A nod to Buffalo's fame as a 19th-century port city and the city's intimate connection with the Great Lakes, 12 tall ships from around the world will converge upon the waterfront from July 4-7 in a festival dubbed Basil Port of Call.
It's a special time, News contributor Michael Farrell explains, and the eye-catching fleet is here for more than just ogling from afar. Ticketbuyers can board and explore the ships - and each of the 12 is different (in age, history and origin) - from Friday through Sunday; there's no boarding on Thursday, but Canalside will be packed for the ships' arrival from 2 to 5 p.m. before the fireworks.
Three of the ships, Appledore IV, Appledore V and the Spirit of Buffalo, will be available for sailing excursions for the last three days. Prices are consistent across the trio, with a 2+-hour voyage running for $125, an hour-and-15-minute trip for $65 and a two-hour twilight sail for $85.
If you dig Buffalo history, look back at News contributor Steve Cichon's detailed report on the city's rather seedy culture produced by the commercial hub. Thankfully, the visit by these 12 ships will likely have a much more positive impact.
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Tall Ships hit Canalside, festivities begin at 2 p.m. July 4; the ships remain in town through July 7, at 44 Prime St. Peep the full schedule. Prices depend on level of involvement: it's free to view from afar, but tickets - $20 for adult general admission - are required to explore the ships while docked. Here are facts mixed with hot takes, below:
Biggest ship: Empire Sandy, a 203-foot schooner from Toronto.
Cool fact: Nao Santa Maria is a replica of the ship from Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage (with apologies to fans of the Nina and Pinta).
Best-named ship: Bluenose II, which also has the tallest mast.
5 hot (they're all smoky) fireworks displays
Buffalo Waterfront/Canalside: If you factor in the Tall Ships' arrival, then the waterfront has double the appeal.
Head to Lyndonville, Olcott, North Collins or other rural towns: they often have outstanding fireworks displays that aren't as crowded as downtown Buffalo's.
Thought-provoking-if-rather-unnecessary question: Who's the headliner here? We'd say Third Eye Blind, which rolled out one late-'90s hit after another, but would prepare ourselves for the Jimmy Eat World fan backlash ("They're SO much more than 'The Middle'!"). You don't have to choose, though, because Artpark will boast both bands on Wednesday, and you probably have the following day off of work.
Hollowfest in Clarence, begins at noon Thursday, July 4 at Clarence Town Park (10405 Main St., Clarence). Runs through 10 p.m. July 6. Free to attend, with a day pass for Hammerl Amusements rides for $20.
Of course there are fireworks, but food - and copious amounts, to boot - is at the heart of this Clarence Hollow Association holiday weekend extravaganza. A hot-dog eating contest is the challenge on Thursday, with Hit-N-Run serenading the beer tent from 7 to 10 p.m., preceding the fireworks.
A watermelon-eating contest runs Friday with - and this is a tad troubling - a Paula's Donut eating contest on Saturday. For anyone who's tried to eat even two Paula's Donuts, you know what I mean. Check out the full schedule for the weekend.
MLK Jr. Park design day, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Cummings Room of the Buffalo Museum of Science (1020 Humboldt Parkway). No cost to attend, but you do need to sign up in advance by emailing email@example.com or by calling 536-1123.
National playground building experts KaBOOM! will collaborate with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, BlueCross BlueShield and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to construct a marvelous playground for Martin Luther King Jr. Park. But first, the public has a chance to have a say.
Kids will be asked to draw their "dream playground" at 4:30 p.m., with adults taking over at 5:30 to sign up for a planning committee and assist in blending the realistic ideas picked out by the kids, as well as choosing equipment and colors for the drafted design.
[Related: Rod Watson writes on the controversial Martin Luther King Jr. bust]
Millennials or Gen Z readers might not know "American Woman" wasn't Lenny Kravitz's own hit, it was merely a strong cover of The Guess Who's original, recorded in 1969.
Burton Cummings, who hits Artpark Tuesday, was the Guess Who's co-lead singer for a decade, and even though he's long moved on from that band, the Canadian singer-songwriter is still recording half a century later (despite some big gaps). Sure, he's had a "get off my lawn" moment recently, but who hasn't?
Ellicottville Rodeo, 7 p.m. Thursday, July 4 at 6319 Sommerville Valley Road, Ellicottville. Cost is $18 in advance, $20 at the gate for adults, while children 6-12 years and younger enter for reduced rates, with kids 5 and below get in for free. Runs through July 7.
If you've ever been to the rodeo or read descriptions of rodeo events, it certainly captures attention. Steer wrestling, for example, involves a "cowboy" on a horse, next to a rampaging steer; the cowboy must lean from the horse onto the back of the steer, grab it by the horns (supposedly there's a popular cliche from this) and wrestle it to the ground in a specific stance.
How sore must one be after bareback bronc riding? Spurring, while applauded, involves violent wrenching of the body. Ouch. Watch other people accept these challenges all weekend in Ellicottville; fireworks follow each rodeo July 4-6.
Star Wars Night on the Beach, 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 at Woodlawn Beach (3580 Lake Shore Road, Blasdell). Free to attend, but coolers, outside drinks and food not permitted.
Whip out your light-saber or your bounty-hunter outfit (but probably not both together) for Woodlawn's free showing of "The Last Jedi" on a beach projection screen. Food and drink will be available at the beach's tiki bar, too, which makes watching Kylo Ren's wimpy character infinitely more tolerable. (And you thought Jimmy Eat World fan backlash was bad; Kylo Ren admirers are likely more passionate).
Liberty Hound's 4th of July party on U.S.S. Little Rock, 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday, July 4 at One Naval Park Cove. Tickets are $60 in advance.
What restaurant name screams Independence Day more than Liberty Hound? Certainly not Hucklebuckets. The waterfront restaurant - whose patio is among the most-coveted in the city - will throw a ticketed party a short hop away aboard the U.S.S. Little Rock, which was commissioned just a few years ago.
An open bar, seafood boil and pig roast will satiate attendees, with reggae-funk band The Rockaz providing entertainment.
5 events to look forward to this weekend
More Tall Ships
Ellicottville Music Festival
11-Day Power Play opening at HarborCenter
Jazz at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Pentimento at Town Ballroom
Story topics: Artpark concerts/ Burton Cummings/ Clarence Hollow/ ellicottville/ event previews/ Fireworks/ Fourth of July/ Independence Day/ jimmy eat world/ rodeos/ tall ships/ things to do/ Third Eye Blind