The last great community Fourth of July celebration in Delaware Park, in 1982, was too much of a good thing.
An estimated 125,000 people streamed in, trampling both the grass and park rules banning alcohol, grilling equipment, fireworks and unleashed pets. When the party was over, the happy mob left behind damage totaling more than $110,000.
Things will be different Wednesday, when the city and county mark the 100th anniversary of Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition with an "old-fashioned" celebration in the landmark park, vowed Sue Gonzalez, who is coordinating the event.
The day will be crammed with family activities centered on picnicking, music and fireworks, but park rules will be strictly enforced by police officers riding bicycles and golf carts, said Gonzalez, executive director of the Police Athletic League of Buffalo.
"Pan-Am Picnic in the Park" highlights will include an antique car parade and show on the park ring road at 1 p.m., music through the afternoon and evening, with country recording star Chris Cagle taking the meadow stage at 6:30, and fireworks at 10.
Other musical acts: the bands 5*7 and Universal Grill and singers Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Lance Diamond. Family events will include a children's pavilion and inflatable rides from 1 to 7, races and a water balloon toss at 1, a super Simon Says contest at 3:15 and a pie-eating contest at 3:45.
Three licensed vendors will sell food and beverages through the day. In addition, the Buffalo Zoo will be open free of charge until 8 p.m., and neighboring cultural attractions such as Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Museum, which usually close on major holidays, will stay open.
"It should be a very affordable day," Gonzalez said. "Everything in the park will be free except food and drink."
Gonzalez urged those planning to attend the celebration to heed the rules: No grilling or open fires, no parking on grass or walking on golf greens and no alcohol, fireworks, sparklers or unleashed and unlicensed pets.