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ChalkFest Buffalo takes creativity to the sidewalks this weekend

If a stretch of Main Street in downtown Buffalo looks a bit more lively than usual this weekend, chalk it up to a kid-friendly arts initiative aimed at turning one city block into a colorful – albeit water-soluble – playground.

The second annual ChalkFest Buffalo will give artists of all ages a chance to decorate their own portion of Main between West Huron and West Mohawk streets, armed with only their imaginations and the implement of choice for summertime street artists everywhere: sidewalk chalk.

ChalkFest is the brainchild of the 500 Block Association of Main Street, a group working to breathe life into an area of downtown long known for its vacant storefronts and lifeless sidewalks. It drew more than 3,000 artists and onlookers to its debut last summer. Organizers expect at least that many to attend this weekend’s edition, and demand for the 6-by-6-foot sidewalk squares that artists reserve in order for their work to be considered for awards has jumped noticeably.

All 100-plus available squares have been claimed, according to event committee member John Volpe, but organizers set aside plenty of free drawing space for folks who might stop by on a whim. Both sides of Main Street will be devoted to chalking, with barriers set up to prevent younger artists from wandering into the path of a Metro Rail car.

The festivities run from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and will feature much more than the DIY street art. Other activities on tap include live music, chalk art demonstrations by professional artist Michael Macaulay and a chalk rendition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by local artists and narrated throughout the day.

Proceeds from this year’s ChalkFest will benefit Young Audiences of Western New York, which offers educational arts programming to children in all eight counties of Western New York. The event is free to the public and sponsored by several local businesses. Chalk is provided.

And, although no work of chalk art is meant to last, the sunny skies and mid-70- degree temperatures in the forecast will likely keep Main Street colorful for at least a little while.