Looking for a fun family-friendly activity this weekend? Look no further than the North Syracuse Family Festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. May 25, in Lonergan Park.
The eighth annual festival is a North Syracuse mainstay, offering a variety of activities for all ages. The event also features a variety of free events, including demonstrations from the police and fire departments, live music, caricature drawings, a kids’ playland, face painting, balloon animals, child ID program, children’s art corner, a Civil War demonstration, small horse rides (new this year) and the ever-popular Teddy Bear Parade for kids ages 2 through 6.
“We are a big family party with a so much going on that you need the whole time to take it all in,” said Family Festival Committee member Pat Fergerson. “It is a place to have family-friendly fun.”
The festival got its start about nine years ago when several village residents, including current Mayor Mark Atkinson, his wife Helen, Charlotte LaPorte, Vera Desimone, Diane Browning and Fergerson, got together after a village board meeting and started talking about the Lions Day Memorial Parade the village used to host.
“We kept talking about it, and I remember we ended up walking over to Kennedy Park and looking at the area, standing in the park lot, and talking about really doing this,” Helen Atkison said. “It was a huge undertaking, but one that we knew we had the passion to do.”
Nine years later, the festival is still going strong.
“It started relatively small and has grown into a huge event,” Atkinson said. “Most of the members are original members of the committee and have stayed a part of it for years. There are only approximately 13 members which make up the committee who put on this entire event each year.”
Part of what makes the event possible is the participation of village businesses.
“The local businesses in the village continually provide funds to support the festival each year,” Atkinson said. “They have been fantastic each year and are extremely supportive. At this point, we have approximately 75 donors which Vera Desimone solicits in person each year, with more coming in daily.”
The festival is also funded through raffles, as well as a pancake breakfast with the Easter bunny hosted by VFW Post No. 7290.
“The VFW has been a mainstay as well helping us with the cooking — three VFW volunteers cook for 800-plus people — and our committee members, in conjunction with the Canteen and [the North Syracuse Junior High] Builder’s Club, serve the food and help with other things during the breakfast,” Atkinson said.
The raffles are always popular. A variety of prizes are available, from a gas card giveaway to the annual necklace drawing from Welch & Co. Jewelers. (But former Village Clerk and Festival Committee member Nancy Fortin says she’s winning the necklace this year, so look out.)
“The community comes together to prove that North Syracuse is a great place to be family,” Fergerson said. “Not to mention you might win something.”
“It is really a great event for families as it costs very little to attend — food basically and maybe a couple kids vendors who come,” she said. “We try to add new things each year. It is a huge undertaking, but a very rewarding one.”
Free parking is available at North Syracuse Junior High School on Taft Road, and shuttles will be provided to transport festival-goers to Lonergan Park. For more information, contact Charlotte LaPorte at 458-0375.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.