The Allentown Art Festival Returns for Its 62nd Year

Street FestivalWith temperatures creeping into the 70s and the annual Allentown Art Festival about to begin, it’s finally starting to feel like summer in Western New York. What began as a small gathering of local artists over 60 years ago has become one of the most popular events of the season, with more than 350 vendors lining the sidewalks of Delaware Avenue, Franklin and Allen in Buffalo’s historic Allentown neighborhood.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on this Saturday and Sunday.

Among the many vendors at the festival, you can expect to find photographers, painters, sculptors, glass blowers and more. You can also enjoy performances from local musicians and sample festival food favorites such as fried dough, lemon ice, kettle corn, spiced nuts and cotton candy. With so many guests from all over the region in attendance, people watching at the festival can be an event in itself, too.

Meanwhile, west of Elmwood Avenue, a smaller alternative festival called Allen West will be happening right down the street from the main festival area as well. This mini festival tends to attract more buskers and local artists than its more well-established older sibling.

You can easily spend an entire day exploring the Allentown Art Festival, but be sure to bring your sunscreen! The forecast is calling for sunny skies and warm weather all weekend. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the festival or this is your first time attending, you can always find new things to see and do each year.

Best of all, this is just the beginning of a long season of fun summer activities in Western New York!

Amazon Is Scouting WNY for a New Distribution Facility

Distribution CenterOne of the largest tech companies in the world could be bringing a new distribution facility to Western New York, according to a recent article in The Buffalo News. Amazon already employs more than 300 people at its “sortation” center in Lancaster, and company representatives have reportedly been scouting locations for at least one new distribution facility in the Buffalo Niagara Region as well.

One candidate location for a 133,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center is in Tonawanda’s Riverview Solar Technology Park. This project was discussed at the latest monthly meeting of the town planning board, however the prospective tenant was not named under the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.

The second location that Amazon is considering is a 184-acre undeveloped property right here on Grand Island.

Located at 2780 Long Road just south of the new Holiday Inn Express, this site could accommodate a much larger facility than the one in Tonawanda. Grand Island Officials have reportedly “been working for some time on the potential deal,” but details of the project are still unclear for now. One source noted that a new sewer line was installed during the construction of the Holiday Inn Express, which could also serve an Amazon facility on the adjacent parcel of land.

Amazon recently announced that it will begin offering its Prime customers free one-day shipping instead of its current two-day standard, which means that the company will need to significantly expand its distribution infrastructure. With this in mind, it could make sense for Amazon to bring a new facility to Western New York in the not-too-distant future.

Stay tuned – this probably won’t be the last we hear about Amazon’s plans for the Buffalo Niagara Region.

Maid of the Mist to Adopt New Electric Vessels This Year

Maid of the MistThe Maid of the Mist boat tour has been ferrying tourists into the heart of Niagara Falls since 1846, first in steam-powered vessels and then later in the diesel-powered boats we know today. Now, the operators of the famous boat tour are preparing to modernize their fleet yet again with two all-electric passenger vessels that will be the first of their kind in the nation.

The catamaran-style electric boats were designed with the help of European technology company ABB, and they’re expected to begin shuttling passengers up and down the Niagara River in September of this year.

Each vessel will be powered by two independent battery systems that can be charged between trips in just seven minutes. The boats’ batteries will also be charged using hydroelectric power from the falls, making them true zero-emission vessels. Christopher M. Glynn, president of Maid of the Mist Corp said that the company is “thrilled to be the US’s first vessel owner to add all-electric ferries to our fleet,” in a recent press release.

In addition to reducing the Maid of the Mist’s environmental impact, the new electric vessels are expected to offer passengers a more pleasant ride as well. Without the noise and exhaust of diesel engines to distract them, tourists will finally be able to immerse themselves in the roar of Niagara Falls during their journeys.

Even for those of us who live just a few miles from the falls, these new electric vessels could give us an exciting opportunity to experience our favorite natural wonder in a whole new way.

New Children’s Museum to Open This Month in Buffalo

Children's MuseumLooking for some entertaining, educational activities to enjoy with your children or grandkids this summer? Explore & More – the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum is expected to welcome visitors to its new 43,000-square-foot home at Canalside in downtown Buffalo later this month.

