1. The 172nd Erie County Fair, the third largest county fair in the nation, opens at 2 p.m. today at the Hamburg Fairgrounds for a 12-day engagement with a mix of the familiar (the James E. Straits Shows Midway, which first appeared in 1924) and the new (the Creative Arts area and a new Indoor Living Center where the casino used to be). Admission for opening day is just $2, as is parking. If you like pigs -- and who doesn't? -- there's a 4-H and FFA hog show at 4 and, at the same time, a demonstration on how to give a pig a bath. Grandstand attraction at 7:30 is Big Time Rush, which grade-school-age fans and their parents will know from their hit show on the Nickelodeon Channel. They're sold out.
2. Want to join the tradition of Charles Rand Penney and Martha Jackson? You can get tips on how to become an astute art collector in a free program at 7 p.m. in the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University. "A Collector's Roadmap," coinciding with the Castellani's pairing of work from its own collection with pieces owned by local art collector Gerald Mead, is a panel discussion by experts who include Dean Brownrout of 20th Century Finest, art consultant Joanna Gillespie and Grace Meibohm, director of the Meibohm Fine Arts gallery in East Aurora. Mead will moderate.
3. Dr. Nirav Shah, state health commissioner, accompanied by Dr. Jaime Torres, U.S. Health and Human Services Department regional director, comes to Salvatore's Italian Gardens in Lancaster this morning for a summit conference with the Western New York Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals and other health care providers throughout the eight-county area. The topic? The new federally supported Partnership for Patients, a public-private effort to improve medical services and reduce costs by cutting down on mistakes and accidents. The program is targeting up to 10 areas where changes should be made.
4. This evening, the Buffalo Bills hold the third of six night practice sessions they've scheduled for training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, outside Rochester. Players will be on the field from 7 to 9. It's free, but tickets were only available at Verizon Wireless stores in Rochester. Plan instead on going to night practice next Wednesday, and you can pick up free tickets starting at 9 a.m. today at Wilson Farms stores at 1100 Southwestern Blvd., West Seneca, and S-4981 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park. No tickets are needed to watch Bills' daytime practices.
5. War fever is heating up in the Niagara County Village of Youngstown. War of 1812, that is. This evening, the Historical Society is hosting the first of a series of free guided walks that will visit significant war sites. The tour begins at 6 in Constitution Park on Main Street. Society members leading the tour will dress in period costume and portray historic characters such as Catherine Young of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), and Rebecca Swain and Agnes Greensitt of Youngstown. All three fled their homes when soldiers set fire to their respective communities during the war.
6. Has it really been 30 years since Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " and Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You" dominated our FM radios? It has. Times have changed, and so have the bands. Guitarist Neil Schon and bassist Ross Valory are still part of Journey, but in place of vocalist Steve Perry, there's dynamic Filipino-born Arnel Pineda. As for Foreigner, only lead guitarist Mick Jones remains in the lineup. Their many hit songs, however, have lost none of their appeal. The two groups share the bill tonight at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. The '80s band Night Ranger warms things up at 7.
7. Last weekend, Buffalo-area filmmakers got their instructions for the 48-Hour Film Project. By Sunday night, they had to finish writing, shooting, editing and scoring their four- to seven-minute films. They also had to include a predetermined prop (flip-flops), line of dialogue ("I have a funny feeling about this") and a character (a certain baby sitter). Ten of them will go up on the screen from 7 to 10 p.m. today, followed by 10 more at the same time Thursday in the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, 639 Main St. It's open to the public. For info, visit www.48hourfilm.com/buffalo.
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Visit the Prep Talk blog to watch interviews with coaches of some of the area's top high school football teams as the season approaches. Go to blogs.buffalonews.com/preptalk.