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100 Things Every Western New Yorker Should Do At Least Once: See Fourth of July fireworks at Canalside

The joke must be as old as the Revolutionary War, that there are only two seasons in Western New York, winter and the Fourth of July.

We celebrate them both with fireworks.

Our 100 Things tour began the year with the frosty New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Electric Tower. Now, midpoint in 2016, we gather for the sizzling Independence Day fireworks at Canalside.

Fireworks have been at Canalside every year since 2008, and with good reason. This brightly done-up waterfront parcel has a history of noisy celebration. When the Erie Canal was opened, in 1825, celebrations included a line of unbroken cannon shots fired from here to New York. And about the Canal District, everything you heard is true.

Plus, Canalside brings us together, literally.

The fireworks there aren’t like those in the suburbs, where folks tend to drive separately and maintain a comfortable distance from everyone else. Though there is some parking at Canalside, it’s often easier to take a more creative route.

Once, a group of us walked to the fireworks from another part of downtown. The bumper-to-bumper cars, the teeming sidewalks, the police on their horses – exotic doesn’t begin to describe it. One friend said what everyone was thinking: “It doesn’t look like Buffalo.”

Another year, we hopped on the Metro Rail – and emerged with an unforgettable memory. The doors of the train opened and a crowd of college students, waving flags, burst in singing, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and, without missing a beat, “You’re A Grand Old Flag.” Other passengers began bawling along. How could you not?

The community feel intensifies once the fireworks start.

You can be there by yourself and not feel alone. I know, because one year, I lost my friends as the fireworks began, and didn’t find them again till the grand finale. The diverse crowd is packed in everywhere, on the banks of the water, on the footbridge, on the boardwalk. The battleships and ancient lighthouse add to the patriotic feeling. We are all one, under the rockets’ red glare.

This year’s celebration starts at 2 p.m. July 4. There’s live music until 9 p.m. and free children’s activities until 6 p.m., as well as food trucks and a beer garden. Fireworks start at 10 p.m.

You can bring blankets and chairs, but that’s it. No food or drink is allowed.

The fireworks are presented for the third year in a row by Russell J. Salvatore, who owns Russell’s Steaks, Chops and More and Salvatore’s Grand Hotel. Salvatore has been sponsoring fireworks for 20 years (before Canalside, he funded them at Delaware Park). Reportedly, the fireworks account for $30,000 of the $40,000 Salvatore spends on this event.

So go forth this Fourth, and bask in Buffalo’s booming. Other stops on our 100 Things list have also been exuberantly loud. The cannons at Old Fort Niagara; the fireworks accompanying the opening of the Bisons season; the roars at the St. Bonaventure basketball game. Think of those adventures as a warm-up, as you head downtown. Wear red, white, and blue. Be a Yankee Doodle dandy.

Extra points if you burst into song.