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Lyons Peppermint Days draws huge crowds

Ask just about anyone wandering through the maze of vendors and games at this year’s Peppermint Days in Lyons what their favorite part of the whole weekend and they will tell you it’s the fireworks.

For years the festival has honored its history with peppermint with the biggest fireworks show lighting up the sky over the Erie Canal – a show unrivaled by any other. And this year they did not disappoint. People began setting up their chairs and laying down their blankets in the grass at their favorite spots in Lyons to catch the huge fireworks display that lasts for about 30 minutes. But the favorite spot for many is right on the Route 14 bridge going over the historic waterway where the exploding colorful lights reflect in the waters of the Erie Canal.

The festival draws hundreds of people from all over Wayne County and this year was no different. Crowds gathered around the many food and craft vendors to purchase treasures. There were games for kids to win prizes and a bounce house and huge spinning swing ride. Bands playing country and rock drew those who wanted to break loose and dance.

The event also featured a kiddie parade, Paw Patrol Characters in the park, Wayne County Sheriff K-9 and State Police K-9 demonstrations, a tractor show, Magic Joe the magician, a motorcycle stunt show and the Grand Parade.

The festival draws to a close today, Sunday, July 16 with a car show until noon.

So why does Lyons celebrate peppermint? It goes back to 1839 when Hiram G. Hotchkiss founded The Hotchkiss, International Prize Medal, and Essential Oil Co. business on Water Street. According to the festival’s Facebook page, Hotchkiss employed over 100 people and produced more than 1,000 pounds of oil annually. By 1860, Hotchkiss produced over a third of the Peppermint Oil in the United States and owned over 100 acres of Peppermint fields in Lyons. He was internationally renowned as the leader of the peppermint oil industry and was often called the Peppermint King. The oil sold for 55.25 per pound and at the time about 75 percent of the area’s farmland was devoted to the cultivation of mints, Betsy Lewis wrote in her history of Lyons. One acre of land could yield from 12 to 15 pounds of oil.

More from Lewis’ history of Peppermint Days:

“H.G. Hotchkiss not only believed in presenting his excellent products in as elegant a form as possible, he also took great interest in his labels and bottles. Ely Glass Works of Clyde made special dark, blue bottles for H. G. and latter H. G. bought hand blown bottles from F. E. Reed Glass Co. of Rochester.

In 1963 Miss Anne D. Hotchkiss became President of Hotchkiss and remained the leader until it was sold and the business ended in 1990. In May of 1989, one hundred years after those first settlers arrived, a group of Lyons citizens decided to re-enact the settlement and hold a small festival. The event was so well received and enjoyed that those same citizens were asked if they could continue the event and perhaps make it an annual festival.

Hotchkiss and his ancestors, had been one of the single most important products that had given Lyons it’s unique history. Thus, Peppermint Days began and has continued each of these eleven years. The festivities are traditionally family oriented and are held around the central square where our Village began. Miss Anne D. Hotchkiss has very graciously allowed her family name to be used and associated with our festivities and has also served as our Grand Marshall for each year’s parade.”

Tammy Whitacre is a reporter for FL1 News covering Seneca and Wayne counties. Send news tips to tammy@fingerlakes1.com and follow @FL1_TWhitacre for the latest.

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