Festival season kicks into high gear this weekend. We are already mapping our food route as we iron our stretchy pants. Yes, we know about the Taste of Buffalo (July 13-14) and Erie County Fair (Aug. 7 to 18), but there’s a lot more to dig into, so get to it. Variety is the spice of life.
We are partial to the festivals that bring a world of food traditions.
July 12-14: Macedonian Festival
Saints Cyril and Methody Macedonian Orthodox Church, 4785 Lake Ave., Blasdell.
Macedonia cuisine is a fabulous mix from Eastern Europe and points beyond. Pete Tasevski tells us to come for the leg of lamb dinner served with spiced potatoes, rice and salad. A mixed barbecue plate (lamb with pork and beef kebobs), kebob only and a cabbage roll dinner are planned. Wash it down with Macedonian beer and wine or homemade cookies and baklava.
July 19-21: Scandinavian Folk Festival
Jamestown Community College, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown.
A new Scandinavian food court will be near the entertainment tent and, “at times, will offer its own entertainment.” Festival coordinator Don Sandy tells us if that’s not reason to go, the Swedish meatballs and rotomos (half potato, half rutabaga) are. It's summer, but yellow pea soup is on the menu. Norm’s famous korv burger (a meat patty) comes on a rye bun. Varm korv is a Swedish hot dog. Slather lingonberries (cranberry sauce-ish) on it all. Enjoy Danish beer and fika, coffee and a homemade Swedish sweet tradition.
July 26-28: Lebanese Festival
St. John Maron Church, 2040 Wehrle Drive, Amherst.
Run to the shawarma. Cooked on giant kebabs, St. John Maron promises beef and chicken will “taste like never before.” Ground meat with cracked wheat, onions and spices is baked to make kibbi. We are consumed by (and consume) stuffed grape leaves. Saj bread is topped with za’atar (fresh herbs) and sumac (spice). Save room for kaak (sesame cookies), maamoul (walnut cookies), baklava and fried dough soaked with a rosewater syrup.
July 27-28: Serb Fest 2019
St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, Abbott and Weber roads, Lackawanna ($1 admission).
Ancient Serbia has Greek, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Turkish food influences. The parishioners make it all. Pit-roasted lamb and pig and a cevap (seasoned sausage) on lepinja (soft, fluffy flatbread). Sarma aka cabbage rolls are on the menu, too. Sofie Wuslich tells us that there are 93 types of baked goods made from family recipes, including nut rolls and baklava.
Best of the rest
July 19-21: Cheektowaga Polish-American Festival, Cheektowaga Town Park
July 20-21: Galbani Italian Heritage Festival, Niagara Square
July 28: Ukrainian Heritage Festival, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 200 Como Park Blvd., Cheektowaga
Aug. 4: St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church Parish Picnic, 308 Fillmore Ave.
Sept. 14-15: Corpus Christi Church Dozynki Polish Harvest Festival, 199 Clark St.
These annual church events and community festivals serve a well-rounded selection of summer favorites both in food and entertainment.
July 12-14: Queen of Heaven Carnival
4220 Seneca St., West Seneca
Will you find anything unusual here? No, but that’s OK. Eat festival staples (burgers, dogs, sausage) at Anna’s Kitchen, named for a long-time deceased parishioner whose legacy lives on. Friday features shrimp and fish dinners, Sunday chicken or rib. So, go for Anna. The Queen ups the beer tent game with a pub that serves craft beer.
Aug. 1-4: 14 Holy Helpers Summerfest
1350 Indian Church Road, West Seneca
Start on your winter weight: Aug. 2 is a roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes; Aug. 3 is a Whole Hog Truck barbecue dinner with a pulled pork sandwich, quarter barbecued chicken, beans, coleslaw and either mac and cheese or potato; Aug. 4 caps off a weekend of heavy eating with Myron’s Polish platter of pierogi, sausage, golumbki and sweet/sour cabbage.
Aug. 3-4: Down Home Country Weekend Tractor Pull
Route 75, Langford (Admission $20, Aug. 3; $25 Aug. 4; 2-day $40; 12 and younger are admitted free)
Since 1946, the Langford-New Oregon Volunteer Fire Company has hosted this annual fundraiser which grows every year. This is the second year hosting the Northeast Nationals, with big time pullers from "west of the Mississippi." Go for the barbecued chicken, hamburgers, dogs and homegrown sweet corn, but stay for the loud engines, shooting flames, flying dirt, beer and French fries, a crowd favorite. The fire company cooks them in peanut oil, selling almost two tons over two days. Learn what a “full pull” is. Alas, we learned elder puller Smokin' Joe Telaak and his ever present cigar retired last year.
Aug. 24 and 25: Elmwood Festival of The Arts
Elmwood Avenue between St. James and West Ferry
There are no starving artists (or patrons) at this fest. At the Cafe at Lafayette Avenue, El Gran Coquil serves yuca, pasteles, kebabs; Fat Bob's smokes up barbecue; Mineo & Sapio grills sausage and Allen Burger Venture serves dry-aged, grass fed Angus beef burgers. Among others, Helmut's Austrian Strudel provides sweet release. At food truck alley at Auburn, enjoy Niagara Cafe plantains and pastelillos, Lloyd Taco, Totally Edible crepes and Westside Tilth Farm wood-fired pizzas. Throughout the festival you'll find other delights like A-Maize-ing Roasted Corn, kettle corn, Big Kahuna Shaved ice and cinnamon roast nuts.
These festivals celebrate one food. Go gorge yourself.
July 20: Hamburg Burger Fest
Village of Hamburg
Publicity Chair Eileen Hotho tells us there are lots of interesting burgers and burger-esque items: A cheesy burger from Cheesy Chick; steak seasoned smash burger from Citrus Smashers; gourmet burger and dogs from Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs; sirloin burger from Big Belly BBQ and stuffed burger from Shish Kabob Heaven, among others. Hamburg Central School will serve 100 percent NY State beef hot dogs and beef minis. A cheeseburger pierogi (Babcia’s Pierogi), meatball pizza (La Via Italia) and ice cream sliders (The Frozen Hog) are planned. New this year: Craft beers from Labatt.
Best of the rest
Aug. 1-4: Eden Corn Fest in Eden: Super sweet corn and fresh-cut French fries from the Eden Volunteer Fire department. Weidner chicken barbecue at the Eden Chamber of Commerce stand.
Aug. 31-Sept. 1: National Buffalo Wing Festival, Sahlen Field: Hot, medium, mild and everything between.
Sept. 5-8: Niagara County Peach Festival, Academy Park, Lewiston: Peach shortcake made with homegrown peaches and DiCamillo bakery biscuits.
Sept. 21 & 22: Cuba Garlic Festival, Empire City Farms, Cuba: Garlicky foods and unique garlic to buy.
Sept. 29: Busti Apple Festival, Town of Busti: Pies, cider, apple butter, beef on weck and baked goods.
Sept. 20: Newfane Historical Society Apple Harvest Festival, West Creek Road, Newfane: Apple cakes, pies, etc., and Art Gladow’s famous chicken chowder available for take-out with your own container.