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The Weekend in WNY: Italians on the move

You could write a book about the recent history of the Italian Heritage Festival, and it would be far from boring.

There were brawls in 2016, the final year on Hertel Avenue, precipitating a major location change to the Outer Harbor and an admission charge for the first time. Attendance at the 2017 festival set a record for the Outer Harbor, but social media reaction was tepid at best.

Festival organizers will try a different approach for this year's festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday in Niagara Square for the first time since the 1950s, when it was more lawn fete than city-wide event.

While it's been held over a three- or four-day span in the past, this year's Italian Festival is consolidated into two days, modeled after the Taste of Buffalo that had so much success last weekend.

Italian Heritage Festival, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 20; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at Niagara Square. The festival is free to attend.

The News' Francesca Bond breaks down all the details for the 2019 festival, explaining how Leonardo da Vinci is involved and which "America's Got Talent" finalist is slated to perform. Thanks to festival organizer Marco Sciortino of Marco's, the vendors have been announced, too.

Longtime Italian Fest fans will appreciate the return of Campi's gargantuan pizza slices - not everyone can make the jaunt to Dunkirk - and household Italian restaurant names such as Ristorante Lombardo, Osteria 166, Molinaro's, Romeo & Juliet's and DiCamillo will all have a presence.

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Italian Festival organizer Marco Sciortino poses in the middle of a picture. (Chuck Alaimo/Special to The News)


Hamburg BurgerFest, noon to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at Main and Buffalo streets in Hamburg. Individual food tickets are 50 cents apiece, but there's no cost to get in.

A previous criticism of the Hamburg BurgerFest was there weren't enough hamburger vendors, but that complaint appears to be alleviated for 2019.

But whether or not you agree Hamburg is the birthplace of the hamburger, this is a fun festival - just look at the smiling faces from last year. A beer tent runs all day, kids have a slew of activities planned for them, established local cover bands will perform and attendees will undoubtedly wonder when the hamburger will be painted on the water tower.


Buffalo Polonia Weekend, events Friday through Sunday at Cheektowaga Town Park on Friday and Sunday, plus a sold-out gala at the Mansion on Delaware on Saturday.

Maybe the biggest part of Polonia Weekend in Buffalo is the 60 Million Congress Global Polonia Summit, a weekend's worth of activities featuring some of the country's dignitaries speaking at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, a hang out at a Buffalo Bisons game and a tour of the U.S.S. Little Rock.

But the more accessible events for the weekend include a free Polish Happy Hour on Friday in Cheektowaga Town Park and then the 81st annual Pulaski Day Parade, which begins at Thruway Plaza at 1:30 and takes a short route to the town park, where the celebration continues.


Pappy Martin Masten Jazz Festival, Part I, 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at the Buffalo Museum of Science (1020 Humboldt Parkway). Free to attend, and continues with another running July 28.

The first of two opportunities for free, high-quality jazz arrives Sunday outside the Museum of Science, where five separate performances - detailed in Melinda Miller's Arts Beat column - fill six hours in the Masten District. Food and drink vendors will be on hand, and given the scorching temperatures expected this weekend, the lure of the nearby MLKJ Park splash pad will be strong.

Read more about the life of James "Pappy" Martin, the festival's namesake who died in 2015, and revisit the scenes from last year's jazz festival.


Waldfest, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at Spring Garden Park (3838 Two Road Road, East Aurora). Cost is $8 in advance at seven different physical locations or $15 at the site.

German heritage and a rural escape are two draws of the annual Waldfest, which benefits the Spring Garden Association and Edelweiss Buffalo. Venture into the woods for live music from the German-American Musicians and the Auslanders, enjoy an afternoon of beer and food, and don authentic German apparel - lederhosen, dirndl and hats brimming with cultural character.

The Waldfest Smiles galleries - right, plus 2017, 2016 and 2015 - are always a blast to peruse. What a time.


Darien Lake concerts: 311 and Dirty Heads, 5:45 p.m. Saturday, July 20; Wiz Khalifa, 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21; both at Darien Lake Amphitheatre (9993 Allegheny Road, Darien Center). Tickets are available via LiveNation for 311 and Khalifa.

Fresh off Wednesday night's Blink 182/Lil Wayne extravaganza, Darien Lake Amphitheatre begins a blistering summer schedule with two more - very different - shows this weekend.

311 and Dirty Heads make up Saturday's bill, with a reggae-rock influence touching both bands. Pittsburgh-repping Wiz Khalifa follows on Sunday; the rapper seems to live life at a frenetic pace. He even has a limited-time Primanti Bros. sandwich.

[Related: Check out The News' summer concert calendar]


Buffalo Undy Run/Walk, 7:30 a.m. pickup and registration, event starts at either 9 or 9:10 on Saturday, July 20 in Delaware Park. Participation is $30-$40, depending on when you get tickets and which race you choose.

Scantily clad runners and walkers should be comfortable in the mid-80s temperatures predicted for Saturday, as this annual event supports the Colon Cancer Alliance (hence the underwear theme). The summer date makes a lot more sense than 2017's iteration, which happened in April. Brr.

There's an option for a 1-mile fun run, too, that's not timed. Fundraising participants all receive stylish festival-branded underwear to don for the race.


Rock the Barn, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 19-20 at 9015 Main St. in Clarence. Tickets, which include admission both days, run for $20 in advance or $25 day-of.

Rock, blues and a KISS! tribute band called Mr. Speed are all on the docket for Clarence's annual Rock the Barn, which - you guessed it - takes place in a big yellow Main Street barn on a 90-acre farm.

Meals on Wheels benefits from the music-focused event, and food and drink vendors include catering-focused businesses such as Butts and Links BBQ and the Blooming Onion Food Truck.


Crafts in the Garden, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens (2655 South Park Ave.). No cost to attend the craft show.

Hang out on the front lawn of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens and explore the fleet of 100 arts-and-crafts vendors stationed a short hop from one of Francesca Bond's picnic suggestions. The not-for-profit organization benefits from the chicken barbecue associated with the event, which is $11 in advance or $12 day-of.

[Related: Learn more about the Gardens' expansion, which is in the works]


Barks at the Brewery, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at Resurgence Brewing Co. (1250 Niagara St.). Free to attend.

The OG Resurgence location will play host to the Buffalo Barkery's event to support the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter. Leashed dogs are welcome, the Loose Cannon and Lloyd food trucks will be on site, and a litany of dog-focused activities - paw prints, pet tattoos, adoptable pets and pet portraits - should provide more dog-loving than you can handle.

Plus, all the attention and aggressive sniffing and wagging will tire your dog out, which means one fewer walk in the heat later.


5 quick hitters to know for this busy weekend

Lloyd Taco 9th anniversary
Black Diamond Soiree at AcQua
Central Rock Gym's grand opening
Grease Pole Festival by Olivencia Community Center
Wild Renn Fest at Hawk Creek


5 events to look forward to next week

The Struts at Canalside Live
Eric Van Houten at Thursday & Main
Weird Al Yankovic at Artpark
Taste of Orchard Park on North Buffalo Street
Botanics & Brews at the Botanical Gardens


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