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The idea of snow in September is not very popular among Western New Yorkers, but thousands showed up Saturday for the first day of Molson Canadian Snow Jam at Erie Basin Marina.

The highlight of the two-day sport and musical festival is "Mount Everest," a 60-foot-ramp that's packed with 120 tons of manufactured snow -- the stage for pitched competition among 20 professional snowboarders and skiers. A total of $60,000 will be awarded to winners of various events throughout the weekend.

The Canadian brewer has been staging the festival for the past two years in Canada. Because of its wide appeal -- drawing a total crowd of more than 240,000 -- organizers decided to introduce it to two American cities, adding Buffalo and Detroit to its seven-city tour.

"It brings the mountains to the city," said Cynthea Galbraith, communications manager of Molstar Sports and Entertainment, the company's promotional arm. "It's the winter in the summer."

Under sunny skies, Western New Yorkers observed more than 100 athletes from around North America performing acrobatic acts of derring-do while in-line skating, snowboarding, skiing and riding bicycles.

There was accompaniment to the visual. A musical lineup included Tantic, Rahzel of the Roots, Sloan, Olender, Swollen Member, Beautiful Creatures and Mudmen.

"People are looking for more than a concert," Galbraith said. "They want an experience, and they get that here."

And spectators loved the show.

Ronnie Walczyk Jr. of Angola, 12, watched the BMX Best Trick Contest in awe.

"It's pretty cool," said Ronnie, a fan of extreme sports. "I like the BMX. It's the most exciting sport so far."

He attended the festival with his father and younger brothers.

"This is great fun -- outdoor sports and music," said his father, Ron. "It's a shame to see summer end, but this is a great way to end it."

Sara Conner, 17, of Cheektowaga, a novice skateboarder, went to the festival to see the professionals at work.

"I think this is great," she said. "There are great bands here, too, and it's not far from home."

Galbraith said the festival will return to Buffalo next year.

Molson Canadian Snow Jam concludes today with more music and competition from noon to 6:45 p.m.


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