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City pride celebrated at annual Citybration

A blue chalk drawing on the sidewalk at Canalside summed up the message of Sunday's annual Citybration: "We Love Buffalo."

The goal of the weekend-long celebration is to celebrate everything Buffalo and to promote citywide pride. Local vendors showcased their products, from Buffalo-themed T-shirts to treasures found while scuba-diving in Lake Erie and the Niagara River. New this year were a 5K race and a faceoff between two of Buffalo's iconic foods: chicken wings and Cheerios.

"We need to show off. We need to demonstrate there is opportunity here," said Marti Gorman, executive director of Citybration.

Chicken wings took the crown in the food faceoff, which raised money for the Food Bank of Western New York and the Buffalo City Mission. For $1, people "voted" for their favorite food and got a sample. Chicken wings brought in $473 for the Food Bank, while Cheerios brought in $268 for the City Mission.

Michael Billoni, marketing and public relations director for the Food Bank, said it was the most exciting event the organization has been a part of. Although it only cost $1 to participate, people were donating $5, $10 and $20 to the cause.

"It just shows the generosity of Western New Yorkers for great causes," he said.

One local vendor, David Hassett, was disappointed that Cheerios didn't win the competition. His company, Born in Buffalo, sells Buffalo-themed T-shirts. One of its most popular says "My city smells like Cheerios."

He thought Cheerios might get a boost because his T-shirt made an appearance on the "Today" show Sunday morning. Someone interviewed on the street was wearing the T-shirt and was asked to explain it, prompting a Buffalo shoutout.

Hassett's table attracted many interested buyers Sunday. Another popular T-shirt said "Scared Straight by Father Baker," with a photo of the famous priest. Hassett's company strives to honor and promote Buffalo's unique history.

In addition to the vendors and food competition, the day included a 5K run, with more than 600 participants. Residents also enjoyed live entertainment, including performances by Elvis and Frank Sinatra impersonators.

Citybration is supported largely by corporate donations and all of the the work is done by volunteers, Gorman said. About 70 people volunteered this year, and worked for more than five months to plan the celebration. Gorman called it a "labor of love," and said the event could still use more citywide support.

Marylou Argento, of East Amherst, came to Canalside with her husband, and said she's impressed with the city's development in the past 10 years. She even took photos to show her adult children to encourage them to come downtown more often.

The Buffalo Public Schools held its first district-wide reunion at Citybration. The goal was to develop a central list of alumni and to keep people updated about projects and district news.

Ruth Hawthorne, president of the Riverside High School Alumni Club and a graduate of the class of 1951, brought old yearbooks and memorabilia dating back to the 1930s.