Where else on EARTH can you experience the majestic beauty of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge footsteps from your front porch? The hustle and bustle of modern society often leaves little room for the tranquil ambiance of mother nature. Cities built up so grandly like New York City recognize the necessity of have greenspace to offset the built environment and have spent millions of dollars constructing massive parks/greenspaces . We here in Niagara Falls are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty that we often take for granted. When's the last time you took a stroll on Goat Island? Hiked the Niagara Gorge? Relaxed at the Gorge Rim? Its right in our backyard and is a short commute away. Take advantage of whats yours and don't let all the tourists have all the enjoyment of our precious assets.
Imagine a Niagara Falls that isn’t fearful or chained down by willful ignorance. A Niagara Falls that welcomes new ideas, creativity, and risk-takers. A Niagara Falls that rises up to the occasion and blows away expectations in everything we do. If you attended last month’s Niagara Falls Music and Art Festival on Old Falls Street, you saw that type of thinking in action.
With recent improvements to Old Falls Street and neighboring businesses, the Downtown core is beginning to show significant signs of growth and progress. These improvements were on display for the thousands of festival goers, made up of both residents and tourists. Main Street Business Association President Rick Crogan and his dedicated volunteer team executed a magnificent event that lined the entire stretch of Old Falls Street with unique vendors showcasing their handcrafted products, tasteful cuisine, and more.
Throughout the entire event there seemed to be a steady flow of patrons exploring the works of various artists, craftsman, and food vendors from all over Western New York. The festival ambience was bolstered by the recent additions of outdoor dining accommodations by TGIFs and Savor, the fine dining restaurant located inside the NCCC Culinary Institute. Old Falls Street’s recent and branding improvement aided the effort to create a beautiful setting and an even better festival atmosphere. The product delivered by the festival organizers exceeded my preconceived expectations based on its predecessor, the Main Street Music & Arts Festival, which took place in 2011 and again in 2012. This year’s festival showed tremendous progress and provided a glimpse into a bright future for festivals in Downtown Niagara Falls. With a unified effort and a willingness to persevere, great events can occur.
Rick Crogan and his team had a vision and they relentlessly pursued it, never measuring the festivals future success against its past blunders. There isn’t room for ordinary thinking anymore. The dire state of the city is anything but ordinary and needs innovative solutions to cure the problems plaguing our community. Take a look around at other struggling cities; you’ll quickly find that what we in Niagara Falls consider innovative is actually a standard in those places. Mural arts programs in Philadelphia are revitalizing neighborhoods. “Pop-Up” art galleries are bringing life to vacant commercial storefronts in Chicago. We must begin to think BIG as Rick Crogran did and take back our city. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Reclaiming our prosperity and rebuilding our legacy as a destination community isn’t going to happen if we continue to think inside the box. Remember this saying come election time later on this year, “If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.”