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The Weekend in WNY: Bring on the Borderland

Borderland has set its standards high, even though the East Aurora-based music and arts festival enters just its second year. The idyllic setting of Knox Farm was a powerful memory from 2018, while The News' Jeff Miers was complimentary of the roots and Americana-focused lineup that created a "chilled out, mini-Woodstock feel."

How could Borderland possibly top that debut?

Festival organizers have been even more aggressive this year in publicizing this weekend-long extravaganza: 42 North Brewing released a special Borderland IPA with the festival poster as can art, a Battle of the Bands contest rewarded the dogged efforts of Two Hills Reloaded, and a festival collaboration with Waste-Free Earth ensures an environmentally responsible event.

There's a wealth of artisans, alpacas, a presence by three trendy restaurants and a solid group of wineries and breweries. Borderland is nothing if not well-rounded.

Borderland Music & Arts Festival, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 22, at Knox Farm State Park (437 Buffalo St., East Aurora). Tickets for Saturday are $75 in advance, $70 for Sunday; each rises by $10 if purchased day-of. A two-day ticket costs $125 in advance, $140 day-of.

There's definitely an artistic element, but the most important thing about Borderland is the music schedule, which touts national names such as Gov't Mule, Shakey Graves (he of chicken-wing-hat fame) and Greensky Bluegrass.

Knowing what band plays on which of the three stages at the proper time is a logistical challenge, but the festival organizers created an easy-to-use grid.

Before the festival, check out Jeff Miers' interview with Oteil Burbridge, a member of Dead & Company who's playing with Keller Williams Grateful Grass on Sunday, and peruse Michael Farrell's five suggestions for bands to check out. Props for including the Homespun Stage.


While Borderland is front and center, the Buffalo theater community provides a strong alternative or complement to the weekend plans, with a mammoth slate of new productions – including a ballyhooed musical at Shea's – plus a free street party to close Curtain Up!.

[More: Want this in your inbox twice each week? Here's where to go]


"Mean Girls," 2 and 8 p.m. showings on Saturday, Sept. 21; 2 and 7:30 p.m. showings Sunday, Sept. 22 at Shea's Buffalo Theatre (646 Main St.). Limited tickets remain for the first weekend of shows ($40-$60), but none of the productions have sold out as of Thursday morning.

I certainly don't feel any shame for watching "Mean Girls," the movie, more than once; hey, it was released the same year I graduated from high school.

The Broadway musical adaptation, predicated on the writing and vision of Tina Fey, has been applauded for its emphasis on female stars, and the comedian-heavy cast delivers the play's compelling message about friendship without sacrificing its lighthearted nature. Expect many of the eight shows to sell out before doors open.


Curtain Up!, 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at 500 Pearl, theater companies throughout the area and then in the Theatre District for a street party, beginning at 10 p.m. The dinner party is sold out, but productions still have tickets available, and there's ample room at the street party. Ellicott Street will be closed between Virginia and Goodell streets.

OK, so the fancy open bar and dinner at 500 Pearl is sold out. But, there's still a chance to snag reservations at a restaurant near the Theatre District and secure tickets for an 8 p.m. show at any of the surrounding theaters; see the reviews below to see which play might suit your tastes.

The street party, a colorful, free late-night event, boasts everything from a magician to entertainment troupes to dance-party-driver LeeRon Zydeco.

Reviews of several shows that have already opened:

• Lancaster Opera House's "Rumors"
• Alleyway Theatre's "The Navigators"
• Kavinoky Theatre's "Hairspray"
• MusicalFare's "West Side Story"
• Subversive Theatre's "Catch-22"
• Road Less Traveled's "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid"
• Buffalo United Artists' "Bright Colors and Bold Patterns"

Theater Central: See The News' full 2019-20 theater season preview by Anthony Chase.


Williamsville Oktoberfest and Follow the Lederhosen 5K, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Island Park (5565 Main St., Williamsville). Admission is $5 at the main stage after 6 p.m. The festival runs 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 all around Williamsville, with the brunt in Island Park. Cost is the same as Friday night at the main stage.

There's so much packed into Williamsville's celebration that I won't begin to delve into the daily activities in specifics. And, in addition to the action in and around Island Park, several of the village's bar-restaurants will host live music and serve German fare.

The Follow the Lederhosen 5K has stolen the spotlight from the Tofurkey Trot as "Buffalo's Unofficial Best-Named Race"; it benefits Oishei Children's Hospital, begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Island Park and is followed by a post-race party.

