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Lodge at River Fest Park breaks ground Thursday

A two-story brick building that will hold a restaurant and banquet room has always been in the plans for Buffalo River Fest Park.

Those plans start coming to fruition at 11 a.m. Thursday when Peg Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, which built and operates the park, joins other supporters to break ground for the lodge in the park at 249 Ohio St., along the Buffalo River.

The park, which opened in June 2011, is widely known as “Peg’s Park,” after Overdorf, the driving force for its construction on a former brownfield.

There were plans from the beginning to construct the 7,500-square-foot building on the side of the park opposite the brick bandshell.

“There is just green grass there now, no trees, no irrigation system, because this was in our plans from the very beginning,” said Overdorf. “We knew we were going to have a lodge.”

An architect’s drawing of the building shows large porches on the first and second floors, facing the Buffalo River. The gabled roof resembles that of the old New York Central Freight House, which stood on that spot. Overdorf and lead architect James Radwan, principal of Trautmann Associates, drove around the city to see vintage brickwork details on Franklin Street and Linwood Avenue that could be added to the building.

Overdorf expects the lodge to open in about 18 months. “It took me a year to build a flat park, so I’m guessing 18 months on this one,” she said.

The lower floor will serve as a food preparation and dining area, with lavatories. Upstairs will be a reception/meeting area. The entire building will be handicapped- accessible.

Overdorf said she applied for grants to pay for most of the construction, including a combined $2.3 million from the Empire State Development Corp. and the state Department of Coastal Zone Resources. and smaller funders.

“The meals won’t be gourmet, but it will be a neighborhood waterfront destination,” she said. “We want to partner with some of the culinary schools, and we will hire trained people, including the cook.”

The lodge will be owned by the nonprofit corporation Buffalo River Fest Park LLC.

“There is no personal gain for anybody other than the community,” Overdorf said. “Whatever money is made will be funneled back into the park or programs here at the Valley Community Association. We have hardly any funding for senior citizens, the largest growing demographic we have, just a little bit from the United Way, and I have 300 seniors.”

This weekend, the park will be the site of the 13th annual Buffalo River Fest, which, despite its name, was held far from the water for its first decade at Father Conway Park.

The three-day family-friendly event runs from at 6 p.m. to midnight Friday, from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Live music will be performed each day, and vendors, artists and artisans will sell their wares. Food will be sold, and a beer tent will be set up. Bingo will be played every day, a kids area will be offered, Kan Jam is set for Saturday, and nine-hole putt-putt will be played Sunday.

Historic guided walking tours and rides on the Buffalo Fire Department’s Edward M. Cotter fireboat will be offered; an art and photography exhibit and a display will be set up by Waterfront Memories and More Museum.

The annual “Rigidized River Fest Regatta,” sponsored by Rigidized Metals, kicks off on the river at 11 a.m. Saturday. The most creative seaworthy vessel will win a prize of $1,000, with the runner-up vessel winning $500. There is no limit on the size of the vessel. Boats will launch at Smith Street at 11 a.m. Preregistration costs $20, with same-day registration costing $25. To apply, go to, or call 849-4780.

Canoes, kayaks and rafts may also participate and may be launched from Smith Street or Clinton and Harlem, with shuttle service provided at Smith Street.