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Maybe Nature is Best Promoter for Cataract City

By Tony Farina

Politicians may come and go, but it is pretty much a given that as long as the awesome world wonder is still crashing into the river below, Niagara Falls will attract more than 22 million tourists a year to see the mighty cataract do its thing.

Even recently, when the record-setting cold (-2F) and 'polar vortex' created an icy spectacle that briefly froze a section of the American Falls, the mighty waterfall did its job and put the city on the world map, inviting travelers to Niagara Falls with stories and pictures of the incredible spectacle.

Much like Nik Wallenda did in June of 2012 with his tightrope walk across the gorge, the world was watching Niagara Falls, even without any help from promoters like John Percy and politicians who often seem unable to agree on what will make the city more attractive to tourists, like safe streets.

Maybe they should just start with the waterfall and go from there. Despite the bitter political infighting, the budget woes created in large part by the war between the Senecas and the state over gaming that held the city's purse strings hostage, and an Indian casino that draws visitors and pays no taxes, the city survives because of its breathtaking place next to one of the three waterfalls (American) that make up Niagara Falls, the others being the Bridal Veil and the Horseshoe.

Incredible as it may seem, the esteemed worldly newspaper the New York Times has developed a love affair with Niagara Falls and has put the city on its list of "52 Places to Go in 2014." Now Niagara Falls is last on the list, but it is there, thanks to the waterfall.

Up north of the border, the Ottawa Citizen had plenty of photo coverage of the deep freeze that created the icy spectacle, and said "it's all surrounded by a white blanket of snow and ice, which coats viewing railings and lampposts, trees, shrubs and boulders." Kind of makes you want to come and see it in person.

The Associated Press reported "Niagara Falls Sparkles After Windy Deep Freeze," and the BBC chimed in with the headline "Cascades of Ice as Niagara Falls Freezes."

Now that's the kind of publicity that even John Percy, the head of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., can't buy even with all the money he pulls in to promote the cataract city around the world. Like Wallenda did nearly two years ago, all you have to do is show the spectacular waterfalls and the rest should be easy. Just serve some good food, give travelers a nice place to stay (how about the Hamister hotel if it ever gets built), and keep the streets safe (apparently no easy task if you read the police blotter).

When the buildup began with the Wallenda walk, I wrote a column reminding readers of the fame screen legend Marilyn Monroe brought to Niagara Falls back in 1952 with the movie Niagara, which featured the lovely Ms. Monroe and the mighty falls, a can't miss combination to catch the world's eye.

The state needs to continue to dress up the state park and cultivate events to draw the world's attention to the wonders of the majestic waterfalls and the city in Western New York that goes with it.

A Wallenda attraction of some kind seems like a can't-miss opportunity to draw visitors, but so far, it has only been talk. Even the historic walk itself was not initially welcomed by the mayor in a power spat with Niagara County kingmaker George Maziarz. It is time for the governor and the other local and state politicians who represent this area to mend their feuds and collaborate on moving this area forward. With a natural wonder at our doorstep, the obvious solution is make the city more visitor friendly and inviting, complementing the bucket-list trip that travelers from around the world might be considering.

The polar vertex that put the incredible cataract on the world stage once again is another opportunity to help make the city of Niagara Falls and the other wonders of the region, like architecture, food, and wine trails, more than a one-day stop.

Of course, as has long been the case in the City of Niagara Falls and the neighboring communities, collaboration is like a bad word. Until the politicians start working together, progress will be hard to come by. Yes, some good things have happened, like work in the state park thanks to a story about the rundown condition of the park a few years ago in the New York Times. And there are signs of life downtown, although we still don't know for sure what and when Hamister will build something on prime Rainbow Blvd. lane he was pretty much given by the city.

But hey, for now let's bask a bit in the glow of the icy spectacle of the partially frozen falls that caught the world's attention. Maybe that goes to show that nature is the best promoter of all.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 21, 2014