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Old Falls Street set to be hub for event-filled summer

The officials who run the city's conference and event center are promising a summer full of concerts, vendors and excitement in the downtown core.

The center of the action, they said Thursday, will be Old Falls Street, the cobblestone promenade running between Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino that officials see as key to repopulating downtown.

While the state's USA Niagara Development Corp. has hired Global Spectrum to run events on the street for the last few years, programs will now be set up every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day, officials said.

"We're going to kick Old Falls Street into high gear during our summer months of June, July and August," marketing director Susan Swiatkowski said at an afternoon news conference.

The events include the city's popular Hard Rock Cafe concert series, which will feature rock legends The Guess Who on July 7 and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing the music of the Grateful Dead on July 14.

Daily activities include live music every day at noon, a selection of local retail vendors, specialty food carts, and bike rentals for self-guided tours.

Fitness activities will be held weekly, as will a Thursday "Flicks on Old Falls" open-air movie series and a Friday concert series.

Other events running through October include the Niagara Falls Blues Festival, Oktoberfest and WNY Sound Smash, a collaborative concert with members of the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus, the BPO the Colored Musicians Club.

The events are part of the strategy, engineered by the city and the state, to encourage permanent development by generating excitement and bringing people downtown.

"When I took office, we found ourselves with a downtown that was pretty desolate," Mayor Paul A. Dyster said. "And to try to change that, we did things in the short-term."

What followed, some have noted, are downtown developments that include the $30 million Niagara County Community College culinary arts institute and a plan by Buffalo developer Mark E. Hamister to build a boutique hotel at Old Falls Street and Rainbow Boulevard.

"I can't say whether the [events] helped bring the culinary institute, or the Hamister development, or the rebranding of the Crowne Plaza as a Sheraton, or [the addition of] a T.G.I. Friday's, but it sure didn't hurt," Dyster said.

Touted as the "greenest street in Western New York" because of its limestone benches, native plants and natural drainage system, the street -- and the direct path it allows for tourists and residents -- was once blocked by the Wintergarden.

The demolition of that once-famed structure paved the way for more development in the area, but while a number of projects are in the design or construction phase, few attractions are currently open on the three-block stretch.

That's where the events help in the short-term, officials said.

"It's part of our strategy to bring people and excitement to places downtown where a lot of the brick-and-mortar establishments are still under construction," Dyster said.

A full calendar of events is available at