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The Weekend in WNY: Cultural festivals and a beautiful river

Meet your grand finale, Buffalo's festival season. Through live music, art, and food and drink, an elite list of events will make wise weekend planning a true challenge.

From Ireland to India to Egypt, cultural festivals all highlight traditions - some deeply embedded into Buffalo's fabric, while others, such as India and Egypt, still gaining traction. There's the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, too, which treasures art in all forms at the heart of one of Buffalo's brightest commercial districts.

For music lovers, satisfaction can be found also through Beau Fleuve in Silo City and the Northwest Jazz Festival in quaint Lewiston, two cool but remarkably different venues to embrace live music.

Here's what's ahead for this bustling late-summer weekend.

Beau Fleuve Music & Arts Festival, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at Silo City (85 Silo City Row). Tickets are $10 general admission in advance, or four tickets for $30; full details.

Hang by the grain elevators and look over the Buffalo River at Silo City while absorbing a robust lineup of live music from the annual Beau Fleuve Festival, highlighted by Zuri Appleby, Curtis Lovell, Miller & the Other Sinners, Mom Said No, Billie Essco, Jae Skeese, the Molice and more. A beer and wine garden, vendors village, silent disco area, art exhibits and food stations will also grace the festival space.

See the layout of the festival and a list of set times, plus Smiles from the 2018 Beau Fleuve.

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Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, with after-party show from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m.; the festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 along Elmwood Avenue between West Ferry Street and St. James Place. Free to attend. See the festival map.

How artsy is the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts? So artsy that a local artist - Julian Montague - created a vibrant festival poster. Roughly 170 artists - a combination of local and national - will showcase their creations along Elmwood; it's worth exploring the entire stretch to ensure you see the Cultural Row - where dozens of cool organizations will have a presence - as well as Food Truck Alley and the Festival Cafe.

From Allen Burger Venture to Lloyd to Niagara Cafe to Westside Tilth Farm, a fine array of festival fare may be munched while scouring goods. Look back at Smiles from a previous Festival of the Arts.

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Buffalo Irish Festival, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at Buffalo's Outer Harbor (325 Fuhrmann Blvd.). Presale admission is $8 at Consumer's Beverages and Tara's Gift Shoppe, while entry at the gates is $10, with $8 tickets for seniors and $5 for kids ages 5-12. Entry is free from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

The Irish Festival stays fairly consistent from year to year now that it's found a home at the Outer Harbor for the last four iterations. The advantages of the site are ample space, with room for seating along the water, vendor tents and tables for families and friends to gather.

Two music stages - aptly named Guinness and Harp - roll through bands and Irish dancers all day, with three musical groups new to the event - Young Dubliners, Eileen Ivers and the Drowsy Lads - set to make an impression. Here's the full entertainment schedule.

Shepherd's Pie, Bangers and Mash, Guinness Beef Stew and Reuben rolls were on last year's food menu and are likely to return for 2019.

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Egyptian Festival at St. Mary & St. Moses Coptic Orthodox Church, 3 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at 350 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda. Free to attend.

According to St. Mary & St. Moses representative Tom Gadelrab, the annual Egyptian Festival serves some of the most underrated festival food in the area. From Egyptian falafel to kofta, which is loaded with spices and grilled on site, it's a delectable introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine. Ethiopian coffee ceremonies - both fragrant and energizing - run throughout the day, too.

Food tickets are a $1 apiece, with a deluxe sampler of the festival's most popular fare available for $15. An exhibition in the host church delves into greater detail about Egypt, while a new photo experience gives the illusion of entering ancient tombs.

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Festival of India, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at Canalside (44 Prime St.). Free to attend.

While Ireland rocks the Outer Harbor, India invades Canalside, where Bollywood dance, a Grand Indian Parade, food from Hyderabad Biryani House and Nellai Banana Leaf, seven authentic vendors, face painting and henna tattoos, and kids activities will please.

Resplendent traditional Indian garb was evident in the Smiles gallery from last year's event; check out what the India Association of Buffalo and president Sujith Narayanan have cooked up for this year.

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NICYO Funk Fest, 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at LaSalle Park (1 Porter Ave.). Free to attend.

Remember Rick James? That's exactly what the NICYO Funk Fest is trying to do through an afternoon full of live music in LaSalle Park, headlined by the ZAPP, an Ohio electro-funk group that began to make noise in the genre around the same time as James.

For a local touch, the penultimate band on the bill is Denzell Ward and Cool Platinum, a five-piece that weaves together R&B, pop and dance music into a funky synthesis.

NICYO, which stands for the National Inner Cities Youth Opportunities and approaches its 50th anniversary, is run by CEO Joyce Nixon, a jazz musician herself, while Marnetta Malcolm has been integral in the festival's running for years.

[Related: Ambitious plans for new design of LaSalle Park]

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Northwest Jazz Festival, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23; 1 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 on five different stages in Lewiston near Academy Park. Reserved seating for the main stage shows, one Friday and one Saturday, are $20.

The organizers of the Northwest Jazz Festival - formerly the Lewiston Jazz Festival - work tirelessly to keep the event free for attendees through sponsors and fundraising endeavors, like the Taste of Jazz at Brickyard Brewing this spring. (The chief sponsor is Northwest Bank, which explains the name, although Lewiston is in the northwest corner of Western New York.

While both festival days are packed with music, the headliner Friday is Italian jazz singer Roberta Gambarini, while Saturday sees pianist Monty Alexander, playing alongside his Harlem-Kingston Express, as the biggest name. While reserved seating for these two costs money, it's free to stand back and listen from afar. Check out the full schedule.

[Related: Review of Northwest Jazz Festival in 2018]

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Spikes for Tykes, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at Woodlawn Beach State Park (3580 Lake Shore Road, Blasdell). Tickets will be $50 on-site and include four hours of open bar and food from several local restaurants.

Ryan Stang's annual fundraising volleyball tournament - which supports the Kelly For Kids Foundation - exceeds 60 co-ed teams for 2019. While it's too late to join the athletic competition, there's still a chance to chill out and support the cause, with open bar and fare from Blasdell Pizza, Tacos Community & Beer, Ilio DiPaolo's and Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar, among others.

Local country singer Jillian Eliza and DJ Drop D will handle the music along the waterfront. Look back at Smiles from 2017, too.

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Taste of Cheektowaga, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at Cheektowaga Town Park (2600 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga). Free to get in; the food costs money.

Formerly known as Corey McGowan Productions, WNY Food Festivals is now operated by Dan and Shara Desrosiers, who take the mantle of organizing and promoting food-focused events around Buffalo and Rochester.

One of their first forays is the Taste of Cheektowaga, which will promote the town's local restaurants and non-food vendors in the spacious confines of Cheektowaga Town Park. The new organizers haven't posted a list of participants yet, so enter with a sense of mystery.

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Sold out: Florida Georgia Line at Darien Lake Amphitheatre; Kickball Tournament at New Era Field.

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5 quick hitters for this weekend

KISS at Darien Lake Amphitheatre
Silo City: "Why Here, Why Now?"
Beer Garden Art Party at Flying Bison
East/West Music Fest in Brighton Arena
Tonawanda City Porchfest

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5 events to look forward to next week

Foreigner at Artpark
Social Distortion, Flogging Molly at Canalside Live
Jonas Brothers at KeyBank Center
Cocktail Clash at Billy Club
Polish Happy Hour's Buffalo Polka kickoff

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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