WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) – After having to cancel in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Queen of Heaven Carnival will be back next weekend – for its 40th year.
“People want to go out – we felt almost an obligation to give back to the community by being able to present the event,” said QOH Carnival general chairperson Jerry Wszalek said.
Organizers estimate the event draws about 100,000 people to West Seneca each summer.
It started off as a church lawn fete, Wszalek said.
“My parents’ grandparents were very involved in what we used to call “the lawn fetes”,” Wszalek said.
The first carnival at the church was held in 1981 as a “carnival of food”, he added. The midway, games, gambling, and beer tent were added a couple of years later.
It has evolved to a large community event.
“About six years ago, we did a survey at the gate, and here was the biggest surprise: the number of people coming in from out of town to reunite with their families – Rochester, Canada – and this was their reunion, going to the carnival with their families,” Wszalek said.
The carnival is a fundraiser for the Queen of Heaven School. Last year, not being able to host the carnival was a financial detriment.
The school was able to stay open for in-person learning throughout the pandemic, but the extra costs added up, Wszalek said.
“We had that additional cost of sanitizing, cleaning, necessary protocols,” Wszalek said. “It was very expensive, but this carnival is hoping to put a little bit of a dent in the negative budget that’s out there right now.”
Organizers announced in June that the carnival would return for 2021, but as a ticketed event due to New York State COVID-19 rules. However, the state lifted all COVID-19 guidance shortly after, so the carnival will not be ticketed (free admission), and attendance isn’t capped.
“We will still honor social distancing as much as we can,” Wszalek said. “We want to make this as safe as possible.”
Because of the COVID-19-related uncertainty at the start of this year, some traditional activities won’t be in place at this year’s event.
Organizers weren’t able to get the licensing for the gambling tent in time, and some of the usual prize booths won’t be in place this year. There also won’t be theme baskets.
“There wasn’t enough time, and it wasn’t really the right place to go and solicit businesses that have been struggling all year for donations,” Wszalek explained.
The event will have all of the other QOH traditions: the beer tent, live entertainment, a full midway, games of skill, and food.
There’s even a pub area if you’d like to sit down and enjoy a beer while taking in the sights, Wszalek added.
The carnival runs from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, July 9, noon to midnight Saturday, July 10, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 11. There will be a special kickoff car cruise event on Thursday, July 8 from 5 to 10 p.m.