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The (long) Weekend in WNY: Wings of the World

The bounds of the National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival extend well beyond the name – Drew Cerza's event is an international phenomenon.

Competitors for the eating challenges hail from all over the world, while wing wielders represent not just Surprise, Ariz., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but London, England, and Mexico, too. Big-time Buffalo names such as Gabriel's Gate, Bocce, Anchor Bar and Doc Sullivan's have a much shorter trip to Sahlen Field, so you won't be homesick in your own backyard.

Competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut mows down more than 200 wings in 12 minutes like it's no big deal. It's hard to see anyone in the field dethroning the reigning victor unless he falls hopelessly in love with the restaurant-bar scene in Buffalo the night before or gets distracted by Badlands Booker's sweet rhymes.

(Quick note: The Atomic Wing Challenge might be an even more worthy spectacle than the more ballyhooed U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship, especially now that human marvel Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas is now longer participating. In the hot-wing test, the excruciating pain of sucking down searing sauces shows just how grueling this is.)

Anyhow, Wing Fest is the premier event on this long Labor Day Weekend which is expected to be blessed with glorious weather.

Wing Fest, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 at Sahlen Field (275 Washington St.). Admission is $5 (kids ages 8 and under get in free), and food tickets are $1 apiece.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen's favorite wing joint – from Laramie, Wyo. – has finally made the festival cut, and News Food Editor Andrew Galarneau tells you all about that. Stay tuned for Galarneau's coming article on Wing Fest, which might suggest a few other stops for your trek downtown.

Finally, here are three wings we're most curious about from the menu:

• Rock Lobster wings, in the Mozambique style (garlic, lemon, saffron, hot sauce), from Boneheads in Rhode Island.
• Obama's Legendary Chorizo, from Wings Army in Mexico. I have no idea what this means.
• Peach habanero wings from Root & Bloom, on Elmwood. It's the first time Wing Fest has had vegan varieties.


Chandler Street JazzFest, 2 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2 at Thin Man Brewery on Chandler (166 Chandler St.). Free to attend.

We've pumped JazzBuffalo's monthly events at Hotel Henry because the local organization is working diligently to broaden the audience for jazz, which was a passionate but small niche.

Another opportunity for exposure is on Labor Day on Chandler Street, the new entertainment district that rose out of rubble (in some ways reflective of Buffalo's pseudo-resurgence as a whole).

Four bands, starring Carina & the Six-String Preacher, which just led a SwingBuffalo event; and Buffalo Music Hall of Famer Wendell Rivera, the Latin jazz linchpin; will perform in a closed-off area of Chandler Street, in front of Thin Man Brewery. The Facebook event has bio information for all four performing acts.


Boil & Brew Clambake, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 at Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.). Cost is $39 in advance.

For seafood lovers, the $39 all-you-can-eat deal is decent because it's more than just clams – there's also mussels, crawfish, shrimp, sausage, hot dogs, a slew of complementary sides and two draft beers. Show up with an empty stomach, and maybe a personalized bib.

For Buffalo lovers, though, the event supports the mission of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, a vital organization in light of a strengthened commitment to protecting the environment, particularly the abundant water sources so central to Buffalo life.


SteamPunk Festival, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 at Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 Route 31, Albion). Cost is $20 general admission or $40 for VIP, with additional options for camping out.

A tribute to the popularity of the SteamPunk Festival, the sci-fi/fantasy-themed event moves from the Leonard Oakes Winery tasting room to the expansive Orleans County Fairgrounds, where camping – a wise move after a few SteamPunk Ciders – and hot air balloon rides by DejaVu Ballooning ($20 addition for general admission, $10 for VIPs) are suddenly possibilities.

Cello-driven Rasputina, a New York City band that embraces Victorian Era fashion and references, is the spotlighted performer, but pyrotechnics, the Buffalo Savage Carnival and postmodern DJ Projex will delight the senses. Hatchets & Hops' AxeWagon will be in tow, too, for those with more angst.

