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Summer-ending numbers show that Canalside has become the place to be

Whether the number is 1.5 million visitors or a couple hundred thousand more, the virtual turnstile at Canalside was in constant motion this summer.

The numbers are heading in the right direction: higher and higher.

It might sound trite, at this point, but it can never be restated too many times. More than a million visitors to what the public now refers to as Canalside would have been inconceivable several years ago.

Back then, that area was a wasteland. And that’s putting it politely. Nothing was going on. Absolutely nothing and no one to witness the nothingness. Buffalo’s barren waterfront was a joke.

It took one determined congressman who, in Don Quixote fashion, charged the windmills of bureaucracy, inertia, doubt and defeat to keep pushing. Few accomplishments can be considered single-handed, but this one was close, and remarkable.

The $279 million Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, extracted from the New York Power Authority has been put to great use. The stewardship of Canalside by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. has been commendable. Whether that stewardship should be continued under new leadership, as the congressman has suggested and as it relates to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, is a subject of debate but if the ECHDC didn’t exist, something like it would have to be created.

The Canalside attendance numbers, as well as growing numbers at the Outer Harbor (250,000), have garnered well-earned praise.

The World’s Largest Rubber Duck attracted more than 100,000 picture-snapping, social-media posting fans. Shark Girl still gets plenty of selfie-snaps. Attendance at the Thursday night concerts totaled 133,000, led by 40,000 fans attending T-Pain’s performance on Aug. 18 – documenting the success of the series.

Canalside boat tours carried 20,000 customers. The weather was fine for a sail or a motor. Or a kayak or a waterbike or a stand-up paddleboard … you get the picture. And the Tuesday Night Flix and the Music and Dance series brought in 4,000 people and added to the nearly 10,000 visitors who participated in activities at the Art Space.

Thousands limbered up over the summer to participate in aerobics, yoga and fitness classes of all varieties, launched by BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York three years go. Those less inclined to join in group activities could walk, bike and, for babies, stroll.

They needed to watch out, though, for all the Pokemon Go players glued to their smartphones. Canalside, it seems, is a pretty fertile Pokestop. Just ask the crew members setting up the rubber ducky visit, who ran into enthusiasts playing Pokemon Go – at 4 in the morning.

Summer at Canalside – similar to spring, fall and winter at Canalside – is increasingly proving the place to be.

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