Canal Fest to celebrate 30 year anniversary

O ne of the Whitehall’s most eagerly anticipated annual events will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this month.

The Whitehall Canal Festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14 at the Skenesborough Park.

The carnival-like festival has been a staple of the summer season in Whitehall since 1982.

Jim Aiken, who reprises his role as organizer and spokesperson for the event after a one-year hiatus due to an injury, said the event was founded to provide local residents with affordable entertainment that was close to home. At the time, economic conditions were such that some residents didn’t have the means to travel to events outside the community.

“It was meant to provide an opportunity for the residents of Whitehall and summer visitors, entertainment that they would normally have to travel distances to larger communities in which to participate,” said Aiken.

 

Tie-in to concerts

Initially, is was a weeklong festival with games and food booths but organizers realized after several years that gathering the resources necessary to stage such an event was difficult and it was cut back to a weekend.

The same year volunteers constructed a bandstand and organized the Music in the Park series that provides seven to eight weeks of concerts every Friday night during July and August. Now the festival serves as the official start to the concert series, with concerts on both Friday and Saturday nights.

The event was also scheduled to be held around the Mount Carmel Society’s annual celebration in mid-July each year.

That event used to be held where McDonald’s is located and was renowned for its annual fireworks display. But over time, volunteers began to dwindle and the event faded into history.

To ensure that residents didn’t miss out on the annual fireworks show, members of the Whitehall Festival Committee added it to their schedule of activities.

 

Familiar faces

This year’s event will feature many of the same attractions that local residents have grown accustomed to seeing.

“There will be lots of familiar stuff,” Aiken said.

There will once again be a handful of rides, games, food concessions, the famous cake booth, carriage rides, and performances by the Willie Playmore Band and Children at Play, whose lead singer Kathi Brooks is a Whitehall native.

As is tradition, the festival comes to its ceremonious end on Saturday night with the fireworks display, which Aiken says will be larger this year in celebration of its 30th anniversary.

“It’s a fun family event. My grandkids look forward to coming down every year,” said Aiken.

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