There are two main sights at the Allentown Art Festival – the art, of course, and the people.
So what is the No. 1 reason for going to the two-day festival along Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo?
“It’s my favorite Buffalo event of the summer,” said Julie Maciejewski of Buffalo.
Many agree. The art show featuring stalls for 375 artists from far and wide has been named by American Style Magazine as one of the top 25 art fairs and festivals in the country. It is a tradition as true to Buffalo as a Goo Goo Dolls concert.
Saturday, as the event opened for the 57th time, the smell of cannolis, pizza and fried dough saturated the streets. It was tough to find walking room as tens of thousands soaked up the environment.
And, naturally, you couldn’t turn your head without being enraptured by the art.
More than 500 artists had applied to have a stall, with only the best making the cut.
Bob Matteson showed off pen-and-ink drawings at his Dragon Studios booth. With the watercolor he had added, hues popped off the canvases.
“It’s so well attended and the people really look forward to it,” Matteson said of the festival. “It’s a big party, obviously.”
Nearby, Robin Frisella’s paintings depicting pottery and fruit were so lifelike you’d swear they were photographs. The apples looked so juicy they were practically begging to be bitten into.
Many families enjoyed the spectacle together.
Courtney Jordan allowed her daughter, 5-year-old Adalyn Ennis, to pick out one item at the festival. Adalyn scanned her options pensively as Jordan explained her first purchase of the day – a Grey Goose vodka bottle that had been flattened and turned into a cheese tray.
Kelly Matthews of Amherst said she attended for the experience, wanting “to see which talents individuals have to share.”
Others were there on a specific mission.
Jennifer Milillo, of Buffalo, was looking for a dragon. Seeking decorations for her new apartment, she eyed small hand-blown glass figurines at the booth of Art For Us Studio. She knew her boyfriend would like a dragon.
Gabrielle Ormond of Amherst came to peruse the Artyard Studio tent. She already owns 12 magnets from the company and is a big fan of its work.
The spirit of the event is the reason Anna Likos and Mike Mazgajewski, both of Buffalo, “always do Allentown,” Likos said. They come to browse art and mingle with the community. Then they’ll have some food and drinks – with the festival offering dozens of options.
“Can’t forget about people watching,” said Mazgajewski, adding that he appreciates the “anything-goes attitude.”
Many echoed Mazgajewski’s sentiment. Richard Maciejewski – with 1-year-old daughter Anna Grace in a carrier on his back – said his favorite part of the festival is, “people – lots of interesting people.”
A woman in her 60s walked her miniature poodle, attempting to weave through the masses. A high school couple who joked and held hands. A 40-something man wearing a vest with buttons pinned all over it talked up the local music scene.
The atmosphere defined a lighthearted camaraderie.
A large part of the success is tradition. While people like Mazgajewski and Likos come back year after year, so, too, do the vendors – many traveling great distances.
Matteson, who lives in Baltimore, came to his first Allentown festival in 1981. He goes to 10 street fests per year and has attended Buffalo’s show almost every year over the past decade.
“It’s a prestigious street fair compared to others,” Matteson said.
Tim Bailey, of Bradenton, Fla., was on hand for a second year after testing the waters last year. He creates clothing through a process that includes silk-screening, wood-blocking, hand-painting and stamping.
He’s done it for 21 years and has seen all types of crowds at similar art events. He said that although people in Buffalo, like most cities, come out for the social aspect, they also appreciate the artists, pay attention to their creations and make purchases.
“It’s an event, first of all,” Bailey said. “People come to see their neighbors and friends, but they leave with some art. They’re definitely looking.”
Frisella, attending her first Allentown festival this year, was with her husband at their timeshare in Florida earlier this year when she started chatting with a couple by the pool. The conversation led to her showing them photos of her work.
“I said, ‘Geez, you’ve gotta come to Allentown,’ ” recalls Mark Johnston of Amherst.
“The clarity,” added Diane, his wife, recalling her amazement at first seeing photos of the paintings.
Frisella said she was surprised by the amount of traffic at the event.
Greg Sobkowiak, of Cheektowaga, has attended the festival on and off for more than 12 years. He purchased a lawn ornament Saturday.
Sobkowiak was thankful the weather was on the chilly side this year. The final day of last year’s festival was scorching – a true summer day – whereas Saturday felt more like fall.
The weather for today’s festival finale, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., is expected to be sunny and clear, with temperatures in the mid-to high 70s.
Louis Cherenzia Best of Show Award ($1,000) – Arlen Perkins Withey.
Purchase Award ($1,000) – E. Jane Stoddard
Painting (realistic) – first, Kelsey Merkle; second, Kevin Llang; third. Robert Glisson; honorable mention, Leisha Temple.
Painting (abstract) – first, Peyton Higgison; second, Joan Saba; third, Christopher Stangler; honorable mention, David Majchrzak.
Watercolor – first, Kathleen Giles; second, E. Jane Stoddard; third, Kathleen Dworak; honorable mention, Kelsey Merkle.
Drawing/Graphics – first, Kathleen McDonnell; second, Robin Frisella; third, Carol Maltby; honorable mention, Jenny Pope.
Sculpture – first, Anthony Arkus; second, Roland Paronish; third, Sabra Richards; honorable mention, Wayne Schapp.
Photography – first, John Deng; second, Carla Fuller; third, Ted Tatarzyn; honorable mention, William Scheider.
Mixed Media – first, Russ Erickson; second, Diane Kaylor; third, Scott Matyjaszek; honorable mention, Amy Fletcher.
Clay – first, Timothy See; second, Edward Feldman; third, Hodaka Hasebe; honorable mention, Thomas Hooper.
Glass/Acrylic – first, Susan Lichtental; second, Gabriel Cole; third, Edo Mor; honorable mention, Paul Taylor.
Jewelry – first, Liz Kain; second, Laurel Davern; third, Lindsy Braunscheidel; honorable mention, Dale Bosworth.
Creative Crafts (hard) – first, Howard Miller; second, Brian Newton; third, Robert Myrvall; honorable mention, Roy Ticen.
Creative Crafts (soft) – first, Eduardo Reyes; second, Christina Nguyen; third, Richard Thompson; honorable mention, Frank Westfall.