By Rich Place
The lack of a suitable location to host the Western New York Dairy and Agricultural Festival has forced its cancellation, event organizers recently announced.
Held for the past three years at the Springville-Griffith Institute High School, the annual festival originally scheduled for the first weekend of June was forced to find another location due to capital project work taking place this year at the school campus.
And after investigation nearly a dozen different locations in recent weeks and not finding an alternative, organizers decided to cancel the festival but anticipate its return in 2019 again behind the high school.
“It’s a tough one to make but that’s why I want to get the word out,” said chairman Joan Taylor about the decision.
Planning for this year’s Dairy Festival — originally scheduled for June 1 to 3 — was already well underway and had included a nearly completed preliminary schedule. Taylor said the schedule is often completed in February so event promotion can begin.
The village board in November approved the process for the Dairy Festival to move forward with planning the festival behind the stores on Main Street, which was also listed as the location on the festival’s website.
“We thought they were going to have it back there,” said Springville Mayor Bill Krebs on Tuesday. He said the event’s site plan presented to the village board included allowing a lane open for emergency vehicles and also leaving space for tenants’ parking.
But following announcement of the event’s cancellation this week, Taylor said there wouldn’t be enough room to accommodate all rides, entertainment, vendors and parking. Krebs noted that the village board had OK’ed closing South Buffalo Street and using part of the Springville Youth Incorporated (SYI) property for the festival as well.
The mayor said he showed committee members other potential locations, including the other side of Main Street, in Heritage Park, in Fireman’s Park or suggesting the parking lot of the Springville Village Shopping Center on South Cascade Drive.
“The village would have liked to see it in our village center but they had their own requirements, the space they needed and they ultimately decided they couldn’t have it,” said Krebs.
Other locations looked at by the committee included the Concord Senior Center off Waverly Street — which was not permitted because it would set a precedent of allowing other non-senior groups and festivals to use the facility, Taylor said — and the Gentner’s Commission Market auction site.
“Long story short, the rides would have to be set up on a very flat, hard base which would be right at the top of the hill,” she explained, but noted the timing of Wednesday’s auction makes it difficult to set up for the event.
Taylor said the Franklin Street area, also recently used as a festival site, does not accommodate the festival because of the need to keep a lane of traffic open for the fire department and Sheriff’s Office substation.
“I knew things were moving around and getting so much better in Springville, but holy mackerel — we started looking for a place and everything is getting built up,” she said.
Krebs noted the Fiddle Fest has three music venues in the same vicinity — Fiddler’s Green Park, the new Heritage Park and the Mercantile Building.
“That’s one of the reasons we built Heritage Park and improved the municipal parking lot right outside the public safety building,” he said. Taylor, however, said the space would be too small to accommodate the rides, food vendors and other attractions for the event — plus the Dairy Fest’s significantly larger crowd.
West Valley Central School Superintendent Eric Lawton told his board during its Monday meeting he would offer the school as a location for the event, pending significant planning and cooperation with other agencies and organizations, and called Taylor on Tuesday morning.
However, Taylor said moving the festival that far would require too much planning to move it in too short of a time span — including informing all vendors, those responsible for the amusement park rides and the general public.
The festival’s cancellation comes despite significantly higher interest, at least in terms of financial support from the community, compared to last year’s event. Taylor said the committee was only about $1,000 away from the total financial support it had received all of last year — and it’s only February.
The task at hand for the committee now is spreading the word to vendors and the public about the festival’s cancellation and writing checks to vendors and sponsors to give them their money back.
It’ll be an extra year before the Dairy Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary, which had been the theme of this year’s event. When asked about downsizing the event to fill an available space, Taylor said it was a tough decision but decided against it.
“If you downsize it, people will say ‘that thing is going to the dogs’ or ‘they are losing their popularity,’” she said. “It just won’t work. You just can’t cut it in half.”
The 2019 event is scheduled to return to the high school on May 31, June 1 and June 2. Taylor said she’s grateful for the phone calls she has received after those in the community heard the news of this year’s cancellation.
“It’s a compliment to know that after 30 years people are looking forward to it and appreciate it,” she said. “That’s a compliment to the committee and the community. It really makes people stop and think what you’ve got.
“It just opens our eyes and feels very proud of the last 29 years we’ve had. We are still going to celebrate our 30th, it just won’t be this year — it’s going to be next year. And it’s going to be bigger and it’s going to be better.”