket area and just do that area," she said.
JoAnn Mierzwa of 15 Fremont St. has taken part in the Garden Walk all three years. Her home features annuals, perennials and herbs, with an arbor, water feature ... and lemonade for thirsty walkers.
"It's been a lot of fun and it's nice to get people out," she said. "I've met a lot of my near and distant neighbors in the city of Tonawanda. It's a very good event."
It's not just good for the area, Mierzwa said: It's good for her garden. "It certainly helps ... because it encourages me to think of something new every year."
Most of the gardens are at individual homes, with two exceptions. The new Tonawanda Community Peace Garden at 98 Main St. is on the list, as are the medians and hanging baskets on Clinton Street, where Vincent Ciancio has helped keep the street in bloom for four years now.
Ciancio said it started as the newest incarnation of a longtime tradition of gardens on Clinton Street.
"My inital thought process was just to beautify the street," he said. "It's been a tradition that's gone on for at least 50 years. There are old photos from the Tonawanda News of people planting gardens 50 years ago on Clinton Street."
While Ciancio is joined by his neighbors, who help and donate use of hoses and equipment and money for flowers, it's a particular hobby of his ... although that might be understating the case.
"I maintain them all, I cut all the grass, weed the beds, plant the flowers," he said. "It's sort of a passion of mine. It keeps me busy.
"Everyone comments on how much they like it. It motivates me. I would love people on other streets to do it. It doesn't take that much time, especially if you get other people on line. It could be a community project."
Paula Voell of 79 Canton St. is taking part in her second Garden Walk this year. She said that it's a lot of fun, as a gardener, to show off what you've done every year.
"It's really nice to have people enjoy the fruits of what you do. That's nice," she said. "And it sort of forces you to get everything in shape."