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HEY, BUFFALO, SAY CHEESE THIS WEEKEND

Unless you're one of those superheroes who run the Turkey Trot, it's hard to come up with a good reason to leave the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. You're preparing sweet potatoes, chestnuts and pumpkin pie. Ella Fitzgerald's on the CD player. Coffee's in your hand. But there might be a reason to dash out the door at 10 a.m.

It's that faded billboard for Laub's Warehouse, on Clinton Street near Fillmore. The sign sports a classic '50s picture of a guy straddling a rocket, briefcase in hand. "Space Experts," it reads.

Let's imagine that every time you've passed that billboard, you've marveled that it has survived the decades. Wouldn't it be fun to take a picture of it, and make it part of a portrait of our region? Thursday, you'll get the chance.

That's because the Campaign for Greater Buffalo and the age-old Buffalo Museum of Science Camera Club have teamed up for a regional photo shoot to document the area as it appears on Thanksgiving weekend 2004.

They aim to document "endangered and peculiar architecture." But they're interested in anything noteworthy, from oddly decorated houses to ancient gas pumps to quirky signs. Anything that makes the Buffalo area what it is.

The idea is to have everyone take pictures on Thanksgiving Day or the weekend that follows, so all the photos date from the same weekend. Tim Tielman, of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, will catalog them, and next year, we'll do it again. In time, we'll have an archive of the changing region.

Pretty much anything goes, Tielman says.

Endangered buildings are at the top of his list. "The thumbnail test is whether or not the building is occupied," he says. "If it's not, it's endangered."

But he also was impressed by an immigrant's home on the Lower West Side. The house speaks vividly of its occupant's faith and preoccupations. "This guy had Puerto Rican flags flying, and the front yard encased with all this bric-a-brac. There's 9/1 1 stuff, and upended bathtubs with images of the Virgin Mary."

We all have sights we secretly savor as we go through life. It could be a factory water tower, like the one near Main and Utica with the Packard logo. Or the rustic taverns on Campbell Boulevard, so picturesque among the autumn leaves. One of the remaining nurseries in Gardenville also might be worth a shot. As West Seneca evolves, the nurseries are starting to look like an endangered species.

Don't just look up -- look down. A sidewalk plate reading: "Washington Iron Works, Buffalo, N.Y." bears stolid witness to our past.

Finally, how about that Cheektowaga yard facing the Thruway that's full of Sabres and Bills kitsch? "Home of a Sabres Stalker," one sign trumpets. You've seen it -- now snap it.

Tielman invites photographers, kids as well as adults, to meet at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day at the Campaign for Greater Buffalo offices, 224 1/2 Elmwood Ave., for cider and suggestions. If you can't make it, deliver your photos to the office by Dec. 4. Bring CDs, prints or slides, along with the addresses of the places you photographed. (Call 884-3138 with questions.)

"You want to have sharp pictures with good detail, not too light or too dark," advises Marti Schrichte of the Camera Club.

With luck, we'll wind up with not just thousands of small pictures, but one big picture of a region that, despite its problems, is very much worth celebrating.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to count our blessings -- and to try to hold on to them, too.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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