The 30th annual Canalfest is underway and runs through next Sunday. It’s the largest event held anywhere along the New York State Canal system. The eight-day event originally began on the North Tonawanda side of the Erie Canal and the following year expanded to include the City of Tonawanda on the Erie County side of the canal.

It celebrates the importance of the Erie Canal to this area and its history. The canal was the primary reason Buffalo and Western New York became one of the fastest growing areas of the country back in the mid 1800’s. By 1900, Buffalo was the eighth largest city in the country and North Tonawanda was the largest lumber port in the world. That’s after the Erie Canal connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes.

In addition to the Canalfest Board of Directors, there are 70 different committees that help organize and staff all the various aspects of the event – entertainment, food, rides and games, the parade, the Canalfest 4-mile run, even a golf tournament. Ramblin’ Lou and the family will be at the Miller Band shell tonight from 7 to 9 pm.

When the canal opened for the first time in 1825 a relay system of cannon shots along the entire length of the canal provided a signal across the state a new age had begun. Symbolically, a canon shot provides the official opening of the Canalfest each year.