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The Weekend in WNY: Peak festival season

The Buffalo-area has reached the pinnacle of its festival season, with annual giants such as Taste of Buffalo, Jam in the Valley, Queen of Heaven and Canal Fest all running this weekend.

These four festivals all cater to different interests, too, with the Taste focusing on food, JiTV celebrating country music artists big and small, Queen of Heaven pitching carnival rides and a lively beer tent, and Canal Fest, the longest of the events on the agenda.

Tackle an unfamiliar festival or embrace a newer arrival - such as Bordercrash at Artpark or The Edge's CRNVL - in this weekend's round-up of top events.

Taste of Buffalo, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14 in Niagara Square and north along Delaware Avenue. Free to attend, and food tickets are $1 apiece, sold in sheets of five.

The gargantuan downtown food festival welcomes Buffalonians and visitors alike to sample restaurants, food trucks and wineries, enjoy live music and visit a quintet of beer tents. Not only did this week's Gusto cover story highlight the summer's bounty of food festivals, but it also suggested 10 different foods to try at the Taste.

If you can keep yourself cool and hydrated - not always easy in the scorching sun on hot blacktop - then the people-watching, food sampling and menu perusing can certainly be a summer highlight.

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Queen of Heaven Carnival, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, July 12; noon to midnight Saturday, July 13; noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14 on Seneca Street at Mill Road in West Seneca. Free to attend; for Hammerl Amusements' rides, it's $20 for a wristband.

Part of the Queen of Heaven Carnival's appeal is that remarkably few aspects change, from the traffic on Seneca Street to vehicle and trip giveaways to the lengthy list of cover bands scheduled for the beer tent stage.

The people who go year after year - whether for rides, socializing or a few Coors Light or Molson Canadians at the tent - can expect roughly the same experience, and that's comforting for festival-goers who often have to adapt to new features or changes at other area events.

Look back at Smiles from Queen of Heaven in 2018 and 2017.

[Related: Your full guide to the 2019 festival season in WNY]

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Jam in the Valley, 3 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 12, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 13 in Varysburg (1629 US 20A, Varysburg). Tickets range from $55-$65 for concert admission, and start at $130 for camping; see the ticket page.

Expect a steamy weekend in Varysburg, where the most-anticipated two days of the summer country camp-out lure headliners Easton Corbin on Friday and Brothers Osborne on Saturday. The rural setting will be strewn with cowboy hats, (reluctant) flannel, jean shorts, patriotic apparel and spiked seltzers, but the music runs all day.

A new secondary concert stage - located in the Timbuktu camping area (see the map), virtually at the other end of the grounds from the main stage - has three bands scheduled for each day, too. Eric Van Houten and Uncle Ben's Remedy are two of the local groups on the bill.

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East Side Festival, 1:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at the Buffalo Central Terminal (495 Paderewski Drive). Free to attend.

In continued celebration of the Buffalo Central Terminal's 90th birthday - at this rate, programming will last the full year for the 100th anniversary - the inaugural East Side Festival will engage a slew of key community groups such as the Colored Musicians Club, African-American Cultural Center, Paul Robeson Theatre and the Broadway Market before the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra caps the evening with a performance at 7:30 p.m.

The local professional orchestra presents the event with the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, the BPO Diversity Council and Senor Tim Kennedy. Read Francesca Bond's full preview of the East Side Festival.

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CRNVL, 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 14 at Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.). Tickets range from $25.75 to $64.50.

103.3 The Edge's summer show invites two recognizable bands to RiverWorks - X Ambassadors and the Silversun Pickups - for headlining sets at CRNVL on Sunday. IDK How But They Found Me and Meg Myers have been enlisted as the support. The radio station has a handy FAQ for prospective attendees, which covers everything to bring and not to bring, plus set times for the evening.

Carnival-esque vendors - such as pyrotechnics, the eccentric costumes of the Seven One Six Sideshow and the Superhero Alliance of WNY - add to the atmosphere.

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Friday Night Under the Lights, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 12 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium (2885 Main St.). Cost is $10 to attend.

C.O.P.S.S. - which stands for Children Overcoming Police Stereotypes through Sports - comprises the two vocally talented Buffalo policemen who performed on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show" earlier this year, Moe Badger and Michael Norwood Jr., as well as Todd McAlister.

Their charity will benefit from Friday night's trio of flag football games; the match-ups are the Buffalo Police Department vs. the Buffalo Fire Department, bars Soho Buffalo vs. the Oakk Room, and barbershops Signature Cutz vs. Buffalo Wave Cutterz.

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Rosie the Riveter 5K, registration begins at 6:30 a.m., with the race at 9, on Saturday, July 13 at Templeton Landing (2 Templeton Terrace). The walk is $15, while the race is $28; see the ticket info.

Race organizers from Eras Gone By, a unisex pin-up salon in Tonawanda, have their aims set on a new Guinness World Record, for the most Rosie the Riveter lookalikes participating in a race. The race begins and ends at Templeton Landing, known for its waterfront deck, with a Rosie headband included in the cost to participate. Post-race beer is included in the cost, too.

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Bordercrash, gates at 5 p.m., show at 5:50 on Saturday, July 13 at Artpark (450 S. 4th St., Lewiston). General admission is $40 in advance, $45 at the gate.

Artpark has elevated its concert name game this summer through last month's Strawberry Moon Festival and this weekend's Bordercrash, where four strong Canadian rock bands cross the international boundary to perform in Lewiston.

The venue is serious about outreach to other populations, too, with nearby Native Americans active in Strawberry Moon and Canadian music fans finding a reason to come here other than the Walden Galleria.

Headstones, The Trews, Lowest of the Low and Steven Page - all bands who've played Buffalo-area shows for years - will serenade the Artpark crowd on the same night. Read more about the festival in Mac McGuire's preview.

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Buffalo Bookfest, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at WNY Book Arts Center (468 Washington St.). Free to attend.

This WNY Book Arts Center annual festival dedicated to print forms has expanded to include both floors of the host venue, the short stretch of Mohawk Street in front of the WNYBAC, and the parking lot across the street.

Free hands-on demos, examples of heavy-duty steamroller printing and a gaggle of local vendors stationed on the ground floor and on East Mohawk Street will keep attendees busy throughout the afternoon.

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Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 14 on both sides of the Erie Canal in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda; much of the action is centered on Sweeney Street. Free to attend. See the downloadable full schedule through July 21.

Opening day of Canal Fest dives straight into the festival frenzy: kickoff ceremonies are slated for noon, a kid-friendly vintage fire truck muster looms from noon to 6 p.m. and extended sets from Kickstart Rumble and 90 West will reverberate on the Gateway Stage, at Sweeney Street.

The eight-day festival gives the Buffalo-area plenty of time to check out a duck race, Festimpics, cruise nights and closing fireworks. Look back at Smiles from 2018 and 2017 for a taste.

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5 additional quick hitters for this weekend

Miami Nights All-White Affair in RiverWorks
Hotel Henry Summer Sundays & Market
Welcome Summer Rooftop Party at Curtiss Hotel
Clarence Summer Art Fair in Town Park
Get the Led Out at Canalside

Sold out: Bricks & Brews in the Darwin Martin House.

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5 events to look forward to next week

Canal Fest of the Tonawandas
Old Home Days in Williamsville
Blink 182, Lil Wayne at Darien Lake
Wines in the Wild at the Buffalo Zoo
Psychedelic Furs, James at Canalside

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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