By Matt Day, Niagara Falls ReviewSunday, July 7, 2013 6:15:33 EDT P
FORT ERIE - For years the Friendship Festival has been Fort Erie’s premier summer event, but Ridgeway’s Summer Festival could take that title as it continues to grow in size and popularity.
This year marked the 23rd year for the festival. About 120 vendors packed Ridge Rd. from Farr Ave. to Willson St., closing down the village’s main artery to vehicles.
This year’s co-ordinator Pauline Carroll said close to 20,000 people checked out some of what the festival had to offer including a car show, live music, street dance, psychic fair and children’s games.
And while Fort Erie still draws a bigger crowd, the buzz from the community isn’t as positive as it used to be.
“The Friendship Festival used to have the big name (musical) acts and I think that’s what drew people there, but funding has been depleted,” she said. “They have more of a carnival-type atmosphere, so it’s a different kind of event.”
Friendship Festival manager Flo Odding said it’s no secret the lack of bingo revenue has made it difficult to put on a show that used to feature air shows, major Canadian bands and hundreds of vendors that lined the Niagara Blvd.
“Ridgeway has more commitment from their community than the Friendship Festival has ever gotten from the Fort Erie community,” she said.
That’s because Ridgeway’s festival is held on the street and relies on businesses there to participate, she said.
“We are in a park so it’s a different kind of scenario,” Odding said. “We’re not the size we were, but we’re still a large event.”
Carroll said both festivals are important to the entire Fort Erie community.
“If you’re from the area and you haven’t been here for a while, it feels like coming home,” she said.
However, some festival-goers, like Chuck Jagiello, said they would choose the Ridgeway festival over Fort Erie’s as their favourite.
“It seems to be nicer in the way that it’s more family oriented,” he said. “(The Friendship Festival) is almost sad the way it’s gone.”
Kathyrn Pummell said she too likes the Ridgeway festival more, despite the fact it lacks a midway.
“I know it doesn’t have the rides, but I really like the merchants and it seems more intimate,” she said, holding up her 2-year-old boy who just had his face painted.
Fort Erie resident Adele Hawes said she enjoys the Ridgeway festival, but would like to see more food vendors next year.
“I’d still pick Ridgeway as my favourite, though,” she said.
Ridgeway Summer Festival highlights:
Concerts by Steve Burnside, Chelsea Crites
First annual Artfest
Psychic Fair and Wellness Expo
Saturday night street dance
Birds of Prey display