1) Taste of Buffalo, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 8 (Niagara East beer tent stays open until 11), and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 9 in Niagara Square and along Delaware Avenue. The event is free to attend, while tickets used to buy food run for 50 cents apiece, sold in $5 sheets.
Commentary: For me, the most exciting thing about the Taste of Buffalo is scouring the menu and then traipsing the streets for prey. While that intro may sound uncomfortably predatory, there are alluring offerings from Sear, Osteria 166, Rolling Cannoli and Riverstone Grille, among several others.
The variety of wine slushies are a treat for the end of a long day of eating and people-watching, while entertainment rolls through 11 p.m. on one corner of Niagara Square. Look back at the Smiles from last year's Taste of Buffalo.
2) Queen of Heaven Carnival, 5 p.m. to midnight July 7, noon to midnight July 8 and noon to 9:30 p.m. July 9 outside of Queen of Heaven Rectory (4220 Seneca St., West Seneca).
Commentary: Arguably the most lively beer tent among Southtowns summer festivals, Queen of Heaven essentially turns West Seneca into a two-day party.
Festival organizers are trumpeting the $20,000 giveaway for this year, which features a choice between a boat, $15,000 cash, a recreation vehicle or a trip.
Hammerl Amusements entertains kids with rides and the usual carnival attractions, while the cover bands – Breakaway (7 p.m. to midnight Friday), Hit N' Run (7 p.m. to midnight Saturday) and the Boneshakers (5 to 9 p.m. Sunday) – slated for the beer tent are among the area's best.
Commentary: While many devoted JitV-goers are still fast asleep in their tents, there's still an opportunity to catch two days of the country music action in rural Varysburg.
Festival headliner Toby Keith takes the stage at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, while Brett Eldredge is the main act for Friday, slated for 9 p.m. West Seneca native Eric Van Houten graces the Made in America stage at 10:15 p.m. Friday. Here's the full lineup.
Commentary: Ru's Pierogi, Osteria 166, Consumer's Pub at the Park, the Dish at Canalside, the Grove Juice Truck and Elmhurst Nutmilk will offer samples of their brunch fare along the waterfront on Sunday for this inaugural event.
Although the food event competition will be stiff with the Taste of Buffalo at the same time, expect the brunch festival to be considerably more relaxed and a bit more scenic.
Commentary: The blues will resonate near the grain elevators in Silo City, with over 10 hours of music slated for Saturday. Beginning with a free vocal workshop at noon by Marsha McWilson and concluding with Lucky Peterson at 9 p.m., the annual festival features a range of performers, from solo artists to bands.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs (although some will be available for rent), while parking is $5. A beer tent and a couple food trucks will be on-site for refreshments.
6) Buffalo Bookfest, noon to 5 p.m. July 8 at WNY Book Arts Center (468 Washington St.). Free to attend.
Commentary: The WNY Book Arts Center will be home to the third annual upstate New York Wayzgoose, which will broaden the number of printers and vendors to appear at the event. (A Wayzgoose is the name given to a performance by the master craftsman to pupils to mark the end of summer, not a relative of the swan).
The event's focus is on all aspects of bookmaking and printing, with free demos given throughout the day. The visually impressive process of steamroller printing also will be showcased.
An after-party, which includes dinner for $25, will be held at the Barrel Factory (65 Vandalia St.), with live music from Eric Crittenden.
Commentary: Take part in an Indonesian cultural celebration with Sasmita Batik, just down the street from the small boutique's dwelling in the Market Arcade building.
Three regions of Indonesian culture will be represented in clothing, jewelry and decor, plus dance performances by Fleuron Rouge and Kenzie Lynch. Music will be played by the Buffalo Gamelan Club. A portion of the proceeds benefit Squeaky Wheel Media.
8) Go see a play at the Shaw Festival, performances begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday and run all weekend in four different theaters at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Prices vary by the show. You can find the full schedule and ticket details here.
Commentary: A litany of theater options are sprinkled around Niagara-on-the-Lake – an attraction in itself – and The News' Colin Dabkowski has already reviewed four of them this spring and summer. Standouts so far include "Saint Joan," "Me and My Girl" and "The Madness of George III," with "Dracula" beginning its preview run on Saturday.
9) Grange Community Kitchen's 1-year anniversary, 1 to 5 p.m. July 9 at 22 Main St., Hamburg. Free to attend.
Commentary: The Grange still holds News Food Editor Andrew Galarneau's highest plate rating of the year so far – nine out of 10 – from his Jan. 26 visit to Hamburg. Chef-owner Brad Rowell, who elevated the pizza game at Elm Street Bakery before scooting to Hamburg, balances a from-scratch menu that adeptly tackles breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Highlights of the 1-year anniversary celebration are a barbecue plate, which includes spit-roasted lamb, smoked pork, baked beans, potato salad, a seasonal salad and a brownie, plus a homemade ice cream sandwich. Five of the restaurant's popular cocktails also will be available for $6 apiece, while select draft beers ($2) and boilermakers ($3) round out the drink specials.
10) Touch a Truck, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 8 outside the Williamsville Lehigh Valley Depot (86 S. Long St., Williamsville). Cost is $7 per person, includes a hot dog, chips, a drink and ice cream, and can be purchased on-site.
Commentary: Trucks of all kinds will be stationed in the lot outside the Williamsville Lehigh Valley Depot on Saturday. Kids are encouraged to poke around – or just stand and marvel at – the large vehicles to see what's inside and learn a little about their uses. Proceeds from the event benefit the restoration of the depot, which was built in 1896.
Commentary: The Tralf hosts local comedy each Saturday night this summer; the full schedule includes a stand-up showcase, a variety night and a benefit. On tap this weekend, though, is the first pair of "roast" battles, where two comedians insult each other as cleverly and as viciously as they can.
Guided by host Chris Plumer, R.J. Purpura takes on Ryan Fay, and then Brandon Trusso battles Rick Matthews on Saturday. The comedian deemed funniest from that quartet will face the winner of a second bout, held July 22, in the finals on July 29.