By Rich Place

One of the region’s oldest art festivals will return again next weekend to celebrate the arts and music in a small-town atmosphere.

The Colden Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30 throughout downtown Colden. The Belle Starr Concert, one of the marquee attractions of the weekend, takes place Saturday evening at Whelan’s Colden Lakeside Restaurant.

Fifty years ago, the first Colden Art Festival was held and, as it continued, more than 10,000 people attended some years, according to Jim Howe, who is serving as chairperson for the event this year. Although there were a few years it didn’t take place, music was recently added and the festival has returned to its celebration of local artists.

“One thing we are proud of is that we brought the festival back to what it was — a gathering of artists and craftsman who create what they sell,” Howe said. “That’s what it originally was and that’s what we are proud that we brought back.”

Howe’s wife, Janice McCullough-Howe, serves as chairperson for food and vendors at the festival and remarked about how the festival gives artists an opportunity to showcase their work.

“Every year, there is someone new that brings something I haven’t seen before,” she said. “Often these people live within 10 miles of my house — it really blows my mind.”

The Belle Starr Concert — named for the Belle Starr, a bar in Colden that burned down in 1980 but in its heyday hosted various musicians — features opening act Hintz of Thunder at 6 p.m.

Doug Allen, known for singing the national anthem at Buffalo Sabres games, will sing the national anthem at 8 p.m. to kickoff the Buffalo Blues portion of the event. That organization, which the concert benefits, will bring in the Dave Constantino Band, Hayden Fogle and the Buffalo Blue Benefit Band as additional entertainment throughout the evening. The concert takes place at Whalen’s Colden Lakeside Restaurant.

“One of the goals is to bring something out this way that wouldn’t normally come out this way,” Howe said.

Complementing the Belle Starr Concert, music will also be featured both days of the festival throughout downtown. On Saturday, performers include Muhlbauer from 11 a.m. to noon; Hintz of Thunder from 12:10 to 1:10 p.m.; Porcelain Train from 1:20 to 2:20; and Dana Manz from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

On Sunday, performers include Nick Kody and Lydia from 11 a.m. to noon; Wise Alex from 12:10-1:10 p.m.; Dark Road Duo from 1:20-2:20 p.m.; and Elvis impersonator Nathan Pittorf from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

In addition to the festival’s vendors, music and fine art, historical tours of the town will be given this year from 1 to 3 p.m. both days on a horse-drawn wagon sponsored by the Buffum Association and the Bank of Holland. There will also be a chili cook-off amongst local restaurants with festival attendees invited to vote for their favorites.

The chili cook-off from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday is one of the many ways the festival incorporates local businesses and helps them promote what they offer in the quaint town of Colden.

“We try to have each business in Colden get involved somehow,” Howe said. He noted the Colden Fire Department will be hosting a chicken barbecue at the festival as well.

Her heART Barn, of Boston, is sponsoring a family tent from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days that will feature creative arts and crafts for kids and pumpkin painting and face painting. Her heART Barn is also hosting a Dirty Pour Workshop, designed for those 21 and over, at the Colden Mill from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $40; spots can be reserved by calling (716) 427-8258.

Also new this year, the Erie County Bookmobile will be on site from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Kitt, the car from Knight Rider, will be in front of the Colden Mill on Sunday.

Although other art festivals have popped up since Colden hosted its first one in the late 1960s, the Colden Festival brings together art, music and vendors all in the small town of Colden.

“I think what makes it different is we are a small town festival with a cool vibe,” said McCullough-Howe. “This is a community of arts around here and that’s what makes it unique.”

Festival organizers are always looking for more volunteers to help the days of the event, Howe said.

For additional information, including a complete schedule of events, visit or call (716) 794-1542.