Holiday Market Relics Fetch Pittance at Auction
By Frank Parlato
The final burial relics of the once highly touted Niagara Falls Holiday Market were put up for auction last week.
Twenty-one barn red shacks, once vending booths that constituted much of the physical presence of what was promised to be the largest European-style holiday market in the USA - the Niagara Holiday Market - were listed on Auctions International last week and sold by the time the auction closed -- Wednesday, July 24 at 8 p.m.
The handsome booths - that look not unlike spacious 'his and hers' outhouses- were built at a cost to taxpayers of $100,000 by a contractor hired by Idaho developer Mark Rivers - the elegant, glib -tongued poet that Mayor Paul Dyster selected to develop the event in late 2011.
The booths were removed to the DPW yard on New Road after the market ended, and sat somber in their lonesome yard, except for one happy interlude when a surfeit of skunks made dens there this spring, unaware perhaps of their original holiday purpose.
The city received $4,350 last week (less auctioneer fees), from the sale of these 21 handsome shacks, the only mortal remains of Mayor Dyster's brainchild.
They fetched an average of $207 each.
Back in March, 2011, it was a rosier day. Dyster presented a resolution to the council to fund the Holiday Market with $450,000 of public money.
The council tabled the deal.
Much as they are doing with the Hamister deal, Dyster and council member Kristen Grandinetti spearheaded a media campaign to sell the public on the merits of the market to try and pressure the council.
At the time, the Niagara Falls Reporter was the only media to raise objections to a holiday market with many of the important details curiously not in writing.
Auctions International, when selling the booths last week, made no mention of the time when these were not sheds in a field rotting but were built to appear in the world as the stuff of people's dreams.
Vending booths for people on "a grand treasure hunt," where retailers and artisans from the region and beyond, would participate in "an economic development beacon built upon a hybrid of a German christkindlmarket, Rockefeller Center, and a Norman Rockwell painting."
That was how Rivers described it, before he got the money.
To have opposed it was treason and objections by Council Chairman Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson were decried by Dyster and the local media as indecent.
Anderson asked: "Why is an entrepreneur coming to Niagara Falls asking you for $450,000 and not bringing his own money, if this was such a great plan?"
Rivers said he was not doing it for money. He would donate his services free as air. He just wanted to help Niagara Falls get on its feet again.
Fruscione wondered why Rivers, who lives and works in Idaho, was interested in economic development in New York.
“I think there is a lot of ‘not-my-idea’ jealousy going on here,” said Dyster. “I think the City Council is desperate that some local person does this and they don’t have Rivers pegged as local.”
“It’s just strange how a man from Idaho would come to Niagara Falls and pitch a festival here,” said Fruscione.
“People just don’t know how to treat out-of-town developers and business people,” Dyster shook his head and said.
Anderson tried to interject, "The Holiday Market is going to be part of Dyster's election campaign. It was just our job to make sure, if the money is spent, it is not wasted, and the market a total flop."
But Grandinetti silenced him when she said of the Market: "I was over the moon about it to be honest with you."
In the end, Dyster used the upcoming Holiday Market throughout his re-election campaign.
Then the market commenced. And oh, the surprise, and disappointment, when those barn red sheds came out and people said, ‘this is your Holiday Market’?
In the end, the Holiday Market was a spectacular failure, drawing about 20 percent of projected attendance. It was not the largest Holiday Market in the USA, it was actually the smallest with only a couple dozen shacks.
The market's shabby appearance, especially barn red vending booths, made some doubt that Rivers even spent much of the $450,000 of public money Dyster handed him and rather than donating his services "free as air:" he might have just taken us, and walked with a hundred or so (thousand).
Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these, to hear Dyster spin it.
A Market that was embarrassingly puny and shabby and deceptive. And after the market closed and Rivers was gone, a host of creditors came. Rivers hadn't paid them.
And the public had to pony up, including a $31,000 overdue bill to the Buffalo News for advertising Rivers didn't pay for and little girls he stiffed out of their $8 per hour, who worked that Christmas season to make some holiday money and never got paid.
A long list of people not paid.
“We think, overall, the market was a success,” Dyster said afterward.
But Fruscione would have none of this:
“I think we were defrauded on the market we got. The city and state put up the money and Rivers disappeared. He did not deliver what he promised. It was a solid rip off. Nothing was done right," he said.
Today, the city got its $4,350 for the relics. That’s how we do things in Niagara Falls.
And gone are the Holiday Market shacks, and as empire after empire has arisen-glorious, resplendent-now vanished away-gone, nobody knows where; it may have been stupendous in its ruin, the Holiday Market was stupendous too - in its lunacy.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jul 30, 2013