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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Ameera Kummer, 6, runs the course of the Castle Mania at Canal Days in downtown New Haven on Saturday. The annual festival, which began Tuesday, concluded Saturday.

Official buoyant about Canal Days

– Parades, much like real estate, are all about location, location, location.

Lisa Litchfield and her husband knew when they moved in that their home near the corner of Park Avenue and Green Street was a prime locale for New Haven’s Canal Days Grand Parade.

“My husband comes out early and lays out the blankets and sets up the chairs,” Litchfield said, pointing toward the long row of canvas chairs neatly lined up along the curb. “It’s a great way to have friends, family and neighbors come over.”

The final day of the Canal Days festival began with the ferocious zing of fire and police sirens, flashes of spinning purple and yellow New Haven High School color guards and the mouth-watering scents – not to mention eye-watering smoke – of chicken on the grill as the “Friends and Family” Grand Parade began to mobilize.

Rows of onlookers settled along the curbs from the beginning of the parade route at Park Avenue and Green Street, past the vendors at Schnelker Park and down to the end of the parade route at Mourey Street, whether there was shade from the blazing sun or not.

Jon Stauffer, president of the festival’s committee, said he was happy to see an increase in festival patrons. He estimated that with the Midway being a large draw for families looking for amusement rides and carnival games, the festival had brought in 5,000 patrons since it opened Tuesday.

“Things have gone really well. Wednesday we had some rain, and that was kind of downer, but Thursday night, I think people who would have come out Wednesday came out Thursday, as well as the people who already planned to come out Thursday night,” he said.

“Last night was a stellar night. The parking lots were packed. Streets were lined with cars. It was a great time.”

After surviving an economic squeeze in 2009, the festival faced some sponsorship troubles last year when the committee brought in headline performers, Sidewalk Prophets, for the first Faith and Family night concert.

With the festival facing more expenses than usual, there was some concern about this year’s festival.

But the festival committee was proactive in finding sponsors this year, Stauffer said, and he feels confident about where the festival is headed.

The Rhett Walker Band headlined the second annual Faith and Family night Saturday.

“We tried to introduce some new sponsorship plans to local businesses, and funding is always a concern, but we tried to jump on it quick. By the end of April, we had a pretty good feel that things were looking good,” Stauffer said.

“You can always use money, and unfortunately, entertainment is one the biggest expenses – it’s one of the biggest draws, but it’s one the biggest expenses.

“There are always places where we could use more, but we had a pretty good feel on things, and we definitely want to thank all of our sponsors for everything they’ve done.”

Litchfield said the festival has made an impact that would leave a void if Canal Days were to cease.

“It’s very important to this community. I think it brings out a lot of people not only from this community but people from all over the Fort Wayne area. It’s very beneficial,” she said.

“And it brings kids, too,” interjected 7-year-old Alannah, a guest of the Litchfields, as she jumped off their porch.

Litchfield agreed.

“People look forward to it. Last night, we were sitting down, eating and a couple sits besides us. They were probably in their 50s and they said, ‘This is where we had our first date, and we come every year,’ ” she said. “It’s just fun to be with the community and to be with friends.”

kcarr@jg.net

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