WILSON - A two-week affair in Wilson harbor aims to make 12 amagic number as 12 local businesses team up with 12 corporatesponsors in hopes of raising tens of thousands of dollars for 12Niagara County charities.
Activities, to begin Wednesday and continue to Halloween, willinclude more than 500 boat trips through the 'Haunted Harbor.'
'We're gearing up for a 1,000 people a night,' said PatrickBrady, a Buffalo-born developer and the main driving force behindthe unusual event.
The boat rides will be free, but patrons will be requested tomake a $5 donation to charity. In return, they will receive an all-area pass for the night, entitling them to a variety of Halloweenactivities along the boardwalk, including pumpkin carving, applebobbing, scary attractions and musical entertainment.
Starting Wednesday, six 21-foot tour boats will leave the dock bythe Boat House Restaurant every five minutes between 6:30 p.m. and9:30 p.m. daily through Oct. 31.
If the event draws 1,000 people a night for 15 nights, it wouldraise $75,000, and each of the 12 charities would receive $6,250each.
Even if the even fails to meet that goal, the charities wouldbenefit substantially, organizers say.
The charities include local chapters of the Red Cross,Opportunities Unlimited, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, GirlScouts, the Lions Club, Wilson Sports Boosters, Wilson CentralSchool, the local library and a Niagara Falls soup kitchen.
Wilson harbor has been rigged with 12 haunted sites, some onfloating docks, for the prolonged Halloween event. The tour boatswill encounter them all during the half-hour trip around Clark'sIsland, home of the Tuscarora Yacht Club.
'The sites are interactive,' Brady said, without giving away anysecrets. 'The boats pull up to each site, the scary stuff starts,and the boats escape in the nick of time.'
'The haunted sites are awesome,' said Wilson Town SupervisorJerry Dean, who was involved in the set up. 'The whole event isunique, something Wilson harbor has never seen before.'
'The most unusual thing about this event is the teaming of thehost business with the corporate sponsor and the charity,' saidBrady, who owns the Wilson Boat House restaurant. 'The wholecommunity came together in a common effort. Twelve by 12 by 12 - wedivided and conquered.'
The Garden Gate, a florist shop in the Harborfront complex, hasteamed up, for example, with three Wilson firms - White Siding, HighTech Concrete and Wellington Builders - to raise money for the localchapter of cystic fibrosis, a disease that afflicts a young Wilsonwoman.
Five Coconuts, a rum and spicy food bar below deck from the BoatHouse restaurant, has teamed up with Sevenson Industrial Services ofNiagara Falls to raise money for a soup kitchen in that city.
The two-week Halloween affair is the culmination of 'a millionmeetings,' Brady said.
A world traveler who now lives in Boston, Brady spent hischildhood summers in a cottage his father built on Lake Ontario inWilson, and he has been coming back to Wilson ever since. In thelast three years, he also has been building it back up.
Wilson is joining Olcott, a lakeside village a few miles east anditself a tourist mecca 100 years ago, in making a comeback.
Since buying and renovating the Boat House restaurant three yearsago, Brady has built several harborfront shops on four acres ofadjoining property he also owns. Over the past two years, the numberof shops has grown from four to 12.
Brady has improved the docks, installed power and cable hookupsfor boats, and begun free tours of the harbor. The Boat Houserestaurant added an outdoor deck and live music.
With land and money he donated, the town has built a communitypool near the harbor that provides free swimming lessons forchildren and swim programs for all residents of the town andvillage.
The restaurant, shops and Wilson harbor itself, which used toclose down for the winter on Sept. 30, now will stay open year-round, Brady said.
Local attorney Walter Moxham Jr. also has been a major forcebehind the harborfront transformation, sponsoring free concerts andprograms in Clark's Park, behind the new swimming pool. About 50local businesses donated money to present programs, and last yearthey launched Harborfest, a three-day affair featuring a tall ship,fireworks, art show, car show and Coast Guard helicopter rescuedemonstrations in the harbor.
The revitalization, festivals and free concerts not only haveattracted tourists, but also have boosted local businesses.Employment in the tiny village has skyrocketed about 500 percent,officials say.