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A Month of Festivals in Erie County

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By Mary Heyl

Erie County has a rich cultural heritage, as immigrants flocked to the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a result of the county’s extensive rail system, proximity to Lake Erie, and the Erie Canal, of course. Buffalo’s unique architecture, variety of churches and delicious cuisine are proof enough of this diversity, and visitors can experience it all this month. Celebrate history, art and heritage in Erie County at one of the annually-anticipated festivals coming up each weekend!

In addition to this weekend’s Dairy/Ag Festival in Springville (check out the article on page 1), there are others to keep you busy all month long.

“Become Greek for a day” at the Buffalo Greekfest from Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 4. The festival takes place at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Buffalo at 146 West Utica Street, and admission is just $2 (free for children under age 12). Highlights include delicious Greek cuisine, live Greek music all day long and Greek folk dancing, featuring dancers from Greece. Visitors can enjoy imported foods, baked goods, gifts and art from Greece or inspired by Greek culture.

Learn more about Greek culture and heritage through various displays and exhibits. Visitors can even experience Greek heritage in Buffalo through one of the church tours that will be given throughout the weekend; the historic Greek Orthodox Church was completed in 1906 and is a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. Visit buffalogreekfest.org or call (716)882-9485 to learn more.

Enjoy the 60th Annual Allentown Art Festival throughout the weekend of Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Allentown Historic Preservation District of Buffalo. Each year, thousands of art patrons visit this unique festival, which features the work of over 400 juried exhibitors. Since 1958, artists and crafters have been exhibiting their work in a variety of mediums including clay, photography, sculpture, glass, acrylic, oil painting, drawings, graphics, mixed media, jewelry and more. Exhibitors include local artists, as well as artists from all over the country including California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

If you are searching for that one-of-a-kind piece for a gift or for yourself, you’re sure to find so much at this inspiring festival. Bring your appetite, as there are almost 40 delicious food vendors serving everything from pulled pork to fried ravioli to Hawaiian shaved ice. Visit allentownartfestival.com for a festival guide and map and a complete listing of artists with links to their websites.

The following weekend, June 17 and 18 is the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, the third largest Juneteenth celebration in the world. Juneteenth, otherwise known as Freedom Day, commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery through President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. In 1976, the city of Buffalo first celebrated this important day along Jefferson Avenue, where artists, crafters, and ethnic food vendors set up for the weekend. After several years, the festival outgrew this location and is now held in Martin Luther King Jr. Park at the intersection of Best Street and Fillmore Avenue.

The festival’s mission is to “actively preserve and promote the broad spectrum of the African American heritage through educational and cultural activities that will benefit the community as a whole.” To achieve this, the festival features Underground Railroad tours, children’s activities, African dance and drum lessons and various activities at the heritage tent. Bring the whole family to enjoy a variety of vendors, an antique car show, the family photo booth and the popular basketball showcase! The festival kicks off at 11:00 a.m. on June 17 with the annual parade that begins at Genesee Street and ends at the park. Visit www.juneteenthofbuffalo.com for a complete schedule and photo gallery.

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