Traffic jams in Lewiston, a village with less than 3,000 residents, at 9 in the morning on a Saturday can only mean one thing -- it's time for Niagara County's annual Peach Festival.
Western New Yorkers love their peaches. This is evident given the size of the vivacious throngs that make the pilgrimage to Lewiston every year for the Peach Festival. Celebrated the second weekend in September, the Peach Festival is a stunning combination of rides, food, games, shows, parades and, of course, peaches.
"For me, the Peach Festival has always meant the official kick-off of another school year," Maura Cattarin of Lewiston, a veteran of the long lines and general mayhem of the event, said Saturday. "It's a renewal of the community."
The renewal began around 5 p.m. Friday, when cheerleaders warmed up before their competition. While they waited, patrons were able to take a spin on Pharaoh's Fury (the newest carnival ride), try their luck at Skee Ball, or indulge in funnel cakes, caramel apples and "sno kones." The diversity of Western New York is apparent at the Peach Festival. Strolling by the kiosks, one can smell the aroma of German knockwurst, Cajun jambalaya and Italian pasticiotti.
"It's a chance to represent our school and make us look good," says Sarah Siwinski, a cheerleader from Niagara Catholic High School. "It's a chance to show what you can do."
Before the competition, Sarah confessed she was both nervous and excited, saying her team had only a "few weeks to prepare [to go] up against all these big schools."
Niagara Catholic won the competition.
The Peach Fest parade on Saturday is always a huge success -- though it is often difficult to tell whether the participants outnumber the spectators. Bystanders relaxed in folding chairs while listening to the Niagara Falls Wolverines play Lady Gaga or watching the Niagara Royalettes twirl their batons to "Devil with the Blue Dress On."
People continued to display their enthusiasm as they strolled around Lewiston's Academy Park, amazed by the amount of peach pies, peach jam, peach shortcake, peach bread, peach cookies, and, of course, the abundance of fresh, succulent peaches.
The fun continued until late Sunday night, when Courtney Corbetta, a senior at Lewiston-Porter High School, was crowned Peach Queen. The ceremony signaled the end of yet another Peach Fest, but left everyone with full stomachs, plenty of memories and eagerness for next year.
Beatrice Preti is a junior at Niagara Catholic High School.