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Summer's final fling

Just because Labor Day weekend signals the unofficial end of summer doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of summer fun to be had. You have options.

Winging it at the ballpark

The best thing about the National Buffalo Wing Festival is the variety. Wing merchants have been reinventing Teressa Bellissimo’s classic sauce since she unveiled it 50 years ago. Most places will have a half-dozen choices, with a few dreamers sending out deep-fried chicken digits in a bewildering array of flavors.

Getting them all in one place is the hard part. Like Noah gathering the creatures of the world, Drew Cerza has brought as many chicken wing varieties into the walls of one structure as you are likely to see. Plus, there is beer.

Wings are $1 apiece at the festival, held in Coca-Cola Field on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5. The entertainment is free, including the spectacles wingdom festival veterans have come to expect – like people dunking their heads into kiddie pools full of blue cheese dressing in search of wings, and the U.S wing-eating championship at 5 p.m. Sunday. (It will be broadcast on ESPN 3; apparently “The Ocho” was not available.)

Hardcore wing freaks don’t need the spectacles. They get a kick out of just reading the sauce names as they stroll by. What about Ghost Face Killa, from Arooga’s, of Pennsylvania? Could Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a candied maple bacon treatment from Boneheads Wing Bar of West Warwick, R.I., possibly be any good?

For $1, you can answer that question for yourself.

For the German in all of us

Germans honor their heritage at the Western New York German Heritage Festival, taking place in Cheektowaga Town Park, 2600 Harlem Road.

There will be a Biergarten – beer garden – and Weinstube, which translates to wine garden. And a German marketplace with gifts and German specialties. A car show features Audis, Porsches and Volkswagens. And German food will be served.

Any German musician who is anybody will be there. Saturday, groove to the Bergholz Blaskapelle, Dan Wilke the Wandering German Organ Grinder, and the Ausländers. Sunday’s lineup includes the German-American musicians known as Buffalo’s BIG German band, Wilke the organ grinder, and the legendary Frankfurters.

Awards add sparkle to the proceedings. Honor the German-American of the Year. Be there when the Sauerkraut-Eating Contest Champion is crowned. Round up the small fry in the family and enter them in the Hummel Look-A-Like Contest. Marvel at the fancy footwork of the Waltz Contest, and the vocal derring-do of the Yodeling Contest.

The fun takes place from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Keg tapping takes place at 6 p.m. both afternoons. Admission is $6, children 12 and under free.

Art on Allen Street and beyond

There may be no more satisfying (or cheaper) summer art activity than a stroll along Allen Street on the first Friday night of every month, when galleries and storefronts galore welcome visitors during the neighborhood’s popular Gallery Walk. That this monthly celebration of art and culture happens to coincide with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s own periodic free Friday event and the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s perpetual outdoor video installation is an added bonus, and ought to be enough to coax out the latent art fan in anyone.

Your best bet for participating in the event before the onset of “Polar Vortex II: The Reckoning” is Sept. 5, when a series of new exhibitions will open in galleries along Allen Street and in the vicinity. Highlights include a show of small, intricate collages by Gerald Mead in Studio Hart (65 Allen St.), an exhibition of Felice Koenig’s entrancing bubble paintings and Kevin Kegler’s wood and plaster sculptures.

Once you’ve gotten your fill of Allentown, jump on your bike, pedal north along Richmond Avenue toward the Albright-Knox and pause for a few minutes in the Burchfield Penney’s Front Yard to watch the ongoing sound and video installation play on the building’s zinc facade. Then check out the Albright-Knox’s stellar greatest-hits collection “Sincerely Yours” and take a leisurely ride (or drive) back home.

Not a bad way to bid farewell to this breathlessly busy but beautiful summer.

Catch a double-feature outdoors

There are so many things we in Western New York can do that millions cannot. We can buy a house for less than $100,000. We can drive to work in 20 minutes. We can go to Ted’s and Mighty Taco on the same day.

We also can go see a movie at the drive-in.

While other communities have seen these paragons of 20th century life go the way of the station wagon, we can sit outside and watch movies at four different venues: Loomis’s Delevan Drive-In in Delevan (which closes for the season Sunday); the Silver Lake Twin Drive-In in Perry; the Sunset Drive-in in Middleport; and the Transit Drive-in in Lockport;

So before the snow falls and the screens go dark, load up the little ones and check out a double-feature, just like the old days. You’ll probably still be able to make it home in 20 minutes.

Firefighters fair in Clarence

So Labor Day is staring you in the face and you haven’t gotten your fill of fried dough, parades, midway rides and fireworks?

Then make your way to Clarence Center, where the Benevolent Association of the Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Co. has ushered out summer with a traditional fair since 1922, with only short breaks during World War II and during the mid- to late 1960s.

By then, happy fairgoers will be stuffed with the fair’s traditional firemen’s chowder and B&W chicken dinners, as well as hot dogs, burgers, fries, Italian sausage sandwiches, roast beef, pizza, Italian sausage, ice cream and much more. Firemen’s chowder will be served starting at 7 a.m. Monday.

Highlights of the weekend events, which are held at 9415 Clarence Center Road, include demolition derbies starting at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with area fire companies competing, and a large parade at 1 p.m. Monday that includes the gleaming apparatus of many local fire departments. Fireworks are set off at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Special deals on the rides, which are operated by Hammerl Amusements, run from 1 to 5 and 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Music in the beer tent will be provided by Hit n Run from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, The Heritage from 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday and The Cruisers from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday.

Parking is free, although a donation box will be set up; admission is free.

Loving a Labor Day parade

Labor Day is not just the last long weekend of the summer for everyone. While some plan to be out of town or on the water, local laborers will be celebrating the hard work they do year-round.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines the day as a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

That is what close to 50 local unions will be recognizing at Western New York Area Labor Federation’s annual South Buffalo Labor Day Parade.

This year, there is much to celebrate, according to co-chair of the parade’s planning committee, John Mudie.

“There’s a lot more work in Buffalo, and we believe numbers of people working have grown because of the investment in the area,” he said.

This parade will be much like previous years and feature entertainment from the Rince Na Tiarna Irish Dancers, the West Seneca High School marching band, and Buffalo Envy Cheerleading.

The parade will start at noon and travel from The Buffalo Irish Center south on Abbott Road with a left at Cazenovia Street and a right into the park. All in all, the parade will take about and hour and a half and will culminate with a picnic in the park for the labor union members and their families.

Jazz fusion master in concert

Sunday affords us the opportunity to spend some quality time with a true legend of 20th century music, Billy Cobham. Widely regarded as the finest living proponent of a style he helped to birth as a member of Mahavishnu Orchestra – that often fertile area where jazz harmony and the power of rock music meet and mingle – Cobham has a resume that dwarfs that of most mere mortals, and the chops to go along with that resume.

His album “Spectrum” routinely makes it onto the upper reaches of lists of the finest jazz fusion albums of all time, and listening to it today, it’s not difficult to understand why. Grandiose, majestic, full of fire and passionate, virtuosic playing, “Spectrum” still sounds futuristic today, several decades on from its initial release.

Happily, Cobham and his band will be celebrating “Spectrum’s” 40th birthday at the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) on Sunday beginning at 8 p.m. The renowned local trio Holka Wynne Kertzie will open. See for ticket info.

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