The most amusing part is the delightfully short parade, which zooms from the Village Hall to Island Park at 4 p.m. Friday, with music by the Frankfurters (4-7 p.m.) and then not-that-German Nerds Gone Wild from 7-10 p.m.


Sponge Candy Festival & 5K, a gala from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at the Wurlitzer Events (908 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda, $75 in advance), then Sponge Candy 5K and more spongy activity beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at the same location. Registration for the 5K costs $30 in advance.

The Sponge Candy Fest has grown in scale, with intense interest on Facebook and a solid number of entrants in Saturday's Sponge Candy 5K. The activities kick off with a casual Friday night gala – featuring a Platter's dessert table – then continue all day Saturday, also known as National Sponge Candy Day by Mayor Byron Brown, at the Wurlitzer.

Even if you're not partaking in the race, there's plenty of activities in and around Platter's; hang out inside the cafe to see the sponge candy-making process and experience chocolate in several forms, including mascot form. A post-race party will be held in Woodcock Brothers' Wurlitzer location, which has an impressive courtyard.

[Related: Platter's wins tax break for sponge candy | Platter's Ko-Ed Candies goes year-round]


Niagara BBQ Brew Fest, 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 outside Kenan Arena (195 Beattie Ave., Lockport). Tickets are $20 presale.

The inaugural BBQ Brew Fest will saturate Kenan Center Arena with luscious scents from food vendors such as Brickyard Pub & BBQ, reeling Roaming Bison Tavern and R&R BBQ Catering, plus a curated group of breweries through Buffalocal. A slew of complementary businesses showcasing spices and sauces will be on hand, too.

Live music will be performed by blues band Freightrain, and lawn chairs are encouraged.

[Related: Buffalocal's mission to connect local breweries | Roaming Bison on life support after flood]


Light the Night Walk, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Canalside (44 Prime St.). Register as an individual here.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society returns its fundraising walk to Buffalo, but it's moved to a new venue: Canalside. Participants will carry bright lanterns – with white, red and gold all representing different purposes, from celebrating survivors to celebrating community to remembrance, respectively – during the 2-mile walk.

The local chapter's fundraising goal is $540,000, and according to its website, there's a long way to go to get there.


Oinktoberfest, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22 at the Great Pumpkin Farm (11199 Main St., Clarence). Free admission on Friday, then $8 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Mount up, barbecue fanatics, and bring your appetites to Clarence. The annual Oinktoberfest is a weekend of regional barbecue competitions – including a Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned contest Saturday – plus a challenging Whole Hog contest, which demands expertise beyond the shoulder, loin, belly and butt.

The focus on Sunday will be the kalua pig, an intentionally slow-cooked roast preparation, augmented by wet banana leaves, that's paired with an assortment of dishes that represent Hawaiian culture, such as poke, lomi lomi, loco moco and more. Friday's proceedings are free to attend and feature Miller & the Other Sinners, who are bound for Borderland at noon Saturday.


Ballpark Brew Bash, 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Sahlen Field (275 Washington St.). Cost is $35 in advance and at Consumers Beverages locations, $45 day-of.

Most of Buffalo's distribution-sized breweries will have a presence at the home of the Bisons on Saturday, but compelling out-of-towners, such as Sloop, Collective Arts, Grimm and Industrial Arts, will also serve samples at roughly 50 booths stationed around the periphery of the field (see the full lineup of breweries). Food trucks will be Lloyd and La Nova, with a pig roast by BW's Barbecue, to curb any hunger.

VIP tickets, available for $75 and also at Consumers, allow participants access to rare beers  – the Mikkeller Super Glog looks interesting – as well as higher-end food.


Gala at the Gardens, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens (2655 South Park Ave.). Cost is $175 per person.

The indoor and outdoor gardens will be featured at this fundraiser, which includes hors d'oeuvres; cocktails; a fancy dinner prepared by Salvatore's Hospitality, in a decorative tent; plus live auctions and more entertainment. Support the Botanical Gardens' initiatives and keep your eyes out for the "special surprises" teased on the Facebook event page.


5 quick-hitters to look forward to this weekend

Buffalo Humanities Festival
K Flay in Town Ballroom
Buffalo Food Truck Festival at Boulevard Mall
All-Night Kanye Party in Iron Works
#BillsMafia Homecoming Party at Soho


5 events to look forward to for next week

Party for (Friends of the Night) People at Flying Bison
Taps and Apps at Buffalo RiverWorks
Tour The News' printing presses and print areas
Bar Louie's Birthday Bash at Walden Galleria
Pocket Vinyl at Revolution Gallery


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