Buffalo’s waterfront is preparing for possibly its biggest event ever on July 4, with between 20,000 and 30,000 people expected to watch the fireworks and enjoy other festivities at Canalside and the Outer Harbor.
“We anticipate this will be probably by far the biggest event in terms of attendance that we have done at Canalside to date,” said Sam Hoyt, an Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board member.
The waterfront agency is encouraging people to take mass transit, and to try to park in one of the lots east of Main Street. Officials have also held meetings with a variety of government officials, law enforcement agencies and transportation officials to try to make the day’s event on the water as safe and pleasant as possible.
The main event is fireworks, from 10 to 10:30 p.m., viewable from Canalside or the Outer Harbor, where 3,400 fireworks shells will blast off. The fireworks will be accompanied by patriotic music chosen by restaurateur Russell Salvatore, who is spending over $40,000 on the event, including about $30,000 for the fireworks. The music will be synced on radio station MIX 96.
“It is the most beautiful music. It’ll make you cry. It’s all about America,” Salvatore said.
There will be children’s activities from noon to 6 p.m., the Saturday Artisan Market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and entertainment from noon through the fireworks. More than a dozen food trucks and vendors are planned, in addition to Clinton’s Dish, the Blue Line and Liberty Hound restaurant.
Visitors will not be permitted to bring outside food or beverages. Pets will not be allowed.
This will be the first Independence Day celebration that includes the historically aligned canals at the former Memorial Auditorium site.
Food and beverages can be brought to the Outer Harbor, which will also have a beer and wine garden set up at Wilkeson Pointe.
The Queen City Bike Ferry, which taxis people between Canalside and the Outer Harbor, will only be in service until 8 p.m. because of the heavy boat traffic expected.
“There should be lots of fun for the family. Just be prepared,” Hoyt said.
That includes making careful transportation decisions.
“We are strongly encouraging people to take public transportation – the NFTA will have extra trains, and extended hours – or to carpool or ride bikes,” Hoyt said.
Parking east of Main Street is also advised.
The agency suggests parking near Canalside, along Washington Street and Michigan Avenue. The Cobblestone District two blocks away from Canalside also offers hundreds of parking spaces, including Perry Street, and First Niagara Center and HarborCenter parking ramps offer handicap-accessible parking.
“There is plenty of room to accommodate the people we are expecting, but in terms of getting there and parking, we want people to be aware of the challenges,” Hoyt said.
Canalside officials also have met with government officials to map out a public safety and security strategy plan as a precaution. Federal authorities have warned local law enforcement officials around the country of possible terrorist attacks out of an abundance of caution. Such concerns have become more frequent in recent years before major U.S. holidays, out of concern such actions could be used to generate more attention.
“Security in general is of paramount importance to us at Canalside,” Hoyt said. “We recently had a meeting with every security entity at every level of government – federal, state, county, city, including our private partners that provide security for us, and all of the emergency responders. We have a very comprehensive public safety and security plan in place, and it will be a very safe and family-friendly environment,” Hoyt said.
“Given the federal alerts, we are paying extra special attention,” he added.