City of Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey will present the 10th Annual Key to the Locks Award to honor Lockport’s Dianne Koplas, Saturday, May 9, at 11 a.m. in the Erie Canal Discovery Center, 24 Church St. Mrs. Koplas, who passed away in 2014, was a driving force behind many programs that promoted tourism and the history of Lockport, the Erie Canal and the Lockport locks.
Mrs. Koplas was instrumental in developing tours of First Presbyterian Church’s Tiffany windows and architectural and trolley tours of historic Lockport. As a Niagara History Center volunteer, she and fellow volunteer Lois Begley created the Center’s “Step Back in Time Players,” a re-enactor troupe representing famous Lockportians of the past. Mrs. Koplas was also a past president of the History Center’s Board of Directors.
She and her family created the Koplas Lecture Series, honoring the memory of her late husband, John, to sponsor annual speakers at Lockport’s Public Library. This will now be renamed the John and Dianne Koplas Lecture Series.
The Annual Key to the Locks Award was established to recognize persons in Niagara County who exemplify the community spirit or promote the heritage or preservation of the historic Erie Canal.
A partial list of previous winners includes: Rosemary Bernard, for her continuing efforts to educate the community about the history of the Erie Canal; David Kinyon, for his promotion of the Flight of Five project; Carol Schmelz, for her work in establishing the Canalway Trail through Pendleton; artist Joe Whalen, for a lifetime of showcasing the Canal through his paintings; Jeffery Degnan, for his work in promoting the Erie Canalway Corridor; and Jane Whitmore, for beautification work along the historic Lockport locks.
Following the award presentation, the Discovery Center will officially open an exhibit by local artists depicting Lockport’s century-old Exchange St. and Adam St. lift bridges in a variety of media. The exhibit spotlights the Lowertown bridges, seen by many as a twinned pair, to encourage their preservation. Lockport’s art community is working to keep and preserve both bridges in the National Register Lowertown district.
Committed artists at this time include: Don Bernard, Jeff Degnan, Russell Halstead, Jay Krull, Manning McCandlish, Bob Rimmer, Dennis Stierer, David Stockton, Jeff Watkins, Mark Weld and Joe Whalen, with others to be added soon.
New York State Senator Robert Ortt will be on hand at the opening to discuss his proposed bill in the State Senate protecting these and other lift bridges in the state Canal system. It’s the artists’ hope that the many “faces” of Lockport’s lift bridges in this new exhibit will encourage community support for their protection and preservation.