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Festival turns out just 'Flurrious!' Activities in Delaware Park make the most of winter

Flurrious! -- the weekend outdoor winter festival presented by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy in Delaware Park -- lived up to its name Saturday.

Participants embraced their inner Buffalo as they braved blustery winds and deep, compacted snow to play snowshoe softball and snow "beach" tennis, and wage "skivvie" snowball fights, among other activities.

"We played the first inning of the [softball] game in snow shoes, but we decided that was a bad idea. It was very difficult to back up," Bryan Brauner said.

"It's a little crazy. I haven't fallen yet, so that's good," teammate Dan Devalski said.

Quidditch offered the most contact. In the game, as Harry Potter devotees know, wizards flying on brooms attempt to throw the quaffle through hoops, with the team's seeker chasing the golden snitch.

The muggle version is similar, with seven players on each team and the same objectives. But instead of flying, players run around clutching a broom between their legs.

"You don't have to be a Harry Potter fan to like it," Mark Oswald said, wearing sneakers in the heavy snow and shivering as he spoke. He and his teammates wore sweatshirts emblazoned with RIT Quidditch, for the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Quidditch proved to be a physical game with a lot of tackling.

"It's a lot rougher than you think it's going to be, and it's rough for girls, especially," Allison Rabent said right after her RIT team wound up on the losing end of a 50-0 score.

Rachel Webber, a Canisius College sophomore from West Seneca who played on the other team, disagreed with Rabent's characterization.

"We're just as tough as [the men] are. We don't mess around. We have some strong girls on our team, and we're all athletes and like to compete," Webber said.

While teams seemed well-stocked with enthusiastic players, attendance at midday for the overall event appeared light.

Outdoor food vendors looked disappointed as they watched people enter Parkside Lodge to warm up without checking their tents first.

Inside, the Lunch Box concession did a brisk business.

"It's been very busy," owner Amy McCarthy said. "It's been a terrific festival, for sure."

Otis N. Glover, the Parks Conservancy's director of strategic initiatives, said he was satisfied with the attendance considering it was the first Flurrious! festival. He also noted that a winter weather advisory had been issued.

"This is something for Buffalo that has been a long time coming," Glover said.

Other activities included carriage and sleigh rides, a couples sled pull race and a women's rugby tournament. Outside the lodge, Bob Corneck of Clarence and Andrei Hand of Amherst demonstrated the art of blacksmithing.

"We're perpetuating the craft," Corneck said, while pounding iron with a cross-pain hammer against an anvil, in-between dipping it into hot coals. "We're trying to get people aware of handcrafts and the difference between a machine-made item and a handmade item."

Later, as the wind kicked up, he joked, "We can't think of anything better to do than stand in a snowstorm and try to keep metal hot."

About 10 children and parents of Venturing Crew 5, consisting of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, constructed an igloo using a device to pack and angle the 8-foot-diameter shape.

Flurrious! also featured a bicycle race around the park's ring road, with about 40 hardy souls negotiating the challenging surface.

"I can't think of anything that can possibly go wrong," Matt Komorowski deadpanned to Kelly Dodd, both on a two-person "buddy bike."

After Glover fired the starting gun, the slogging proved difficult for a number of riders who fell off their bikes during the first third of the race.

Slowed but unbowed, most pressed on, one wheel rotation at a time.

"These guys are used to doing this," Glover said in admiration. "It's an acquired taste. I don't think I would want to try it in this weather."

Events will continue today with a two-mile run at 9 a.m., followed at 10 a.m. with a kickball tournament and touch football.

Snow golf, ultimate Frisbee, ice skating, carriage and sleigh rides are other offerings. The cost is $5.

Flurrious! will conclude with the last night of "Olmsted Nights Winter Lights," a holiday light display from 5 to 9 p.m. in the park.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com