Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Unlike last year’s warm and balmy Winterfest Weekend, this year’s event will be accompanied by weather a bit more appropriate — snow and wind.
The event, hosted by the town’s Youth, Parks and Recreation department, lost a bit of snowy spirit last year with high temperatures and no falling flakes. But this year, that winter wonderland will be back.
“Saturday and Sunday night, there is a pretty good chance of snow,” Dan Kelly, of the National Weather Service said. “It will amount to 1 to 2 inches Sunday morning.”
Kelly said there would be another 1/4 inch of snow Sunday afternoon, too, when temperatures are set to be around 30 degrees.
But with high temperatures and a high of 43 degrees today, the snow on the ground will likely melt, and it may even rain.
Although Dan Wiles, director of the department, said he’s glad the snow will make a return this year, high winds Saturday night may delay the festival’s fireworks.
“Residents (should) check our website in the afternoon. If there are any winds above the 20 to 30 mph range, the fireworks will be postponed and we’ll do a larger single show Sunday night, weather
permitting,” Wiles said.
But no matter what Mother Nature bestows upon Tonawanda this weekend, most of the numerous events will go on without a hitch.
It’s the 12th year for the event, which grew out of the town’s winter carnival.
“That was a one day deal, and we went to winterfest which was a five day deal,” Wiles said.
Wiles said they expanded the festival, which officially began Thursday night, in an effort to create more programming and community events for residents, part of the department’s mission.
“We used to have front yard communities, where people hung out and had fun on their front yards with their neighbors,” he said. “But as time went on, more back yard communities came about, and neighbors don’t do as much together. So we do this to try to bring more people together.”
The event has evolved greatly since its inception, and now Wiles said it takes months of planning and evaluation. Every year, planning begins about four or five months before the festival, brainstorming for new events and outlining a schedule.
“Then after the event, in late January or early February, we sit down and talk about what worked, and what didn’t work, what we can chance, what we can make better.” Wiles said.
The process has created an event packed with attractions like wine samplings, a figure skating show at Lincoln Arena Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. and free family skating sessions at both the Lincoln and Brighton Arenas.
New events are added every year, too, including a new hockey game this time around. The town police will be playing Ellwood firefighters in a game Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Lincoln Arena.
“Police vs. fire is a natural rivalry,” Bado said. “Should be fun.”
Donations will be accepted for admittance and all money raised will be given to the family of Mike Chiapperini, the Webster firefighter killed in the shooting last month.
The town also added a comedy show, put on by “Injest,” which will take place at the new Don Kunzleman Arena Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150