Ladies and gentlemen, loosen your belts. It’s time for the Big Three. What is happening this week is a miracle of nature. It is like what Professor Harold Hill proclaims in “76 Trombones” about how the Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day. It is like Buffalo scoring architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and H.H. Richardson.
Three titans, overlapping. Three of our biggest festivals – Taste of Buffalo, Canal Fest and the Italian Festival – are all colliding in the same 10 days. It is a terrifying trifecta. And you wonder: Will you survive?
It helps to be prepared. Wear cool, forgiving clothing. Bring a water bottle.
And focus on each festival’s highlights. Here are some.
• At the AT&T Music Stage, disc jockeys hold forth Saturday and Sunday starting at 11 a.m. Among them are Spooky Business. But that’s all beside the point. The point is the free sample of Nutella, to be given out while supplies last.
• Witness the Cannoli Wars from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday on the Culinary Stage, when Linda Schultz and Amber Milligan of Romanos Bakery face off against brothers Gaetano and Luca Letizia of Gelateria Luca. Make sure you pick up a mini cannoli.
• Take your eyes off the cannoli long enough to meet the popular Celery, Blue Cheese and Chicken Wing mascots from the Buffalo Bisons at the entrance of the Culinary Stage from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
• We heard the word “truffle.” Not the mushroom kind, either. Chocolatier Ben Johnson, owner of Blue Table Chocolates, gives away truffle secrets – and, more importantly, truffle tastes from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Saturday. Best to stick around.
• Legendary Buffalo band Cock Robin plays the Taste of Buffalo on the Tops Stage from 9 to 10:45 p.m. Music goes all day starting at noon.
• How often do you get to see two foodies locked in what’s called an epic battle – grilling, competitively, two proteins, a starch and a vegetable using the Big Green Egg? Join The News’ Andrew Z. Galarneau, who knows his victuals, as he assists in judging the Grill Master Competition from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday on the Culinary Stage.
Mysterious foods to try:
• The Oreo Shake from Clarence Center Coffee Company and Cafe. Upon phoning Clarence, our hopes were realized: They do actually throw Oreos into the blender. “It’s so delicious!” laughed the woman we spoke with. “It’s a frozen sweetlike Oreo milkshake. It has vanilla ice cream and Oreo cookies.”
• The Junkyard Dog from Ms. Goodies. We had to find out about this delicacy, which reportedly draws some of the longest lines at the festival. The phone call, just in itself, was fun. Woman’s voice: “Hello.” Buffalo News: “Hello, is this Ms. Goodies?” (Pause) “Yes.” The News asks about the Junkyard Dog. “Are you putting this in the paper? If you could just write that it’s a fish fry wrapped in the pita, that would be good.” Why is it so popular? “ ’Cause it’s so good. Just the way it comes together.” Understood. And much anticipated.
• The Snooty Crostini from the Snooty Fox Lounge: Another Italian specialty to order just for the fun of saying the name. The crostini are topped, we learn, with banana pepper cheese spread and sirloin.
• The Kitchen Sink from JD’s Smokin Grill & Bar in West Seneca: We quote the gal we talked to: “A layer of baked mac and cheese covered with smokehouse beans, barbecued brisket on top of that, mashed potatoes on top of that, and then more smokehouse beans, and two strips of hickory-smoked bacon.” Oink!
• We know it’s bizarre, but call William Mattar – we don’t need to tell you the number – and tell him how much you are enjoying the William Mattar Shade Zone tents, new this year.
Taste of Buffalo
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Delaware Avenue, downtown Buffalo, from Chippewa Street to Niagara Square.
• “Come for the beer tent. Stay for the deep-fried Oreos,” an astute fan advised on Canal Fest’s Facebook page. Get those deep-fried Oreos from St. Peter’s United Church of Christ on the North Tonawanda side.
• Nearby, the Fellowship of God’s Word hawks homemade cannoli. How can you go wrong?
• Part of the fun of Canal Fest centers on observing the unlikely bedfellows. Rival Boy Scout troops set up shop cheek by jowl. Catholic churches and Masonic lodges bury ancient enmities, selling food side by side. Best of all in this divisive day and age, Republicans and Democrats sit down together at the table of brotherhood. This year, that table holds roast beef, meatball subs, frozen yogurt and nachos (the North Tonawanda Democratic Committee) and pizza, shrimp, clams and artichokes (the North Tonawanda Republican Committee).
