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NIAGARA FALLS – More than 40 bands and more than 50 artists and artisans will be showcased at the third annual Niagara Falls Music & Art Festival next weekend.

The biggest change for the festival this year is its new location, as the scene shifts to Old Falls Street between the Seneca Niagara Casino and Niagara Falls State Park.

For its first two years, the event was held on Main Street.

“We did it to try to bring back Main Street,” said festival director Rick Crogan.

Crogan described that effort as a “very tough fight.”

Organizers were then planning to move the event to the historic Park Place district, to give it more of a “neighborhood feel.”

Officials with Conference Center Niagara Falls heard about the potential venue change and asked if the festival could be held on Old Falls Street.

Crogan said he was the last member of his board to finally agree to move the event from Main Street.

“My passion was to rebuild Main Street,” Crogan said, acknowledging the potential and excitement already seen in and around the Old Falls Street corridor. That area is now the “center of development” downtown, he said.

One of the aims of the event – to be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday – is to help boost business in the Falls.

“We’re trying to bring the people and keep the business in the city,” Crogan said.

A preview night, which is being held Friday on Third Street, will include a bar crawl, live music and a street fair. A portion of Third Street will be closed to vehicular traffic.

They’ll be playing three stages set up on Old Falls Street – an acoustic stage, an indie stage and the main stage.

The acoustic stage will be located closest to Third Street, with the main stage in the middle and the indie stage closest to the state park.

There will always be a band playing on the street, with performances on the stages scheduled to overlap so there’s always music to be heard, said Becky Marchetti, the festival’s music coordinator.

“The music starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 11 p.m.,” Marchetti said.

Some bands competed at a series of Battle of the Bands events over the winter in order to gain spots on the indie stage for the festival, Marchetti said.

The top three indie bands will be performing on the main stage, she said.

Bands are coming from across Western New York, as well as Rochester, to perform. One band is even making the trek from New Orleans. The musicians cover all genres, including blues, country, jazz, folk, rap and others.

Some of the bands include Whiskey Reverb, the Peter Novelli Band, Lion Avalanche, Randle and the Late Night Scandals, Savannah King, The Next Level, Bruce Wojick and Jamie Holka, MIKANECHO, Super Killer Robots and Coda.

The festival’s website has the full lineup with set times for all three stages.

In previous years, the festival only had two stages. Last year, there were 21 bands.

“Moving to Old Falls Street has really let us expand,” Marchetti said.

Artists showcase

As of last week, there were 52 artists and artisans planning to showcase their work at the festival, said Andrea Galyn, art coordinator for the event.

In addition to artists who specialize in paintings, photographs and sculpture, there also will be artisans who make a variety of items, including soap, jewelry, garden sculptures and woodworking, Galyn said.

There also will be artists doing live painting and henna tattoos, and others doing balloon sculptures, which are actually full-body costumes that can be worn.

“There will be a lot of live art going on that people can watch,” Galyn said.

VIP tickets for the festival will be given away on The Edge, 103.3 FM, and 97 Rock, 96.9 FM, starting Thursday.

While the festival kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday, an official opening ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. with event sponsors and local elected officials.

Also as part of the festival, Marcus L. Wise, owner of 464 Gallery in Buffalo, will receive the Commitment to the Arts award for his contributions to the Niagara Falls art scene.

10,000 expected

Crogan hopes residents of Western New York come check out this year’s event, he said.

A conservative estimate for crowd size over the weekend, which is the Canadian Victoria Day holiday, would be roughly 10,000 people, Crogan said.

Festival organizers believe there could be upwards of 15,000 people who attend.

While one of the goals had always been to make the event regional in nature, Crogan said it’s already there, and he didn’t expect it to grow so quickly.

Crogan said he wants the event to be not just a festival, but “an experience.”

“It brings the culture back to the city,” he said.

It could help the local economy, too, if visitors and area residents come check it out, Crogan said.

“We’ve got businesses down here that people need to see.”

For more details on the bands and artists who are participating, visit the festival’s website, www.FestivalAtTheFalls.com.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com