Canal Festival returns next weekend

fest christian briggsThe Whitehall Canal Festival, a local tradition for more than three decades, returns to the Skenesborough Harbor Park later this month.

The 31st annual festival will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, and will feature amusements, games, good eats and live music.

One of Whitehall’s most eagerly anticipated seasonal events, the carnival-like festival has been a staple of the summer season in Whitehall since 1982.

Jim Aiken, who has helped plan the event for years, said the event is an opportunity for residents to enjoy some entertainment without having to drive to Glens Falls, Saratoga or Rutland, Vt.

“The event was originally organized to give residents, who rarely traveled out of town, their own entertainment,” he said.

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

Kelly and Amy’s World Amusements will provide a handful of rides, some suited for small children and one or two that feature some added thrills for older kids or the young at heart.

The Rutland-based company will also bring with it several carnival games and food booths.

Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church will serve a chicken barbecue on Saturday and the famous cake booth returns for another year, providing patrons with the opportunity to wager for their favorite dessert.

Organizers are looking for donations of desserts and anybody willing to bake a cake, pie or other delectable treat is asked to drop them off at the cake booth by 6 p.m. on July 12.

Despite all the excitement of the midway, live music remains one of the festival main attractions.

The Canal Festival serves as the official start to the weekly Friday night “Music in the Park” summer concert series and for the third consecutive year the Willie Playmore Band will receive first billing.

This four-man band featuring Curt Cleveland on guitar and vocals, Tim Ellifritz on guitar, Dick Hornick on drums and James Martin on bass, bills itself as performing “music you can dance to.”

The group plays a variety of classic rock, including selections from the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, ZZ Top, and many others.

The music continues the following evening as Children at Play performs. The group, which is fronted by Whitehall native Kathi Brooks, has been described as a high-energy cover band that performs a number of musical genres including classic rock, ‘80s music, country and Top 40.

Both concerts will be staged in the Skenesborough Harbor Park amphitheater. All other “Music in the Park” concerts will be held in Riverside Veterans Memorial Park.

The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on July 12 and the midway is open to approximately 9 p.m. On Saturday vendors and rides will open at noon. The event comes to an end at 9:30 p.m. with the annual fireworks display.

Admission to Canal Festival is free.

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