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Families, artists converge on Elmwood Crowds enjoying eclectic mix of art, music and dance mark unofficial end of festival season

Elmwood Avenue was packed Saturday with plenty of evidence that the two-day festival crowding the street this weekend is family friendly.

Kids with dragons painted on their faces. Kids with glittery crowns made of paper. Kids slurping raspberry shaved ice.

"We spend two full days here," said Cyd Cox, an Elmwood Village resident who was navigating the crowd with her 7-year-old daughter, Rowan Brown. "It's our traditional end of summer."

If the traditional start of the summer festival season happens on Delaware Avenue in June during the annual Allentown Arts Festival, it started to wind down Saturday with an eclectic mix of live music, dance and art at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

The festival will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"The Buffalo crowd is always a pleaser," said Margaret Cherre, a Roycroft artisan from Friendship who has shown work at the Elmwood festival for three years. "There's a lot of festivals up here, and Buffalo always turns out."

Cherre, owner of Second Wind Weaving, attracted a small crowd of people who watched her weave blue and gray strings of rayon and bamboo together on a loom. The size of the Elmwood festival -- which has 170 artists between West Ferry and Lafayette Avenue -- gives her plenty of space in which to demonstrate her craft.

"I'm almost always able to have little kids help me in some way," Cherre said. "At a lot of places, understandably, they're told, 'no, you can't touch,' but here, I encourage them to be involved."

Sarah Fonzi, a sculptor from Buffalo, made her first appearance in the Elmwood festival on Saturday with a lineup of hand-cut steel work that included flowers and other garden decor. She said she was drawn to the festival by its emphasis on local artisans.

"The work that's here is much more high-quality and local and eclectic," said Fonzi, the studio manager for Essex Art Center. "Here, everything's supposed to be unique."

Susan Heimerl, volunteer coordinator for the festival, said event organizers place an emphasis on community.

"If people spend their money here, it's going to go into a Western New Yorker's bank account," Heimerl said, "And hopefully back into the economy."

It's a formula festival organizers have found has packed the street since the event started 12 years ago: work made by local artisans for the adults and arts, crafts and magic for the children.

"Everything's strategically placed," said Kevin Seidel, who brought his 7-year-old daughter, Kira, to the festival. "If the kids get tired, there's always something for them to do."

That doesn't mean, however, it's easy to navigate a stroller through the crowd.

Ann Calvaresi, of Tonawanda, brought her 1-year-old son, Marco, to the festival.

"Sometimes, you worry that people are annoyed that we brought the stroller," Calvaresi said as she headed back to her car, "but you've got to live."

Large dogs, like those owned by Kenmore resident Norm Freiert, had a bit of an easier time. The two black-and-white Harlequin Great Danes, which stand taller than Freiert's waist and each weigh more than 140 pounds, breezed down the street on red leashes.

"They love the attention," Freiert said.

Outside the festival, Janice Kyle and her son, 13-year-old Xavier, found a better way to deal with the crowd that envelopes their neighborhood during the festival each year. They set up their own handmade crafts table in a shady spot on their lawn on Ashland Avenue.

Xavier hoped to raise enough money to buy an iPad.

"Everybody's parking all over the neighborhood," Kyle said. "We can't move anyway."