The new museum—which was made possible thanks to $6 million in matching grant funds from the foundation of the late Ralph Wilson—will include seven educational play zones with hands-on exhibits and activities that cover a wide variety of topics such as gardening, the arts, engineering and history. Many of the exhibits are focused on issues and ideas that are important to the residents of Western New York, such as a moving water exhibit that explores how waterways have “fueled our city’s prosperity and innovation.”

Explore & More will also feature several interactive spaces including a cooking galley, art studio and a “tinkering tank” where children can learn how to fix, take apart and troubleshoot everyday objects in a safe, supervised environment. Explore and More can accommodate up to 800 children at once, and museum officials hope to attract roughly a quarter-million visitors each year.

Located on the Buffalo waterfront, the four-story museum was constructed on the terminus of the original Erie Canal.

One-time admission to the museum will cost $11, and families can purchase an annual membership for $125 that also grants access to other children’s museums from around the country. You can read about the new exhibits and take a virtual tour of the museum on the Explore & More website.

Volunteers Have Planted 30,000 Trees Across Western New York

Planting a Tree In October of 2006, a sudden snow and ice storm swept across Western New York, leaving a trail of broken trees in its wake. Utility crews worked diligently to repair downed power lines and clear fallen limbs from roadways, but by the end of the cleanup effort more than 57,000 trees had been lost to the storm.

Soon after the storm had passed, a former radio salesperson named Paul Maurer formed a volunteer organization called Re-Tree Western New York and embarked on a mission to plant 30,000 trees in 5 years. The volunteers at Re-Tree WNY also established agreements with local municipalities to match their donations in hopes of planting a total of 60,000 trees.

Re-Tree’s efforts were repeatedly delayed by a series of financial setbacks, but after 12 years Maurer and his team are finally planting the last of their 30,000 trees.

This week, the Buffalo News reported that Re-Tree volunteers would plant their 30,000th tree at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. It’s sure to be an emotional moment for Maurer and the rest of the leadership at Re-Tree WNY, who have spent more than a decade working toward this ambitious goal.

But Re-Tree’s work isn’t done yet, according to Maurer. Now, the volunteer organization will continue to work with communities across Western New York to help preserve the health of their trees and replace them when they’re damaged by disease or future weather events.

“I’m still going to do this, maybe even more so,” said Maurer in his interview with the Buffalo News. “…There always will be that replacement that has to be done.”

Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers at Re-Tree WNY, future generations of Western New Yorkers will be able to enjoy life in a lush community with thousands of healthy trees.

Tolls May Become a Thing of the Past on Grand Island

Grand Island BridgeIt’s been a little more than a year since the old toll booths on the Grand Island bridges were replaced with a new cashless tolling system. When the new system launched, many residents and local officials were optimistic that it would reduce traffic congestion on the bridges and save drivers valuable time during their morning and afternoon commutes. In practice, however, the cashless tolling system has been plagued with issues that caused some drivers to be wrongly charged hundreds of dollars in late fees.

Now, in an effort to resolve these problems once and for all, two state senators are sponsoring legislation that would remove tolls from the Grand Island bridges altogether.

New York State Senators Chris Jacobs and Rob Ortt argue that the tolls, which were originally instituted to help pay for the cost of the bridges, have outlived their usefulness and should therefore be eliminated.

“What we see is that those bridges generate about $20 million a year in revenue and clearly it’s not $20 million a year to upkeep those bridges. Most of that money is heading downstate to support other things,” said Senator Jacobs in a recent interview.

Although past attempts from Senator Jacobs to eliminate the tolls have failed to receive approval from his fellow lawmakers, he says he now has more support in the wake of the cashless tolling debacle. There is a currently a companion bill that calls for the removal of the tolls pending in the State Assembly as well.

Celebrate the Start of Spring at the Buffalo Wine Festival

Wine Tasting The sun is shining, there’s warm weather in the forecast and it’s finally beginning to feel like spring here in Western New York. After spending a long winter in hibernation, we could all use an excuse to get out of the house and celebrate the start of a new season. And what better way to welcome spring then by sampling a diverse selection of wines from some of the best vineyards in the state?

Next weekend, on Saturday, April 6, the Buffalo Wine Festival will return to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

This event will feature 30 wineries, seven local food vendors and a variety of wine-themed entertainment options. Attendees can choose from two afternoon and evening tasting sessions, and VIP tickets are available which offer an extra hour of tasting and a $5 festival gift certificate. A few of the most popular wineries in attendance will include Lakewood Vineyards of the Finger Lakes region and Schulze Vineyards & Winery from just north of us in Niagara County. The event’s food vendors, meanwhile, will include East Hill Creamery and Gourmet Creations by Tami.

