Iconic destination sees visitor numbers pick up
While last year wasn’t a normal year for the Dunkirk Lighthouse, administrator David Briska said things have returned to some normalcy in 2021.
The lighthouse has been open since May 1, and has done well, though May tends to be a slow month, Briska said. But in June, they started getting close to the number of clients they’re used to.
“June picked up because a lot of people were on vacation,” Briska said. “There were lots of day trips and short weekend jaunts to see areas you can’t see lately. You still can’t get across the border and flying isn’t safe, so it’s a good destination. We have lots of camper trips too.”
Even during last summer, the lighthouse was open for small family tours and events, with distancing guidelines and restrictions put in place. For this event season, those small tours are still available, but events that people are more used to have returned as well. Briska said a class of Fredonia fifth-graders took a field trip to the lighthouse and the Fredonia Ghost Hunter group has returned to hold both private and public ghost hunts.
“We’ve had several private ghost tours and we have public ones coming up in August, September, and October,” Briska said. “Anybody can sit with the local ghost hunting group and chat with the ghosts, if that’s what they want to do. They bring all their own equipment down and donate all the money as a fundraiser for us. That goes over really well.”
The Dunkirk Lighthouse will also be holding a yard sale Thursday, Friday and Saturday to help raise money, as right now the big project is installing 1,100 feet of fencing around the grounds to make it safer. Briska said they have received a few grants for that project.
“In November we lost some property,” Briska said. “There are four spots on the fence line where there would be no dirt under the fence so you could slide under it. We had to move it back 10 feet back from the shoreline.”
“The community foundation donated around $10,000,” Briska continued. “The county donated a matching grant. We just finished putting the fence in last week, so we don’t have to worry about people falling off a cliff. We want to make sure everybody is safe, and hopefully this will last for years to come.”
The major thing missing from the Dunkirk Lighthouse is still the big bus tours they are used to getting but aren’t quite allowed yet by COVID-19 guidelines. Other than that, Briska said that they were able to open on time this year and did not miss any time being open like they did last year, and things are otherwise normal.
“We’re not quite back to the way things used to be,” Briska said. “But people are feeling more confident about coming out.”
One thing that has been pretty normal compared to other years is the weddings that have been booked. Briska said there have so far been three weddings and one reception, with two more on the way later this year. That equates to roughly what they would see in any other given year.
“We have about five or six weddings a year normally,” Briska said. “We mostly just do the ceremonies, but we do some receptions. The weather has the potential to put a damper on things, but being outside, you’re a little safer. We haven’t had a huge amount of people at them.
Tickets for the public ghost hunting sessions cost $30 a person and can be purchased on the Dunkirk Lighthouse website, where much more information about the lighthouse can be found. The dates of the public ghost hunts are August 28, September 25, and October 23, 29, and 30. Each event is limited to 15 people. The lighthouse is open daily for tours 10-4 in July and August. Masks are still required indoors for those who are unvaccinated.