After a long Western New York winter, residents of Buffalo look forward to summer: the warmth, time with family and mostly the fairs and festivals. Once Memorial Day weekend hits, there’s not a weekend through Labor Day that doesn’t feature a food fest, fair, carnival, lawn fete, or arts and crafts show that takes the locals outdoors to enjoy the all-too-short summer season. While some festivals have gone away, and others pop up in their place, these three festivals have been long-standing traditions in the Buffalo area.
The Allentown Art Festival
If it’s the second weekend of June, then it’s time for the Allentown Art Festival. This nationally-renowned art festival began in 1958 as a September show put together by a group of Allentown businesspeople. The group, which became known as the Allentown Village Society, held a second show in June 1959, giving the show its now-annual weekend. The festival in the 1960s was more of a carnival, with performance art, music, and fashion shows. The 1970s ushered in a scaled-down festival, with fewer exhibitors, no live entertainment, and more defined boundaries; it also led to an improved quality of art and artisans. Today’s Allentown Art Festival features around 450 juried artists annually, and it remains one of the top festivals in the City of Buffalo.
Canal Fest of the Tonawandas
For eight days in July, the twin cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda join together to celebrate the community and the New York State Canal System at Canal Fest. The festival dates back to 1983, when it was held in the City of North Tonawanda; its success that year led to growth the next, and the festival expanded to the City of Tonawanda. In addition to the fun, the festival also serves as a fundraising opportunity for a number of non-profit organizations in the area. Canal Fest’s rides, entertainment, food, and atmosphere bring nearly 250,000 people to the twin cities over the eight days.
The Erie County Fair
Held every August at the Hamburg Fairgrounds, the Fair dates back to 1841, when the Erie County Agricultural Society held a one-day event on 12 acres of land in Hamburg in the fall. The Fairgrounds today covers 275 acres, and the event has expanded to 12 days in August, full of rides, vendors, concerts, motorsports, education, and, of course, food. The Erie County Fair is currently the third-biggest county fair in the country, averaging over 900,000 people annually; it is also the second-largest fair in New York State, topped only by the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
sources: “About Us,” allentownartfestival.com
“The History,” canalfest.org
“About the Fair,” ecfair.org