NORTH TONAWANDA – Artists, musicians and food trucks will be on hand each week for Thursdays in Gateway in the Tonawandas.
The event, which got underway last week and will continue through the end of August, is a joint venture with the City of Tonawanda and is held along the banks of the Erie Canal in Gateway Park, at Sweeney Street in North Tonawanda and on Main Street, between Young and Broad streets, in Tonawanda.
Features include a juried artisan market, acoustic music and from 12 to 15 food trucks from 4 to 7:30 p.m. every Thursday throughout the summer – except July 10 and 17, during Canal Fest.
M. Suzanne Todaro, the co-owner of Gleam and Glitter Stained Glass on Webster Street and the secretary for the Downtown Merchants Association in North Tonawanda, said that Thursdays in Gateway in the Tonawandas is designed to bring more people to both cities. The event is co-managed with Swiftwater Business Association on the Tonawanda side of the canal.
“A food truck vendor approached the Chamber, and I thought maybe it would be a good idea to pair that with an artisan market,” said Todaro. “There’s a lot of artistic talent here. A lot of us make our own product. We have painters. We have sculptors. We do stained glass. There’s a silk maker down the street. There’s a jeweler. There’s a lot of us that have homemade or handmade goods.”
The event is envisioned as an outdoor art festival, with ample room for growth.
Todaro said the debut outing was tough to put together because of the Allentown Art Festival. But she expects more people to get involved as the summer progresses.
“Right now we have 17 food trucks committed, with 12 planned at any one time. So we will have six and six – six on the North Tonawanda side and six on the Tonawanda side,” she said.
The idea of expanding beyond six trucks in North Tonawanda was rejected by the North Tonawanda Common Council during a recent meeting. The Council approved the market but held the line at six trucks that will require the proper permits.
Food trucks are a hot-button issue in North Tonawanda. Alderman at Large Malcom Needler and Mayor Robert G. Ortt both said they don’t want to disrupt brick-and-mortar restaurants, which pay taxes and support the community. North Tonawanda officials currently are working on regulations for food trucks.
Todaro said coordinating the new event between the two communities is not a new concept for the merchants organizations, which currently are putting together plans for Winter Walk in the first weekend of December.
She added that officials hope someday the event will fill the entire Gateway campus in both cities.
“I’m hoping that by the end of the summer we might be able to bridge some of the gap,” Todaro said.
She said the festival is not only about discovering artisans and food trucks but a means for both merchants organizations to attract funding to beautify their downtown areas.
“We are encouraging all of the merchants to be open that evening at least until 7 or 8 ,” said Todaro, who noted that beginning July 10 and continuing through Sept. 4, the Riviera Theatre is holding its Summer Musical Movie Series, which starts at 7:30.
“We are hoping that people hang out a bit, maybe grab some dinner – if they didn’t get enough from the food trucks,” she said. “Have a drink after the show. It’s all about discovering the Tonawandas.”