This year marks the 33rd annual Canal Celebration in the city of Little Falls. Started in 1987, the weeklong event has been an important anchor for the community. Graduates of Little Falls High School often plan their class reunions during the event to celebrate friendship or to reminisce with one another. Friends and families eagerly await the Canal Celebration as a time to connect and to have fun. For three decades, many of the same dedicated volunteers have worked behind to scenes to make it all possible.

Tony Deluca, Executive Director of the Little Falls YMCA and a dedicated local volunteer, has sat on the volunteer committee from the very beginning. In the first year of the event, he and 14 other volunteers came together to envision a celebration that would help local families create memories to last a lifetime. Deluca says that Canal Celebration “was meant to highlight the beauty and local assets of Little Falls and we wanted to utilize multiple venues to showcase our assets.” From family-friendly events to live music for adults, there has always been something for everyone across the city.

A prominent figure among local volunteers dedicated to making Canal Celebration a success was Roger Stock. Stock, who passed away this past January, was a dedicated community resident. He served as a special police officer, alderman, and most importantly as mayor. “He had a big body, big heart, and an even bigger smile. But his biggest smile was for Canal Celebration,” said David Carpineti of Little Falls. “He loved to see people all together laughing, smiling, and having a good time,” continued Carpineti.“ The Canal Celebration brings people together and Roger loved seeing people smile.” Carpineti says he hopes this year’s event can somehow honor Roger’s commitment to the Canal Celebration and his love for the community of Little Falls.

Photo by Dave Warner – Canal Celebration parade headed down Main Street in Little Falls.

For Carpineti Canal Celebration is a critical event, “People plan their vacations around it. They travel from wherever they are just to connect with friends and family.” To Carpineti and others, having the support of new volunteers means that the event will be able to live on for future generations as well.

LF Volunteer Corps representative, Jordyan Mueller, said, “Canal Celebration is such an important part of what makes our community special. Finding ways for the next generation of volunteers to put their mark on the event, much like Roger did, is what we are here for.” Mueller says she has been working closely with Tony Deluca to understand the needs of the event when it comes to volunteers. “A lot has changed over the years when it comes to Canal Celebration, but I know people are committed to bringing new life to the event, we just have to create space for them to share ideas and take action. There’s also an opportunity this year to honor Roger and his family’s commitment to Little Falls and to Canal Celebration. His spirit of dedication is what LF Volunteer Corps is about.”

Over the years Canal Celebration has hosted several long-standing traditions along with small activities and events. For many years there were kids three on three basketball tournaments on Main Street, Tug-of-War in front of the YMCA; some even remember drag car races. LF Volunteers Corps and Canal Celebration Committee representatives want to find ways to bring exciting ideas like these back to life.

Katy Tomei runs the Café at Stone Mill and is a lifelong resident of Little Falls. She says that Canal Place has really come to life over the last few years partly due to the Canal Celebration featured event, Chicks Along the Canal. Chicks is a volunteer-based event organized by residents to highlight female entrepreneurs. Vendors with unique items and crafts set up for two full days in Sterzener Park “Canal Celebration is an opportunity for families to get together and enjoy unique things like the Chicks event. There’s so much for families to do too so you can actually volunteer and give back while enjoying the event.”

Chicks Along the Canal has grown into something really special over the years and we are grateful to collaborate with everyone to highlight yet another beautiful location in our city”, said Tony Deluca. “It is a great example of what could happen in the future. One person with an idea and a commitment to making it happen is all it takes.”

LF Volunteer Corps and Canal Celebration representatives are hosting an open meeting for interested volunteers on Wednesday, 3/4 at 6:30 pm at the Community Center. “We hope people come with fun, fresh ideas and that we are able to help start building relationships among attendees to allow for the work to come together in a fun and meaningful way,” said Mueller. Visit facebook.com/LFVolunteerCorps for more info or contact them at LFVolunteerCorps@gmail.com