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Art lovers find silver lining; Thousands of umbrella-toting Western New Yorkers refused to let a little rain dampen their spirits or keep them away from Allentown's beloved annual extravaganza

Light rain fell on a vast canopy of booths and umbrellas lining Delaware Avenue on Saturday as thousands shrugged off the gloomy weather to enjoy the 55th annual Allentown Art Festival.

"We knew some rain was coming," said Tammy Derkovitz of Lancaster as she and her husband, both sheltered by umbrellas, lugged two "copper wind spinny things" that they had just purchased.

"The rain doesn't dampen anything," Ken Derkovitz said. "It's warm. It's not freezing."

That could have been the mantra for the throngs who showed up at the beloved art festival, which drew about 450 artists from around the United States and Canada.

The festival has enjoyed a long streak of good weather from year to year. But that came to a damp end Saturday morning, when a persistent drizzle crept across the Buffalo area.

"We're here all day, no matter what," vowed Mary Myskiewicz, president of the Allentowns Village Society, which produces the festival.

Myskiewicz conceded that the weather might have kept some people from coming to the opening of the festival.

"We'll just keep our fingers crossed," the festival president said.

But judging by the size of the crowd, the weather didn't have much of an impact.

"It's nothing an umbrella can't take care of," said Allison Brady of Clarence Center, who was on hand for the festival with friend Bev Belko.

Beth Steinberg, her daughter and her friends weren't ready for the rain. Three of them had to dash off to the Walgreen's on Delaware to pick up $5 umbrellas.

But the women seemed to be making the best of it as they browsed through booths for art, jewelry and clothes.

"It's a great day out with my daughter and friends," said Steinberg, a second-grade teacher at the Kadimah Jewish Day School in Eggerstville, who was toting a large, framed photograph -- a gift to her husband for Father's Day -- and wearing a vintage corduroy jacket she had just bought from a vendor.

"It's a girls' afternoon," she said.

Lori Woods and her family came prepared for the elements. Woods and her mother-in-law, who was visiting from Florida, both had their umbrellas up as they pulled Lori's 4-year-old daughter, Charlotte, in a wagon. Charlotte was decked out in a polka-dot raincoat and used her pink Dora the Explorer umbrella to shield her stash of snacks.

"We came for puppets," Charlotte declared.

Jim Jankowski of Buffalo, who has been attending the festival every year for the last 15 years, said the rain was making him spend more time under the vendors' tents.

"And that way I spend more money," he quipped, showing off a copper lawn ornament he had just purchased.

"The art's fine. They wrap it," he said. "And this lawn ornament -- well, that's meant to be outside."

Artist Ed Brownlee said business was "a little slow" Saturday. But the Lebanon, Pa., artist, who makes brightly colored, whimsical ceramic pieces, said he knows Buffalo's art fans turn out no matter what.

"I know you'll come out rain or shine," he said.

Valentina Mosquera, a Chilean-born artist from Tampa Bay, Fla., looked worried as she stood inside her booth packed with her handmade tin, bronze and copper suns and moons.

"It's terrible," she sighed, noting that people didn't seem to be angling into the booths. "They're just walking."

Painter Robert Ley had to make some drastic changes to his display plans.

"Normally I would set a lot of my bigger prints out for display, and lay them out but I can't," he said. "People also don't want to carry anything. They're all holding umbrellas in their hands."

The wet weather dissipated about midafternoon.

Aaron Reynolds, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, served up some good news for the festival's second day. "Sunday looks great," with sunny skies and highs in the mid-80s, he said.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Several streets will be closed until 8 p.m. because of the festival: Delaware Avenue from North Street to West Chippewa Street; Allen Street from Elmwood Avenue to North Pearl Street; Franklin Street from Virginia Street to Allen; and Virginia from Franklin to Delaware.

The following were judged the best of the festival:

*"Louis Cherenzia" Best of Show Award -- Liz Kain.

*Purchase Award -- Joseph Cascio.

*"Miriam K. Notaro" Painting (Realistic) -- first place, Arlen Withey; second, Robert Glisson; third, Weihong Liu; honorable mention, Michael Pomerantz.

*Painting (Abstract) -- first, Susan M. Miller; second, Alida K. Meyer; third, Peyton Higgison; honorable mention, Daniel Predmore.

*"Madeline Benson" Watercolor (Realistic) -- first, E. Jane Stoddard; second, Kathleen E. Dworak; third, Kathleen Giles; honorable mention, Michael McMahon.

*Watercolor (Abstract) -- first, Linda Lucas; second, Joan Hambleton; third, Jody Ziehm; honorable mention, Robert Gregg.

*Drawing/Graphics -- first, Kathleen McDonnell; second, James Skvarch; third, Carol E. Maltby; honorable mention, Jenny Pope.

*"Joseph and Ruth Bolinsky" Sculpture -- first, Ronna Mink; second, J. Brian Pfeiffer; third, Don Rea; honorable mention, Albert Nelson.

*"Dr. Joseph and Dorothy Manch" Photography -- first, Joshua Axelrod; second, Charles Waldman; third, David Stern.

*"Shirley French" Mixed Media -- first, Camryn Kraus; second, Doreen Cutting; third, Lisa Arkus; honorable mention, Christopher Stangler.

*"Harold and Sylvia Goldstein" Clay -- first, Carrianne Hendrickson; second, Peter Jones; third, Robert Pangburn; honorable mention, Barbara Hartman.

*"Dolores M. Leon" Glass/Acrylic -- first, Elijiah Smith; second, Edo Mor; third, Paul Taylor; honorable mention, Rich Fizer.

*Jewelry -- first, Molly Strader; second, Humberto Hernandez; third, Sharon Teaman; honorable mention, Dale Bosworth.

*Creative Crafts (Hard) -- first, Howard Miller; second, George Carrigan; third, Mia Sohn; honorable mention, Marc Gaiger.

*Creative Crafts (Soft) -- first, Janet Chico; second, Becky Peretz; third, Eduardo Reyes; honorable mention, Christopher Stangler.

email: meltagouri@buffnews.com and mbecker@buffnews.com