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Kay Patterson: Buffalo knows how to celebrate Fourth

We didn’t set out to have the quintessential Buffalo Fourth of July. It just unfolded that way.

Our friends Linda and Sylvia invited us to the traditional July 3 Bisons/BPO event at Coca-Cola Field. Transportation? Rapid transit, where the ticket machine spit out my change in dollar coins. Sacagawea and a bunch of obscure presidents stared out at me.

When we got to the ballpark, we spied a new concession item – craft beer. Linda, an award-winning beer maker, was thrilled and coached the rest of us on what was worth a try.

The skies were pretty blue when we sat down, but a big black cloud blew in halfway through the game. Sylvia, who is famous for overpreparing, had her gear just right this time. Rain jacket, hat and umbrella sufficed until the rain got really serious. Then she pulled out a pair of rain pants. The rest of us jokers just tried to enjoy getting drenched.

But those changeable skies cleared up in time for the BPO and its chorus to lead us through a foot-stomping program that included patriotic fare, a sing-along of old-time favorites and a tribute to the king of pop, Michael Jackson. The fireworks that followed were eye-popping, as always.

On the Fourth, the unfolding gained a real head of steam, since we didn’t have any specific plans. “Want to help me with my Buffalo in Bloom scouting?” I asked my wife, Susan. “I wanted to go to Canalside,” she said. So we did both.

We staked out my assigned Bloom neighborhood in this rite of summer that rewards gardeners who beautify Buffalo’s curbside view. All over the city, you’ll see the awards announcing gardeners have been “bloomed.”

Canalside was fairly blooming itself. Several bands played merrily on stage during our late-afternoon walkabout. There were people everywhere! Kids and their parents played Skee-Ball and pingpong. More kids built mansions and villages in the sandbox. Sailors, kayakers and paddle-wheelers floated by. It was enough to make you need ice cream from Clinton’s Dish.

With all those folks around, we were delighted to find two colorful Adirondack chairs free for a sit while we munched our cones and enjoyed the scene. We didn’t hang around for the fireworks. Instead, we toasted the holiday at home with Sahlen’s hot dogs.

Our holiday kept going through Monday, when my cousins from Denver stopped by on a whirlwind upstate trip. Sally and Ray wanted to see Niagara Falls, and our agenda was to introduce them to some of Buffalo’s traditional fare. Off we went to the Top of the Falls restaurant, where a young, cheerful staff served up beef on weck with a side of that incredible view of the falls. The weck wowed Ray, a professional barbecue chef. We gave him some Chiavetta’s to try at home.

Seeing the falls from on high is great, but if you’re in town for one day and it’s a beautiful day at that, the Maid of the Mist is a must. We trod down to the boat in our blue plastic slickers and gave these mountain folks an eyeful of Niagara’s wonder. Even if you’re local, it’s inspiring every time.

We were bedraggled, but we weren’t done yet. The Anchor Bar beckoned. Sally’s and Ray’s last taste of Buffalo was the classic wings. And they loved the life-sized sculpture of an aproned matron offering a smooch and her plate of wings. She kind of demands a smooch back with a photo, which she got.

Ah, Buffalo. You know how to celebrate the Fourth!