NIAGARA FALLS – Organizers of an outdoor street festival held before Nik Wallenda’s June 15 wire-walk were proud that – for once – the American side of the Falls had something the Canadian side didn’t.
Now, those who put on the event have another reason to celebrate.
The “side show” street carnival celebrating Wallenda’s stunt has been named the Outstanding Event of the Year by the Buffalo Niagara Event Professionals.
The festival, which featured daredevil-themed activities on Old Falls Street near Niagara Falls State Park, snagged the top honor in the extra-large event category, which featured events with more than 20,000 guests.
“We are proud of the accomplishments of our staff members, who not only work hard to promote downtown Niagara Falls, but spark the overall economic development of our area,” Ryan Coate, general manager of the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, said in a statement.
Managed by Global Spectrum, which runs the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, the event drew a mix of residents and tourists who flocked to Niagara Falls to see the daredevil’s once-in-a-lifetime strut across the raging cataracts.
Anticipating a steady rush of traffic into the city for the nighttime event, Global Spectrum officials put on the street festival to give visitors something to do before the wire-walk while also connecting the state park to other businesses in the city.
The strategy appeared to work in the normally dull downtown tourism district, which sprung to life with more than 60 stilt-walkers, clowns, jugglers and other street performers. Pedestrians said they were impressed by the display and spoke of a revival spurred by the big event.
“It was jampacked. The spirit was very high,” said marketing director Susan Swiatkowski. “It was nice to see concentrated activity on Old Falls Street, which we like to say is pretty much the welcome center of the downtown Niagara Falls area. It was nice to see the residents of Western New York, many who hadn’t been to Niagara Falls in years, [interacting] with the residents of Niagara Falls and tourists from around the world.”
Global Spectrum was hired a few years ago by the state’s USA Niagara Development Corp., which focuses on developing the area outside of the state park by clearing away blighted structures and pouring funds into strategic development projects.
The company has put on street festivals along Old Falls Street and hosted daily activities on the strip as a way of drawing people downtown and encouraging brick-and-mortar development in the tourism district.
“As we work on the physically built environment, an events-driven strategy is excellent to drive foot traffic and create that sense of place,” said USA Niagara Development President Christopher J. Schoepflin. “What happens on Old Falls Street is really special and not something every community has.”