Sixty-two years ago, a group of Allentown business owners started an outdoor art festival.
In the ensuing decades, the Allentown Art Festival has connected locals and tourists on the streets of Allen, Delaware, Virginia and Franklin, to shop booths of arts and crafts, eat fried dough and drink frozen lemonade, finding rare shade under the blanket that is Delaware Avenue's massive trees.
It's long been a reliable cultural mainstay, spearheading Buffalo summers marked with sunshine (this weekend at least) and culture, for the next few months that we can tolerate the outdoors. The main draw is, obviously, the art. However, there's more to the festival than that. There's the Allen Street bubble man. Street musicians play mini strings concertos. It's a guarantee that the streets of Buffalo will bustle with people just like the old pictures.
Where: The festival runs down Delaware Avenue from Tupper Street to North Street, Franklin Street, Allen Street and Virginia Street. The streets will be blocked off from traffic.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9.
Weather: Saturday is expected to be 79 degrees and sunny; Sunday should be 80 degrees and sunny.
Parking: Off-street parking is always an option, though the festival does bring thousands of people (and cars) downtown, so parking won't be easy to find. Expect to pay $5 to $20 for attended lots nearby the festival.
Vendors: Several hundred vendors arrive in Buffalo from all over the country. The goods are generally a mix of art prints, photography, jewelry, sculptures, woodturning pieces, furniture, glassware and more.
Food: Fried dough is likely the most archetypal festival food, as well as the most emblematic food of the art festival. But there's more than powdered sugar-covered fried dough pockets for sale. Other festival favorites such as Philly cheese steak, lemon ice, pizza, pierogis, kettle corn, spiced nuts and cotton candy.
Poster: Over the years, the festival has seen some talented poster designers. This year's winner, Kelsey Merkle, is one of those artists. Merkle, who's from Clarence, also won last year's poster competition, with her depiction of a woman artist slouched over, carrying her painting and art equipment. This year's design is a neon orange, pink and green splattering of two painters spilling paint all over themselves and the wall, on a white background.
Allen West: Along the way, an alternative art festival popped up called Allen West, which happens right next door at the same time. Read The News' Colin Dabkowski's 2018 story on Allen West's history. Allen West runs on Allen Street, west of Elmwood Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 9.
Online festival store: Physical booths have sold branded T-shirts, sweatshirts and posters for years at the festival, and they still will, but now an online store is taking orders for both current and archived posters and t-shirts. The 39th annual design is pretty retro.