• Canal Fest would not be complete without also soaking up the sounds of the Ramblin’ Lou Family Band, Western New York’s First Family of Country Music, from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Miller Band Shell on the Tonawanda side.
• Scout treasures of the Tonawandas at the Flea Market sponsored by the Historical Society of the Tonawandas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 19 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20 at Clinton Park, Broad Street, on the Tonawanda side.
• New this year, at 10 a.m. July 18 and July 20, is a walking tour of North Tonawanda, led by Explore Buffalo. Meet at the Carnegie Art Center (240 Goundry St., North Tonawanda). Your perfect take-along snack: the warm nubby pretzels with cheese and mustard from Dom Polski, on the North Tonawanda side.
• At 4 p.m. July 18, at the Gateway Stage in North Tonawanda, enjoy Blood Money: “Music for Gypsies, Outlaws and Lovers.”
• At 3 p.m. July 19, it’s the duck race, described simply and eloquently as: “Ducks drop from Delaware Street bridge.”
• If Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Church does not know how to make a souvlaki, who does? The church serves up meat and vegetarian souvlaki, as well as desserts, at its booth on the Tonawanda side.
• At dusk on July 19, the boat parade begins at the Tonawanda Island Launch Club, sailing down the Canal from the Niagara River and back again. This year’s theme invites lights and ornamentation. It’s “Christmas in July.”
• Cast a nostalgic eye toward ancient fraternal organizations such as Swiftwater Pocahontas Chapter No. 186, located on the North Tonawanda side of Canal Fest and selling the foods that made our country great, namely fried bologna and Polish sausage.
• End your day in the mighty beer tent, courtesy of Sweeney Hose No. 7.
• End your Canal Fest with lounge legend Lance Diamond, playing the Gateway Stage on the North Tonawanda side from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. July 20. See who’s sparklier, Lance, or the fireworks that follow.
CANAL FEST OF THE TONAWANDAS
When: Sunday to July 20
Where: Gateway Harbor Park and along the Erie Canal in Tonawanda.
• We’re used to paparazzi at the Italian Festival – but new this year is Poperazzi. This Vegas outfit is a trio, including two tenors who met while singing cruises, and one woman singer who describes herself as “a handful.” They sing Italian favorites from 7:45 to 9:30 p.m. July 18 on the Frankie Scinta Stage.
• At 4 p.m. July 18, chef Jeff Cooke of Osteria 166 holds forth on the cooking stage, located at Hertel and Commonwealth. He’s followed at 6 p.m. by chef Mike Obarka of patrician Ristorante Lombardo. Surely ancestors will be rolling over in their graves as age-old kitchen secrets are disclosed. Bring a notebook.
• The great Bobby Militello honks the horn and tootles the flute – and sings a little, too, if we’re lucky – at 6 p.m. July 19. The Big City Horns, headlining, follow at 7:45 p.m.
• Seven words: Chef Tony’s Award-Winning Chocolate Cassata Cake. “Three layers of yellow cake brushed with vanilla syrup then filled with two layers of sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips – topped with whipped cream, cherries, and chocolate chips ...” Find this Sicilian sweet at Panaro’s Restaurant’s booth, near the corner of Crestwood. Panaro’s also makes Oreo-stuffed cannoli. You might want to ask about that.
• The Taste of Buffalo’s warring cannoli makers, Romano’s Italian Bakery and Gelateria Luca, will both be present at the Italian Festival. Taste their wares and see if you agree with the verdict of the judges. Proclaim your opinion freely and see if you detect any lingering rivalry.
• Try tripe, if you have not already learned to love it. It’s delicious, with thick tomato sauce, bread and cheese. Several restaurants always offer it. And aren’t heritage festivals about expanding your horizons?
• Stop by and see St. Anthony and ask him to find things those nagging things you have lost. You will find his statue in the Heritage Tent.
• The pressure is hilarious at the Celebrity Cheese-Building Contest, which raises money for charity and has been going on for years. Celebrities, who usually include a few TV heads, have to build towers with slippery logs of plastic-wrapped cheese. The best part: When they’re through, they throw the cheese into the crowd. Our hand is out! The contest is at 1 p.m. July 20.
• The applications are in, the papers are signed, and the stage is set for Italian Idol, which begins at 2 p.m. July 20. Contestants are not required to be Italian, but we would expect that their performances would reflect Italian culture.
• We saved the best for last. Grape stomping! It happens daily in the Heritage Tent, at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
Galbani Italian Heritage Festival
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. next Thursday to July 20
Where: Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, between Colvin and Delaware avenues