Just a few years ago, promoter Kathy Paradowski was involved with her husband in bringing a canal series to the banks of the Erie Canal, which drew tens of thousands each summer to the economically deprived North Tonawanda.
But in a disagreement with a past administration, the series fled to Lockport, where it still remains.
Now, in a coming-full-circle scenario, Paradowski is once again attempting to break into the concert business in the Lumber City, though this time it will be a one-time, feeling-out process held at Gratwick-Riverside Park — a larger space she views as having more potential than Gateway Harbor Park, where the previous series was held.
“We sort of wanted to get our feet wet and get a feel for Gratwick before we do too many concerts,” she said.
On Sunday, when Cornerstone’s Niagara River Rocks show comes to the Gratwick, a monolithic spread of green space, it will serve as a testing ground of sorts for what could feasibly become a fixture, with bands Buckcherry and Fuel headlining the free evening.
And in a city that, like much of Western New York, is trying to redefine its image from a worn-out industrial town to one prefaced by its proximity to water, the show, while just a peg in a slowly evolving tower of effort, stands as a building block, with officials and private investors piecing the municipality back together.
“Of course, just like a lot of council members, I believe North Tonawanda has tons of untapped potential,” said council President Rich Andres. “This is one more thing that could bring people to the area.”
Andres said that finding reasons to beckon crowds to the city is the council’s current tactic with the point of it centered on getting them to recognize that the area is changing. When Paradowski’s Molson Concert Series ran near the canal, between 5,000 and 15,000 people would attend each concert event several times during the summer, many of whom were not from the Twin Cities.
“I hope this will do the same thing,” Andres said. “It makes people want to come here and will maybe entice people to want to live here. If nothing else, many of them will make their way to downtown and spend their money.”
He also added the effects of the Molson series has already born fruit, with outside developers increasingly showing interest.
“Maybe Sunday won’t be a resounding success, it’s only the first year,” he said. “But if don’t try you’ll never know what could happen. We can’t sit there and wait for the perfect scenario.”
The free concert may be another step in that direction, Paradowski said. While she is unsure where it will lead, she likes the venue’s space as well as the idea of a more regular series next year.
“We’re always looking to expand,” she said, “And Gratwick is the perfect backdrop. It can house vendors and parking and its self-contained. I think it has the opportunity to become a great venue for concerts.”
The show will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Parking at the park is $5. For more information go to www.niagarariverrocks.com.
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.