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Artists showcase craftsmanship at Allen Street festivals over weekend

Surrounded by brightly colored banners and kiosks boasting traditional festival fare, young men with wild, untamed hair strummed, thumped and trumpeted a folksy tune.

Along Buffalo’s Delaware Avenue, vendors offered up moderately priced luxury items, including glass wall hangings and a bird feeder shaped like a sunflower.

Artists and craftspeople emerged from the woodwork Saturday to showcase their skills at the weekend-long Allentown Art and Allen West festivals.

Festivalgoers streamed between the two festivals, which were in proximity to each other in the Allentown neighborhood.

Light drizzle and overcast skies teased festivalgoers for much of the Saturday afternoon festivities but, to the delight of the thousands on hand, the weather gods stopped short of rain.

Though vendors pointed to lighter foot traffic than in years past, for the most part, all concerned said the festivals were an opportunity to celebrate and explore art.

“People who love art will come out through any kind of weather,” said Jacob Verghese, 25, who plays banjo for Buffalo’s Pine Fever. The street performers collected tips from passers-by, who paused to take in the five-man ensemble’s music at the Allen West festival.

Adults and young children surrounded a group of breakdancers who set up shop between vendor tents. Young children watched, wide-eyed and captivated, as the group swiped their legs, displayed complicated footwork and maneuvered their bodies to manage upside-down head poses.

One dancer, Solomon Dixon, nicknamed “Hectic,” herded a group of volunteers and directed them to huddle against a nearby wall. With a running start, he scaled the graffiti-covered brick and performed a flip over the crouched bunch. The awed collection of onlookers erupted in cheers and applause.

But the festival offers space for more than pure entertainment – it offers exposure, as well, said Stacy VanBalcrom, also a dancer.

“It lets a lot of people see breakdancing,” VanBalcrom said. “It lets people see a slice of our culture and they have a better perception of what it’s really about, not just spinning on our heads – even though that’s part of it.”

Along Delaware, the crowd on hand for the Allentown Art Festival perused a different type of art form: handcrafted goods, including a bowl shaped from contorted forks and wall hangings pieced together from shell and rock.

Vendor Howard Leviton, a co-owner of a store that sells glass art and who has made more than 30 stops at the festival, said he noticed a dip in business compared with years past.

Young buyers tend more toward high-tech purchases, such as iPhones, instead of luxury items such as the glass art wall hangings Leviton sells, he said.

Despite the disappointing sale numbers, the festival still offers space for people, especially children, to “learn and love art,” he said.

Following are the prize-winners for the 56th annual arts festival:

Louis Cherenzia Best of Show Award – Kathleen Giles.

Purchase Award – Ted Tatarzyn.

Painting (Realistic) – first place, Robert Glisson; second, Arlen Perkins Withey; third, Jeff Lindgren.

Painting (Abstract) – first, Alida Meyer; second, Doreen Cutting; third, David Majchrzak.

Watercolor – first, Kathleen Dworak; second, Peggy Martinez; third, E. Jane Stoddard.

Drawing/Graphics – first, Carol Maltby; second, Kelsey Merkle; third, Ron Haas.

Sculpture – first, J. Brian Pfeiffer; second, Don Rea; third, Alan Gibson.

Photography – first, John Deng; second Sheila Caim.

Mixed Media – first, Xiao Xia Zhang; second, Mitzi Hall.

Clay – first, Ronna Mink; second, Tim See; third, Russel Spillman.

Glass/Acrylic – first, Mary Catherman; second, Zachary Wickham; third, Mike Grau.

Jewelry – first, Chaya Caron; second, Douglas Brandow; third, Robert Nilsson.

Creative Crafts (hard) – first, Brian Newton; second, Howard Miller; third, Robert Myrvall.

Creative Crafts (soft) – first, Christopher Stangler; second, Richard Thompson; third, Janet Chico.