Just like the peach crop itself, the first full day of the 2012 Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival suffered a bit from the weather Saturday, when some morning rain and an afternoon downpour sent people scurrying for cover.
But after the showers passed, "it actually went pretty well," said Dean Beltrano, chairman of the 55th annual festival. By Saturday evening, he said, "The weather cleared up, it's bright and sunny, the rides are open, and we're still chugging along."
The rain, said Beltrano, "tends to keep people away, but tomorrow should definitely make up for it."
Tens of thousands of people usually attend the festival in Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston, which runs through this evening. The festival features a Saturday parade, a midway with dozens of carnival rides, and contests for young Peach Fuzz and Peach Blossom winners, as well as a Peach Queen.
A highlight of the festival is the peach shortcake made with cakes from DiCamillo's Bakery and Singer Farms peaches that were on the trees in Appleton less than a week ago.
Jim Bittner, a partner in Singer Farms, said the 11,000 pounds of fresh peaches that were prepared for the festival were picked Tuesday, then peeled and sliced by machines at a farm in Vineland, Ont.
The baby gold peaches that festivalgoers will eat are from a crop that was hit hard by a very warm March and a hard freeze in April.
"The freezes in April were not abnormal," said Bittner. "What was abnormal was the warm weather we had in March, which encouraged the flower buds to swell and bloom early, and then they were clobbered by the freezes. The early heat and the freeze in April hurt more than the drought did.
"We can always irrigate, but I can't resuscitate buds that are gone."
Today is expected to be a glorious day in Lewiston, according to meteorologist Kirk Apffel of the National Weather Service in Buffalo. The weather will be partly sunny with a high of about 70 and a slight northwest breeze.
"You can't rule out rain," he said, adding that there is a 30 percent chance of some scattered showers in the afternoon. "But it will definitely be better than today."
Today's Peach Festival events, all in Academy Park, include a dance showcase from noon to 3 p.m., with various groups performing. From 1:30 to 4 p.m., 23 Skidoo will roam the grounds performing Dixieland. The Peach Blossom Contest for girls is from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by the Bob Volkman Band from 5 to 6:45 p.m. and the McCarthy School of Irish Dance from 7 to 7:45 p.m. The finals of the Peach Queen Contest begin at 8 p.m.
A shuttle takes festivalgoers from the upper lots of Artpark to and from the festival grounds.
Both parking and the shuttle are free.