Tonawanda News

July 3, 2013

Tonawandas gear up for Independence Day celebrations

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Costumed historic characters, hot-dog- (and carrot-) eating contests, music and, of course, fireworks will all be available to residents of the Tonawanda and Kenmore over the next few days as the area gears up for Independence Day Thursday.

• An Independence Day Celebration will be sponsored by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at the Village Green, Delaware Avenue and Delaware Road. The event will feature costumed historic characters, a bicycle rodeo on a closed-off portion of Delaware Road, crafts, games, music and refreshments, said Melissa Foster, KVIS president.

”We have more games, we have the bike rodeo, we have the historic characters — better historic characters than ever before — we have patriotic music and crafts and free things to give away,” she said. “It’s a wonderful time.”

In the past, the historic characters (depicted by local actors) at the event have included Martha and George Washington, Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln, John and Abigail Adams, Paul Revere and Sybil Luddington, Foster said.

”I have never in my lifetime seen a more modern-day Norman Rockwell picture than I have here,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite events of the year.”

• Starting at 2 p.m. Thursday, a Fourth of July hot dog and veggie “Bunny Dog” eating contest will take place at Old Man River Restaurant, 375 Niagara St., City of Tonawanda. Proceeds will benefit North Tonawanda Meals on Wheels, said Dan Wilkins, event promoter.

Things will kick off with small competitions between local dignitaries, including police personnel, for bragging rights, followed by the vegetarian “Bunny Dog” — a marinated, grilled carrot, served on a hot dog roll — contest. The main hot dog contest will feature Sahlen’s hot dogs served served on a bun. Contestants of either event will have 10 minutes to consume as many hot dogs (or carrots) as they can. 

Last year’s event, the first of its kind, went very well, Wilkins said.

”We had a great time. You’d be surprised how many people come out and bring their families with them,” he said. “It’s fun to watch.”

The winning records are 10 hot dogs last year, and eight Bunny Dogs, Wilkins said. While that’s small change for an eating contest, it’s still a challenge.

”We just started; the major one they have in Coney Island every year -- that person there ate 68 hotdogs in minutes. That’s incredible,” he said. “A lot of people think they can do it, and then they hit a brick wall.

”We’re the only ones in the whole country who do a vegan one; that’s something we can brag about.”

For the $25 entry fee, each contestant will receive a contest T-shirt and a plate of hot dogs as they begin. The winners will have their names on a permanent plaque at the restaurant and will receive $50 prize money donated by Fantastic Sam’s.

Registrations will be accepted up until the event’s start time. Entry forms are available at Old Man River Restaurant or the NT Meals on Wheels office, 100 Ridge Road, North Tonawanda, or downloaded from

Dan Stuerner’s All Star Band, 50/50 raffles and other food will be featured during the event. The rain date is Friday.

For more information, call Wilkins at 861-8928.

• The annual T-NT fireworks, shot from Tonawanda Island, will take place at dusk — approximately 9:45 p.m. — Thursday in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda. 

The fireworks will be preceded by a concert by Sugar ‘N Jazz at 7 p.m. at the Niawanda Park bandshell, Niagara Street, City of Tonawanda. Niagara Street will be closed for pedestrian safety.

• Independence Day celebrations will continue Friday in the Town of Tonawanda, which will host a special ceremony to honor World War II veterans at 6:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial at Kenney Field, Colvin Boulevard and Brighton Road.

The ceremony will be followed by a concert at 7:15 p.m. by the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas Post 264, concluding with a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

The events are open to all residents of the Town of Tonawanda and the Village of Kenmore. World War II veterans who live in the town or village are invited to attend by event organizers. Those interested in taking part should contact the Town of Tonawanda Youth, Parks and Recreation Department at 831-1001.