You can purchase your tickets online today, or visit the event’s website to learn more about everything the Buffalo Wine Festival has to offer. But don’t worry if you’re not able to make it to this year’s wine festival – there will be plenty of other great events to enjoy in Western New York in the coming weeks and months.

To keep up with everything going on in our area, stay tuned for the latest updates from our blog at Town Hall Terrace!

Find Interior Design Inspiration at the Buffalo Home Show

Interior Design

With the first day of spring just around the corner, you might be thinking about sprucing up your home with some new décor and design elements. This weekend, you can find a variety of great ideas and get tips from professional designers at the annual Buffalo Home Show!

From March 15th through the 17th, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center will host more than 300 exhibitors offering everything from closet storage solutions to smart home systems.

In addition to browsing the exhibitor booths, attendees can also enjoy classes and seminars lead by well-recognized interior designers like Vern Yip of TLC’s Trading Spaces. Whether you’re looking for creative ways to incorporate rustic charm into a new home or trying to find window treatments to complement your favorite piece of furniture, the design professionals at the Buffalo Home Show will be sure to have some great ideas and suggestions to consider. There will even be a spring plant sale to help you breathe new life into your home this season.

Lucky guests can also win some great prizes at the home show, including a backyard barbecue, a free bedroom makeover and a 10-day trip to Hawaii.

The show will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets are $11 at the door and $9 online. To learn more about one of our favorite events of the year, you can visit the Buffalo Home Show website here.

Keep an Eye Out for Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds This Year

Butterfly PollinatorIn October 2018, several scientific studies raised serious concerns about insects dying at an alarming rate in regions across the globe. Many of these insects—which account for about two-thirds of all life on earth—serve vital roles in earth’s natural ecosystems, pollinating plants and providing food sources for other animals.

But while pollinators in many areas are facing unprecedented threats, a devoted group of Western New Yorkers is working hard to make sure these animals will always have a home along the Niagara River.

Last year, the Pollinator Conservation Association (PCA) announced that it would partner with Niagara River Greenway Commission to develop a 37-mile corridor of pollinator-friendly habitats that will stretch from Woodlawn Beach to Four Mile Creek State Park. This corridor will feature a wide variety of native plants that are designed to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and more.

“Pollinators are the lynchpins in biodiversity, and biodiversity is the lynchpin of life on earth,” said Jay Burney of the PCA in an interview with The Buffalo News. “Biodiversity of animals and plants create our clean water and clean air. They create conditions for food production and human health.”

In addition to identifying sites that are in need of habitat restoration and evaluating conservation strategies, the PCA is also working to identify the many pollinator species in our area and find ways to attract other endangered species in the future. In fact, entomologists estimate that there could be as many as 2,000 different species of bees living in Western New York.

Thanks to the efforts of the PCA, we may be lucky enough to see more monarch butterflies, bumblebees and other familiar pollinators in our gardens this spring. You can also learn more about how to foster pollinator-friendly habitats on your own property here!

The Ambitious Redesign of Buffalo’s Lasalle Park is Underway

City Park IllustrationIn October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced that it would contribute 100 million dollars to transform Lasalle Park on Buffalo’s Lower West Side into a signature park and create a regional trail system along the nearby waterfront. According to the Buffalo News, this remarkably generous donation constitutes the largest philanthropic gift ever made in Western New York.

Just a few months later in December, Ralph Wilson’s namesake foundation reported that it had selected renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his Brooklyn-based design firm to lead the project. Other projects that Van Valkenburgh and his firm have worked on include Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, Allegheny Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh and the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

Now, with the help of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is inviting community members to participate in a series of meetings where they can view preliminary design concepts and offer feedback to the team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA).

“This park is obviously an important place for Buffalonians, and there will be significant public engagement and presentation of design ideas for feedback, as well as just talking to people generally about what they hope for,” said Van Valkenburgh in a recent interview. I think we can turn the park into something that is going to be a magnet. We are incredibly pleased to be asked to work on it.”

Based on the input the receive from local community members and civic leaders, MVVA is slated to present a finalized conceptual design with renderings and a physical model in late spring. If all goes according to plan, Western New Yorkers could see Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park begin to take shape by the end of this year.