By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — A City of Tonawanda tradition will move into its 17th year today with the annual Veterans Park Fall Festival, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park off Niagara Street.
City of Tonawanda Director of Parks and Recreation Amanda Galas offered a rundown of the event, which serves as a fundraiser for her department, enabling it to maintain and improve city parks.
“We have an arts and crafts show, a large basket raffle, community vendors and tables, youth activities, kids’ games, a pumpkin patch store; we do hayrides,” she said. “We have kettles of chowder; that’s alway a big hit. There’s something for everyone. It’s a really inexpensive day out for the family.”
Some activities are free, such as a cookie stacking contest, rocket launch and candy search for those ages 4 to 12 years old. Other activities, such as the youth games area, kids temporary tattoos, crafts, hayrides and fire truck display, are done by tickets, which are 25 cents each. The pumpkin patch allows children to pick out a pumpkin (for four to 18 tickets) and decorate it. Other activities include a family treasure hunt and candy counting contest.
Galas said the event wouldn’t be possible without community groups, from the Girls Swim Booster Club, which runs the concessions area and brings baked potatoes, to volunteers from the middle and high school who run the games area. Members of the Tonawanda Football Clinic and Gastown Sportsmens Club, along with parks department representatives, make gallons of chowder every year, and members of the City of Tonawanda Fire Department help out.
There are a ton of people behind the scenes, she said. “I spent the morning making 150 candy apples; I have people who have been baking for me all week. There are a lot of volunteers prior to the event we couldn’t do without.
“It’s a community event, an all-volunteer event. No one’s getting paid.”
Fire Chief Charles Stuart said representatives from the fire department will be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs at the festival, as well as bringing a fire truck for children to inspect and running a relay game.
His children, who used to play the games at the festival, are now helping with them, he said.
“It’s really turned into something nice,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been going as long as it has. Theres’ a lot of stuff there for the kids, and the food’s good. The rec department’s done a great job organizing it; somehow they always pull it off.
“Other than running out of chowder, I’ve never heard a complaint from anyone.”
On Friday, members of the parks department and volunteers worked at the site, arranging pumpkins, setting up tents and otherwise getting ready for today. Mike Hawn, who will be helping with his last fall festival as an employee of the department, has stirred many gallons of chowder over the years.
“It isn’t just city residents, either, which is great,” he said, “and it’s really the kids’ first chance of the year to get pumpkins.”
Dave Brant of the parks department has driven the hayrides at the festival every year of its existence.
“It’s a good time for the kids,” he said. “Kids love it. People love it. The park is always crowded.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: Veterans Park Fall Festival • WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today • WHERE: Veterans Park, City of Tonawanda.