Demonstrations, Fishing Lessons, Pancake Breakfast


When organizers for the Zoar Valley Fest in Gowanda finished out their first festival in 2012, they knew they had something — it just needed to be better.

Now, preparing for its second offering, the Gowanda Chamber of Commerce considers May 11, 2013, the inaugural celebration for the festival meant to celebrate both the Zoar Valley area and the outdoor sports associated with it.

“This year will be a lot like it was last year, it’s just more or less better run,” Megan Pankow-Walker, coordinator for the event and treasurer for the chamber, said. “We’ll have a better handle on things.”

The event will be held at Creekside Park. With some activities starting as early as 10 a.m., most will be held in late morning and throughout the afternoon. Activities include water craft demonstrations, include kayaks; a rock climbing wall; raft trips along Cattaraugus Creek; fishing demonstrations by the New York Department of Conservation; train rides; food vendors; and an evening performance by Little Mountain Band.

There will also be a pancake breakfast on May 12 and camping opportunities at the Fireman’s Grounds.

Like most Gowanda residents, Pankow-Walker recognizes the outdoor jewel that is Zoar. As such, the festival was created to celebrate the natural wonder — and promote the activities people typically engage in as they enjoy it.

“People here realize what they have in Zoar Valley,” she said. “Many people know it’s here, they enjoy it throughout the year, but there are many people who don’t know it exists.”

Unlike last year, the chamber is advertising the festival heavily. In addition to advertising the event through the county, significantly more fliers and posters have been produced. Organizers have spent considerably more time developing the event, too, with an emphasis on outdoor activities — i.e., watercraft and fishing — and the skills needed to enjoy them to their fullest.

“The festival isn’t like a lot of festivals, where people are just set loose,” Pankow-Walker said. “It’s not just giving people a beer tent and then giving them a raft. Zoar Valley can be dangerous, and part of the festival’s appeal is how we’re educating people about how to enjoy it responsibly.”

New activities for this year inlude a train rain. Riders will board at the depot for a small fee and take an approximate 20-minute trip, which will cross over the creek. Fishing lessons that focus on the creek’s unique fish population of steelhead will be offered, too.

Most of the activities, especially those at Creekside Park, are free. Some, including train rides, require a small fee. A movie showcasing the local waterway will be shown at the local theater, too. Other activities are donation-based.

“You can come and go and enjoy many things without spending money,” she said. “We wanted that to be a part of the festival.”

Pankow-Walker said the chamber isn’t looking at the festival as a moneymaking event, but rather a means to create awareness about the valley and the village.

“Of course vendors want to break even, maybe even make a profit, but it’s the long-term benefit we want to see,” she said. “We want people to come back to enjoy the village and shop its stores and spend a day in the gorge. It’s a beautiful place.”

For more information about the event, visit or call (716) 532-2834.

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