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Another Voice: Festival Hall would be a showcase for Buffalo

By Anne Porter Paris and Hugh Pratt

Since the Outer Harbor is again making the news, we suggest that the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. find world-class architects to design a multipurpose Festival Hall such as the New Opera House in San Francisco and Royal Festival Theatre on London’s South Bank.

Buffalo’s Festival Hall would contain a state-of-the art theater and concert auditorium, a history museum, a café, a tearoom, a bar and a fine restaurant overlooking the harbor through floor-to-ceiling windows. It would also include a live-in residence for nationally known writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers.

Visitors to the museum would learn Buffalo’s history through dioramas showing the original natives living on Buffalo Creek and what is now Unity Island, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the construction of the Erie Canal, immigration from Europe, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, the manufacture of automobiles and a look into the future.

It would house a public access television studio to broadcast public events, possibly around the world at public access television stations.

A people’s theater, made up of an amalgamation of local theaters, could be the site for performances, all strutting the same boards. Other plays might revive the comedies of Dion Boucicault, which soothed the loneliness of new immigrants from Ireland in the 1800s, along with new venues for the Colored Musicians Club, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Gay Men’s Chorus and our many church and gospel choirs.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the start of construction of the Erie Canal, which takes place on July 4, 2017, we suggest statues of Gov. DeWitt Clinton, the father of the Erie Canal, and a wall with the names of the 9,000 people who helped build this national monument.

This, along with the dramatic historical outdoor performance of the story of the creation of the Erie Canal. We are sure you get the idea by now. Celebrate our tremendous history, culture and diversity.

We picture the Bow Bridge and the Terrace strung with balloon shapes that light up at night in all rainbow colors. We see a gigantic, purple-lighted Ferris wheel with young people on every seat and in line waiting to get on.

This vision can only be realized if we screw our courage to the sticking point. If we do, we will become a world-class 21st century Buffalo joining San Francisco and London.

Anne Porter Paris and Hugh Pratt are co-authors of the historical drama “Clinton’s Ditch: The Story of the Building of the Erie Canal.”

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