ALLENTOWN '89 SCENES FROM THE FESTIVAL - The Buffalo News

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ALLENTOWN '89 SCENES FROM THE FESTIVAL

Attendance at the Allentown Art Festival rallied on Sunday with 185,000 visitors -- a contrast to the 85,000 who braved a cloudy and cool opening day Saturday.

The 270,000 total attendance for the weekend is considered a respectable turnout for a national art festival that hovers near the 300,000 mark when the weather is perfect.

It could have been "just a little bit warmer -- like those hot festivals where you walk and hear the people's shoes melting down the street," said Tanya Troupe, who tested the ambience of the festival for 48 straight hours from her vigil in the parking lot at Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St.

She and her four small children live several blocks away on Plymouth Street, so they took refuge during the festival in a van owned by Jim Potaczala, who describes himself as a homeless Vietnam veteran.

"I live in my van," said Potaczala, who describes himself as an old friend of the Troupe family. He found a parking spot Friday night for his Dodge Ram, and it served as home base for Ms. Troupe and her daughter, Javon, 3, and sons, Kyle, 5, Jacon, 18 months, and Jorden, 3 weeks.

"It's good headquarters," she said. They all got to listen to reggae music from Nietzsche's and to meet old friends ambling by all day. "I spent a hundred bucks this weekend on food and drink," she added. "I've seen people I haven't seen in years."

Three-year-old Phil Bobinski was blowing a plastic trumpet while astride his father's shoulders, a balloon bobbing aloft. Tom and Anne Bobinski drove in from West Seneca for Phil's first Allentown festival.

"He likes the pictures with birds in them," his mother said.

At the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue, visitors bought all 80 dozen chocolate-chip cookies at a quarter apiece, washing them down with 75-cent lemonade. Concessions chairwoman Mary-Lee Harriott said it was the bargain tent of the festival, with many lolling on the grass near where Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in as president in 1901.

"I just enjoy seeing the people," said Buffalo author Emanuel Fried, one of her customers, who denied he was looking for characters for his next play.

A harlequin Great Dane named Scoobie wasn't even panting, that's how moderate the heat and humidity were.

Standing 33 inches at the shoulder, Vernon McComber's 120-pound beast hovered over all other breeds in attendance.

"He's sightseeing with everybody else," Kelly McComber said. She was interrupted by a woman who stopped long enough to announce pleasantly, "Buffalo is to be judged, thus saith the Lord." The prophetess vanished without elaborating.

Two dudes in a metallic blue convertible regaled Elmwood pedestrians by playing "Three Feet High and Rising," De La Soul's rhythmic saga of Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Fish, as they drove at a snail's pace down the glutted street.

Around the corner on Allen Street, Louis Polvino was playing "Cotton Fields" on his digital guitar, next to two torch jugglers who were begging the crowd in front of the Allendale Theater for a volunteer.

A man named Nick stepped forward and let Sean Roberts and Hugh Stephens surround him as they played catch with flaming batons, while the masses howled.

Asked if they've ever scorched anybody, Roberts said, "A couple times we've come close -- got to watch out for people with long hair."

They hope to quit their "day jobs" and perform during lunch hours downtown and in Pilot Field, now that summer is in the air for Western New York.

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