The 35th annual Canal Fest wraps up on Sunday. The 8 day fest features crafts, carnival rides, and food near the Erie Canal in the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. And while it is a popular attraction for hundreds of thousands each year, the benefits vary among nearby businesses.
“Usually, we're a very busy little diner.” Explained Lou’s Restaurant server, Jennifer Sheldon. The week of Canal Fest is proving to be no different at the diner on Webster Street. Business is steady despite the fest taking place right out front. “All the regulars that can't park, they're substituted by all those that come down for canal fest.”
So it’s able to break even.
Michele's Motif Boutique is doing better than breaking even. “It triples. It triples. It's a good economic impact for this area,” said owner, Michele Krienbuhl. “This weekend is probably the biggest economic weekend I have until the Christmas season.”
But not all businesses just beyond the vendor tents within the festival's footprint say the event helps boost their bottom-line. Take for example, Suzanne Todaro's Gleam and Glimmer Stained Glass Studio on Webster Street. The shop sells stained glass lamps and decorations and also teaches you how to make them. “Festivals help with foot traffic but not a lot of sales for us because our sales are reflected in our classes and thing that we sell during the Christmas season.”
Part of the problem lies with limited parking. Todaro said she changes her hours to coincide with the festival and maximize exposure, and she isn't alone. We found several store fronts along Webster with alternate hours posted for the week. Some, like Webster’s Bistro, even chose to close altogether.
Still, the fest has been a staple for the last 35 years. And organizers say it's here to stay. It’s no doubt a savior for some businesses, and a setback for others.