By GARTH SNOW
NEW HAVEN — Canal Days is a festival, of course, but it’s a homecoming, too.
So says Jon Stauffer, a longtime force in New Haven’s signature celebration and president of the sponsoring organization in 2019.
The celebration is underway in downtown New Haven and south into Schnelker Park.
“Canal Days has always been that kind of kickoff of summer,” Stauffer said. “School just got out, the tents are going up, it’s a time when families get together, people come back to New Haven, just checking things out, seeing the park. It’s a homecoming event.”
“The one thing we always try to focus on for the festival is that we are a family-friendly festival,” he said. “We really want to focus on Mom, Dad and the kids coming down and having a good time. Everything that goes on we would prefer to consider to be very kid-oriented.”
That includes the parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, to be followed by the kids’ day until 3 p.m at Power House Youth Center on Main Street.
Find the full schedule at newhavencanaldays.wordpress.com.
Canal Days takes its name from the boat channel through the Black Swamp that linked Mississippi tributaries to Great Lakes routes long ago. “There’s a good portion of New Haven that the canal did run through,” Stauffer said. One of those canal locks on the Wabash and Erie Canal was dug up when Interstate 469 was built. “The canal is one of the things that put New Haven on the map,” Stauffer said.
“Cruisin’ the Canal” is the theme for this year’s festival.
Stauffer said the festival committee was established in about 1974, and Canal Days is marking about its 45th year.
“The festival is all volunteers,” Stauffer said. “No one takes a paycheck to put on the festival. We’re always looking for volunteers, we’re always looking for fresh ideas, for new events, things to keep the festival flowing.”
Suggestions or offers to help should be directed to Stauffer via the email address on the festival website.
Burton Brothers Amusement will fill parts Main Street once again.
Jason Gray, a Christian recording artist, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8, which is Faith & Family Night.
The group Cadillac Ranch was scheduled to perform Thursday night, June 6, but will not be available. Instead, the festival has booked the group Lucy’s Basement for the 7:30 p.m. show
Always check the online schedule for the latest information, Stauffer said.