One more tip: Explore the steam-driven equipment alley.


Buffalo German Fest, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1 at Cheektowaga Town Park (2600 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga). Admission is $5 on site.

Hey, not all the cultural festivals were last weekend! It wouldn't be a German festival without a performance by the German-American Musicians, while the new Waldspiele – which translates to "forest games" – features keg bowling, a sport of brute strength and accuracy. Don't throw your stein in frustration.

Peek at the full schedule of events, and take note that some celebrities – from the International Polka Association – will hang out at the ceremonial keg tapping on Saturday.


Rock Autism Music Fest, doors at 4 p.m., music 4:30 to 11 on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Village Park (11 Parkside Drive, Ellicottville). General admission is $25 in advance.

Rock Autism founder Max Muscato is fully devoted to helping young autistic musicians discover and hone their talents through local programming, often in conjunction with Squeaky Wheel Media, supported by events like Saturday's capstone festival.

Muscato's younger brother, Sonny, the inspiration for the Rock Autism, will again join Max on drums in setting the stage for Citizen Cope, the roots-blues headliner who delivers his own meaningful message.

The Strictly Hip and Handsome Jack are two Buffalo-area bands – vastly different in style – also on the bill. Look back at Smiles from last year's Rock Autism festival.


Brantley Gilbert, 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at Darien Lake Amphitheater (9993 Allegheny Road, Darien). Tickets begin at $30.50, although lawn four packs are also available.

Brantley Gilbert told CMT all about his "down and dirty attitude" when creating "Fire & Brimstone," expected to drop in October. The country star is trying to balance his bad-boy history with a new-found family-centered approach, which suggests he's a fairly deep character.

Look back at Smiles from a Brantley Gilbert show at Darien Lake in 2016.


Nas, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at Canalside (44 Prime St.). Tickets are $10 general admission.

Widely considered a contender for the G.O.A.T. of MCs, Nas drops by Canalside for the last hurrah of the Canalside Live concert series for 2019.

The occasion marks the 25th anniversary of "Illmatic," Nas' debut album that excelled in part because of the intelligence of its lyrics and embodiment of East Coast hip-hop. Spin recently republished its 1994 review of the album, which should lend further insight into its greatness.

Turning 46 in two weeks, Nas is a hip-hop legend that represents diversity that's been scarce in this summer concert season.


Taste of West Seneca, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 on Union Road in West Seneca, with traffic closed between Main and Center. No cost to attend.

Props to the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce for rounding up a nice collection of restaurants for the 2019 Taste. The Mansard, Schwabl's, Mooney's, Brick Oven Bistro, Eileen's Centerview Bakery, Ebenezer Ale House and more will all converge on Union Road for the street festival. The food section of the event coincides with the West Seneca PBA Car Show.

[Related: Smiles from the 2018 Taste of West Seneca]


Clarence Labor Day Fair, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at Clarence Center Fire Hall (9415 Clarence Center Road, Clarence). Free to attend.

A whopping four days of activity outside the Clarence Center Fire Hall marks Labor Day weekend, with everything from a demolition derby to a battle of the bands to fireworks to live music by bands like Strictly Hip, Hit N Run and the Donnelly Brothers.

Fair staples include a midway of rides and carnival games, plus the Labatt Beer Tent.


5 quick hitters for this weekend

Jerrod Niemann at Sunset Bay
Beatlemagic invades Woodlawn Beach
Tour de Cask for Buffalo Beer Goddesses
Food Trucks in the Field at Sunflowers of Sanborn
Labor Day Weekend Block Party in Niagara Falls USA


5 events to look forward to next week

Niagara County Peach Festival in Lewiston
Hit N Run at Buffalo River Fest Park
Richie Ramone at Mohawk Place
Dweezil Zappa at Babeville
Soho's First Wednesday happy hour jazz with Will Holton


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