Summer is when you need a week to fit in everything that is happening on the weekends. When so many events are also amazingly affordable, it makes choosing among them all the harder.
How does free sound?
The first Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival is charging absolutely nothing for admission to its all-day music extravaganza at Silo City on Saturday. Thanks to generous grants and sponsorships, the Western New York Blues Society is bringing in performers from Chicago, Toronto, Florida and elsewhere for the event, and all the audience has to bring is chairs.
Among those taking the stage will be guitarist Selwyn Birchwood, last year’s winner of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis; Memphis blues singer Brandon Santini; vocalist Shakra S’Aida; New York Blues Hall of Famer Tas Cru; David Michael Miller and the Campbell Brothers; and Black Rock Zydeco. Closing out the evening is Chicago’s Ronnie Baker Brooks.
Gates open at 11:30 a.m.; music starts at about 12:30 p.m. and will go on until 10. Silo City is at 92 Childs St., opposite the intersection of Ganson and Ohio streets (use the Ganson Street detour if coming from the north), just south of the Ohio Street bridge. Some parking is available on-site, and there will also be NFTA shuttle service from Fuhrmann Boulevard and the Small Boat Harbor lot for a small fee. There also will be bicycle racks on-site.
No carry-in food or drinks are allowed. Beer and beverages will be available for purchase inside, along with food trucks, raffles and vendors.
The event is sponsored in part by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., among others. Learn more and find detailed directions at www.wnyblues.org.
The Taste of Buffalo takes over Delaware Avenue from Niagara Square to Chippewa on Saturday and Sunday, with 60 restaurants serving portable snacks joined by the kind of entertainment accessories that turn a picnic into a festival. There will be live party music on the Tops stage, free shade courtesy of William Mattar tents, dancing, Plinko, a KidZone obstacle course and free cereal samples from Post. Other giveaways will treat dogs and wine lovers, and word is there also will be free samples of Rolaids at the Big Bite Tour in the square.
They’ll be serving from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and until 7 p.m. on Sunday. Prices for most food items are in the $1 to $4 range. For a list of all the food and entertainment, check online at tasteofbuffalo.com.
Crystal Beach memories
The memories will be thick this weekend in Crystal Beach, Ont., as the vacation venue marks the 25th anniversary of the closing of its namesake amusement park with a swap meet and nostalgia show in Queens’ Circle on Saturday.
For legions of families in Western New York and Ontario, the park was the ultimate summer destination, by car or by ferry, and anyone old enough to make the age cut probably can still describe their rides on the Comet roller coaster or, before that, the Cyclone, described by many enthusiasts as the most exciting roller coaster ever built. The long climb to the top of the first drop ... the cars slowing as they inched over the hump ... and then the most exciting 40 seconds of the summer as the cars plunged toward Lake Erie before heading into a neck-straining series of loops and turns.
Popular mythology had it that a series of deaths and injuries forced the park to replace the Cyclone with the Comet in the mid-1940s, but according to coaster experts the truth was more mundane. The Cyclone was too hard to maintain because of the stress caused by its ferocious speed and turns. One person did die on the ride, a man who stood up during the first drop in May 1938. He fell from the car and was run over on the track below. Also real: the upset stomachs and occasional fainting. The park kept a nurse armed with smelling salts in the ride’s “station” to assist anyone who passed out, or was weak with fright. Organizers of Saturday’s event hope to have one of those former nurses on hand to share her stories about the world’s scariest roller coaster.
There also will be cars from some of the rides, Halls suckers and Crystal Beach loganberry for sale, and displays with videos made from historical films of the park.
The event is hosted by the Crystal Beach Business Improvement Association and the Friends of Crystal Beach. Queens’ Circle (at the center of town bisected by Derby Road) is where the original park had its roots as a religious summer camp. Dubbed “Memories Day,” the celebration runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, the Toronto All Star Big Band will present a free concert of mid-20th century music in Waterfront Park, beginning at 7 p.m.
World War II airplanes
Memories of another sort will fill the skies over Geneseo on Saturday and Sunday when “The Greatest Show on Turf” brings nearly two dozen historic aircraft to Geneseo Airport from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The planes, brought in by volunteers from the National Warplane Museum, will be in the air and on the ground.
Gates open at 6 a.m. for those interested in enjoying the pancake breakfast ($5). Events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a steak dinner at 6 p.m. ($20).
Admission is $20 (cash only); free for children under 12. Parking is free and visitors are welcome to bring coolers and lawn chairs. Check out the website at www.nationalwarplanemuseum.org for details and a list of planes on display.
The airport is west of the Village of Geneseo. Use Exit 8 on Interstate 390, head west on Lakeville Road/Route 20A for 4.8 miles, then bear right onto the Route 63 bypass to Route 63. From there, turn left onto Big Tree Lane to the airs how admission gates.
Americana Days at Heritage Village
Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village hosts one of its biggest events of the summer this weekend with Americana Days, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Music, games and a farm animal petting zoo will be supplemented with a chance to try old-time crafts – kite making, tin punching and blacksmithing. Demonstrations of the finer home arts also will be presented.
Admission to the village, at 3755 Tonawanda Creek Road, Amherst, is $8 for adults, $4 for children, and $6 for seniors and those in the military. For more information, go to www.bnhv.org.
Wild Renn Fest at Hawk Creek
Knights and jousting, hawks and horses all add to the excitement at the Wild Renn Fest fundraiser at Hawk Creek Wildlife Center this weekend and next.
This weekend only there also are performances of the comic musical “The Greatest Pirate Story (N)ever Told.” On July 19 and 20, players from Paragon Jousting face off to duel on horseback.
Both weekends will feature free-flying bird shows and visits with naturalists, along with a chance to get up close to a bald eagle.
Hawk Creek Wildlife Center is at 655 Luther Road, East Aurora. Admission to the Wild Renn Fest is $16 for adults, $9 for children ages 5-14, $13 for seniors and veterans, and $36 for a family pass for two adults and three children. For more information, go to www.wildrennfest.org.
Canal Fest starts Sunday
The Canal Fest of the Tonawandas begins as the other weekend events trail off, opening up Sunday for its eight-day run in gateway Harbor Park and along the Erie Canal between the cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.
Midway rides, food booths from local civic groups and churches, music every night and special events daily make it a true community party. Get the whole scoop at www.canalfest.org.