Perched on the shore of Lake Ontario, Oswego is the perfect port city for a scenic New York excursion. The city’s community events, small town atmosphere, and proximity to outdoor activities offer something for every traveler. If you're interested in American history, make sure to visit Fort Ontario, which was built more than 200 years ago and played a role in the American Revolution and the Civil War.
The Oswego Harborfest has been the go-to summer event for tens of thousands of people each year since it began in 1988. This year’s annual event will take place July 27-30, and will be spread across five different venues, each offering different activities and entertainment. East Park will feature live jazz and blues music, plus a variety of food and refreshment vendors. Riverwalk East will be set up as an art and craft market with vendors selling everything from glasswork to artisan foods. River Walk West will have live rock, country, and folk music, and jet ski shows on the Oswego River. Novelis Family Park will be the ultimate spot for families complete with activities, games, and entertainment options for all ages. Breitbeck Park will host the opening ceremonies and the massive fireworks display hosted by Entergy Nuclear, on Saturday night. Attendees will also encounter a midway complete with rides and games, as well as a Children’s Parade that will make its way through downtown. We got the chance to interview Margaret Gnadt, a representative for the event, to learn about this great summer event.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
MG: Harborfest began in 1988, and is celebrating its 30th birthday!
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
MG: Annually, we attract about 100,000 visitors over the four-day weekend.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
MG: We see people from all walks of life at the festival. It's a great place for families with children, especially in the Novelis Family Park, which is our children-oriented festival venue.
RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.
MG: Countless activities are going on in all five parks during the festival. In the East Park, located at Franklin Square, there will be local, regional, and nationally acclaimed jazz and blues musicians all weekend. Dining highlights range from The Louisiana Cookery, serving Cajun comfort food, to Razzle Dazzle Italian Ice. Shop arts and crafts vendors such as Earth & Sea (glass blowing), Lularoe (leggings, women's clothing), and even Tupperware.
If shopping a myriad of items curated by quirky local and regional craftspeople is appealing, be sure to take a trip along River Walk East, the designated "arts and crafts park," located on Canal Street. If you get hungry while shopping, stop by unique food vendors such as The Crunch Roll Factory which serves Buffalo Chicken Crunch Rolls, a portion of food you need to see to believe.
Head across the bridge to River Walk West, located on Water Street, for live music from talented folk, rock, and country artists like Upstate Rubdown (Friday), Grit N Grace, and Chris Taylor & the Custom Taylor Band. (Saturday). Grab a burger and a root beer float from Stewart's Root Beer, and watch the Jet Ski Show on the Oswego River! (Saturday & Sunday)
The Novelis Family Park, located at Washington Square, kicks off after the Children's Parade (begins at Breitbeck Park at 10:30) and once the rest of the procession walks into the park! From there, attendees can enjoy live music under the Family Tent from Double Vs and Fritz's Polka Band, as well as the Children's Musical, "The Enchantment of Beauty & The Beast” (Performances Fri-Sun). Families can also watch live magicians, puppet shows, T-shirt making workshops, and more.
Breitbeck Park is considered to be the main or largest park, open Thursday-Sunday. The official opening ceremony takes place there at Catch funk legends The Family Stone on Thursday Night, followed by 80s rock legends Night Ranger on Friday! The action doesn't stop there, as the legendary "First Family of Fireworks," Fireworks by Grucci, put on a spectacular display on Saturday Night.
The Midway (by Strates Shows, Inc.) which is not a park but a traveling carnival that sets up in a location central to the festival and it will have a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, thrill rides, games, popcorn, and more.
We'd like to thank all the local businesses that sponsor different aspects of the event. Follow the link for more information.
RAL: Tell me about the overall atmosphere.
MG: The environment is one of joyous celebration, of fun and laughter and memories made under the summer sun by the shores of our sparkling lake!
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
MG: This festival does huge things for the community in terms of tourism (in dollars and people), introducing thousands of newcomers to our local businesses and what Oswego has to offer in addition to showing local consumers what companies invest in their interests!
For more information about the Oswego Harborfest, please visit the event website.