It's just about time for Canal Fest

James Neiss/staff photographerA steady stream of people walk the Canal Fest Midway during last year’s festivities.

For the 37th year, the Canal Fest of the Tonawandas will launch on Sunday, with a full line-up of events, competitions, music, food and rides to celebrate the Erie Canal and the communities that border it. 

The festival will open with a ceremony on the Renaissance Bridge at noon Sunday, with officials from both Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. 

The annual Chalk-It-Up Street Art Contest will begin at 1 p.m. and will correspond to the festival’s 2019 theme – “Safari Adventures.” Sunday will also feature the annual Vintage Fire Truck Muster from noon to 6 p.m. Both events will take place on Main Street in the City of Tonawanda. 

On Monday, The Canal “Festimpics,” a series of athletic competitions for area youths, will kick off at 12:30 p.m. at Payne Park. The completion will last through Thursday, with the winners being recognized the prior to the TNT’s Got Talent Show on July 19. 

At 6:30 p.m., the annual tug-of-war between employees of the Twin Cities will take place behind Tonawanda City Hall. The mayor of the losing city will give the mayor of the winning city a ride over the Delaware Street bridge the following day– as is tradition. 

Tuesday will be the day of the annual Charles Fleischman Canal Fest Parade, which will start at 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Grove and Minerva streets in Tonawanda. The mayor’s wheelbarrow ride will immediately precede the parade at 6 p.m., starting at the corner of Sweeney and Main streets in North Tonawanda.

On Thursday, the Twin Cities’ youngest residents will get their chance to be in the spotlight with the annual Diaper Derby, which puts crawling-age babies on a small track to see who can cross the finish line first. This will take place at the corner of Main and Tremont streets in North Tonawanda. 

The announcement for the winners of the Canal “Festimpics” will be announced at noon on Friday at the stage on Sweeney Street in Gateway Harbor Park. Immediately after that, the TNT’s Got Talent show will begin, featuring local youths between the ages of 6 and 18 showing off their various talents. 

Saturday will be the first day of the two-day Canal Fest Arts and Craft Show, which will take place on both sides of the festival grounds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Then, at 6 p.m., the annual Sika Challenge Cup boat races will kick off in the Canal near the Delaware Street bridge. Guests to Canal Fest can watch teams building their boats from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Long Homestead in Tonawanda. 

The art show continues Sunday during the same times as Saturday and Canal Fest will close the same way it always does, with a fireworks display from the Renaissance Bridge, which will take place at dusk. 

In addition to the above-mentioned events, each day of the festival will feature food from various vendors, live music from a number of local performers, face painting and other events.

For the full Canal Fest 2019 schedule, go to