By Eva Potter
Salamanca’s annual Falling Leaves Festival is still scheduled Oct. 5–6, 2013, but its location has been volleyed back and forth a few times, finally landing back in Jefferson Street Park.
Traditionally, the festival has been held at Jefferson Street Park in the City of Salamanca, but was recently moved last week to Allegany State Park. The Seneca Salamanca Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the event, felt Allegany State Park would make a great host site with room for expansion.
Jenny Ingrao, director of Membership & Events at the Seneca Salamanca Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber, which is a nonprofit organization with no government affiliation, exists to support its member businesses and that moving the Falling Leaves Festival to Allegany State Park would “encourage new people to come into Salamanca.”
However, at Wednesday night’s Salamanca Common Council meeting more than 70 citizens and festival donors came to voice their opinions, with most vehemently in favor of keeping the festival in the city. The Council also was presented with a petition containing 725 signatures of citizens who wanted the festival to remain in the City of Salamanca.
“The way it’s always been is the City of Salamanca has always hosted the festival,” said Salamanca Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella, of the 36-year-old festival.
He said the Common Council did not know the Chamber had relocated the event to ASP until rumors surfaced that the city was behind the move.
“We got a public outcry, because the word got around saying the mayor and the council were moving it,” Vecchiarella said.
At that point, he invited the Chamber to come to the next Common Council meeting to give a presentation regarding the change in venue, which included plans for events within ASP as well as a citywide lawn sale in the City of Salamanca the same weekend.
Chamber officials were present at Wednesday’s meeting, and Philip Moyer, president of the Seneca Salamanca Chamber of Commerce, presented their festival plans, which were met with strong opposition.
Vecchiarella stated the Chamber had specifically asked to reserve Jefferson Street Park for the Falling Leaves Festival for Oct. 5–6, as was recorded in the minutes of a previous meeting. He said the change in location creates a host of problems including vendor dissatisfaction with the move, as they had committed to the Falling Leaves Festival at Jefferson Street Park, not outside the city limits at ASP.
Vecchiarella also said he had a letter from the Seneca Nation “supporting us keeping the festival in the City of Salamanca.”
Taking charge at the Wednesday night meeting, he said, “I represent the people of the City of Salamanca. First of all, my heart is in the City of Salamanca and I’ve always fought for the city. Myself and the Council will be the Falling Leaves Festival Committee.”
Vecchiarella welcomed anyone to be a volunteer on a subcommittee and speculated that the chamber would still be involved, possibly as a subcommittee.
When reached by phone Thursday morning, a chamber representative said they were not ready to comment.
The festival’s money management will be run through the Mayor’s Office, as in the past, to keep accountability transparent, Vecchiarella said.
Those attending this year’s festival can look forward to an interesting display of Seneca history and culture. The Native Roots Artists Guild will feature basket weaving, beadwork, paintings and other art. Festivalgoers can watch demonstrations in storytelling, language and native food, as well as taste authentic Seneca food and learn about the history of corn soup. A variety of food vendors will be there to offer delicious festival foods and treats.
Other annual highlights will include amusement rides and game, a petting zoo, a birds of prey exhibit and possibly a wine tasting, to name a few.
To add to the weekend’s festivities, Vecchiarella said Bob Breidenstein, superintendent of the Salamanca City School district, would check with Section 6 football to see if the school’s homecoming game could be scheduled for Oct. 4, extending the event to Friday evening.
To volunteer or form a subcommittee for the Falling Leaves Festival, please call the Mayor’s Office at (716) 945-3110 and speak with Tammy. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.