1) Ellicottville Summer Music Festival, 3 p.m. June 30 through July 3 at Holiday Valley Resort (6557 Holiday Valley Road, Ellicottville). Tickets are $40 per major show and can be purchased here; prices for shows at other participating venues vary.
Commentary: Fall Fest and ski season aren't the only times of the year to visit Ellicottville; the summer music festival invades the town all weekend beginning with Stroll the Streets on Friday, a show featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday, then Grand Funk Railroad on Sunday.
While major shows will take over a stage at Holiday Valley, bars and other venues in the town – including Balloons, the Gin Mill, Village Gazebo and more – will host live music as well. More than 50 street vendors will set up shop on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. along the town's main drag. More details about the festival, plus a schedule, may be found here.
Commentary: It's not your typical musical merger, but the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under guest conductor Bradley Thachuk, will add a new element to The Strictly Hip's Canalside Live performance Friday (note that the show is not on Thursday like it usually is).
Lockhouse Distillery in the Cobblestone District is home to the official after party – more details on that here. It was originally reported that post-show fireworks would recognize Canada Day and the nation's 150th anniversary, but Canalside tweeted that there would be no fireworks Friday.
3) Fireworks at Seneca Niagara Casino, 9:30 p.m. July 2 at 310 4th St., Niagara Falls. Free to attend, while the rain date is Monday, July 3.
Commentary: Sure, the Fourth of July is on a Tuesday this year, which means there's a little more flexibility in fireworks scheduling. Seneca Niagara offers one of the first major displays; it's free, scenic and extravagant. If your schedule is jammed for Sunday, stop by any vantage point near the Falls a day earlier for a scheduled show.
Did you know fireworks explode above Niagara Falls every weekday – weather permitting – at 10 p.m. from June 12 until Sept. 4? We didn't.
4) Shakespeare in the Park: "Merry Wives of Windsor," 7:30 p.m. June 30, July 1 and July 2 (Tuesday to Sunday through July 16) at Shakespeare Hill at Delaware Park. Free to attend, although donations are accepted.
Commentary: “He really wants the money, but he thinks that he’s a sex god,” said Pamela Rose Mangus, who plays Falstaff in "Merry Wives of Windsor." “He’s quite the opposite, which you’ll see.”
Head to Shakespeare Hill for the first of the two summer plays ("MacBeth" is the second) and enjoy the all-female cast rendition of a lesser-known Shakespearean comedy. Read arts critic Colin Dabkowski's preview here, and stay tuned for Ben Siegel's review.
5) World Refugee Day, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 1 in LaSalle Park (1 Porter Ave.). Free and open to the public.
Commentary: The News has covered the influence of refugees on Buffalo in great depth, from the long-read series on Burma (Karen, Karenni) natives to shorter pieces on the Somali and Congolese communities to the breadth of events that recognize World Refugee Day (and World Refugee Awareness Month).
A refugee soccer tournament (split into teams representing Somali Bantu, Karen and more), women's volleyball tournament, traditional food and drink, kids activities, a visit from a fire truck are among the perks throughout the day.
Commentary: Dog-friendly Community Beer Works takes a step further on Friday, as the West Side brewery will release its inaugural (and non-alcoholic) Dog Beer, with proceeds benefiting Buffalo C.A.R.E.S, a non-profit group that rescues homeless animals.
"For Dyngus Day, we do a Dx3 gratzer beer. When we brew it, it smells like sausages," Sutton laughed. A leftover keg of the beer was boiled and simmered until the alcohol burned off. "It will keep the smoky, meaty flavor of the beer – it is perfect for a dog." Read more in Gusto editor Toni Ruberto's article, linked below.
7) Sunset Sundays with MNM Presents, 8 p.m. July 2 in Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.). Free to attend.
Commentary: Explore RiverWorks' extensive patios to the beat drops of DJs XOTEC, Chuck Abbott, 3PO and Rufus Gibson on a holiday weekend by the Buffalo River.
Presented by local entertainment company MNM Presents for the first year, this is the second iteration of Sunset Sundays – see Smiles from the first party on Memorial Day Weekend.
8) "Shakespeare Comes to 716," 7 p.m. June 29-30 in Shea's Smith Theatre (646 Main St.). Cost is pay-what-you-can.
Commentary: Our Lady of Hope's youth choir put on "Fiddler on the Roof" in January to considerable acclaim – director Jennifer Serniuk wound up putting on an encore performance, of which we shot photos – and now West Side organization Peace of the City will perform a Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" on June 29 and 30.
Dabkowski provides more details on the shows here.
Commentary: The Buffalo Street Outlaws will feature in the speedway's Friday Night Drags show, in addition to celebrities Mike Janis, a two-time world champion drag racer, and Kamikaze Chris, who represents the 405 Street Outlaws from Oklahoma City with his El Camino.
Spend an adrenaline-filled night at the race track for supercharged (but street-legal!) cars going head-to-head. More details about the event can be found here.
10) FC Buffalo vs. Erie, 7 p.m. June 30 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium (2885 Main St). Tickets are $7 in advance or $8 at the gate.
Commentary: The Erie County Derby is always a sight to behold, a match that fires up the FC Buffalo supporters section, The Situation Room, unlike any other. Even after seven years, the #HateErie hashtag is alive and well on Twitter, and the scraps between the Commodores and Wolves are typically filled with yellow and red cards, scrums after the play and bone-crunching tackles.
Read more about FC Buffalo and local soccer at BN Soccer.
BONUS: Town of Niagara Pride in the Park, noon until dusk July 2 in Veteran's Memorial Park (7000 Lockport Road, Niagara Falls). Free to attend, although a Chiavetta's Chicken Barbecue and wine and beer will be for sale.
Commentary: Just on our radar is Pride in the Park, another pre-Independence Day party in Niagara Falls. Five bands, including headliner Cock Robin, are on the bill; live music runs from noon until 9:45, while fireworks give the evening an explosive conclusion. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets, while outside alcohol is not allowed.